Melinda Gates is doubling down on women in tech


Melinda Gates wants to put her muscle behind getting more women in tech.

Gates has focused much of her work on the well-being of women and girls around the globe — but this issue hits particularly close to home. Gates, a computer science graduate, joined Microsoft in 1987. She eventually married its founder Bill Gates, and the two launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. Gates is now creating a “personal office” devoted to bringing more women into tech, according to an interview with Jessi Hempel at BackChannel. It’s early in the process, and Gates is still figuring out the best way to get involved. She said she’s currently in “learning mode,” and looking at everything from education to venture capital funding for women. One thing is evident: Gates said data will play a big role in approaching the issue. Gates cited the fact that just 18% of women are earning computer science undergrad degrees in the U.S. That has fallen significantly from the 1980s, when women received 38% of the degrees. “Every company needs technology, and yet we’re graduating fewer women technologists. That is not good for society. We have to change it,” she said.

Related: Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science nears gender parity 

She added that her office looked into the number of patents received by female inventors. “Four decades ago, 3% of all patents listed at least one woman inventor. As of 2010, nearly 19% of patents did,” she said. While that shows a clear improvement, she said her team’s projections didn’t see parity until 2092. In recent years, companies like Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB, Tech30), Apple (AAPL, Tech30),Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) have released annual reports on workforce diversity in a bid to be more transparent. But there’s been very little progress. Microsoft’s 2015 report showed that its percentage of female employees actually declined from 29% to 26.8%. It cited massive layoffs as the reason. The transparency is, however, a start. And Gates notes that there hasn’t been a lot of research or money devoted to the issue previously. “In the tech space, men don’t really see a problem and a lot of the money is held by men,” she said.

Related: Melinda Gates: ‘Poverty is sexist’

It’s not difficult to understand why tech products and services would benefit from a more inclusive workforce. In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow last week, Gates also stressed the importance of diversity. “We know that more diverse teams put out a better product,” she said. This goes for people of color as well, which Gates also noted in her interview with Hempel. Gates cited Apple’s health app as an example of a product that has a “blatant error.” It didn’t include period tracking. Gates stressed that she was “not picking on Apple at all,” but “it’s just an example of all the things we can leave out for women.” Read the original article here


‘Geek gene’ denied: If you find computer science hard, it’s your fault (or your teacher’s)

Assume for the sake of argument that computer science grades are bimodal: there’s a distinct group of students who excel at the subject, and then there’s everyone else in another group. Computer science researchers at the University of Toronto – namely, Elizabeth Patitsas, Jesse Berlin, Michelle Craig, and Steve Easterbrook – argue that while people commonly believe there are two such groups – the naturally gifted and the non-gifted – those people are just plain wrong. In a freshly published paper [PDF], the researchers describe how they analyzed the distribution of 778 sets of final CS course grades at a large research university, and found only 5.8 per cent of the distribution curves were distinct enough to qualify as bimodal or multimodal. In other words, there’s no separation in terms of grade data between those who can and those who cannot. In most cases, graphs of student grades fit a normal statistical pattern. “…Bimodal grades are instructional folklore in CS, caused by confirmation bias and instructor beliefs about their students,” the researchers conclude, a finding that supports a similar hypothesis put forth by Raymond Lister, a software professor at the University of Technology, Sydney. In light of this assertion, lack of diversity in technology recruitment becomes more difficult to excuse as a consequence of natural ability. Yet belief persists that some people have the “geek gene” and some don’t. In 2007, 77 per cent of computer science teachers surveyed by Clayton Lewis, University of Colorado at Boulder computer science professor, disagreed with the statement, “nearly everyone is capable of succeeding in the computer science curriculum if they work at it.” Patitsas, Berlin, Craig, and Easterbrook assert that computer scientists, ostensibly a group with some reverence for data, cling to the “geek gene” theory because it’s a form of social defense. It’s more comfortable to imagine such a thing than to consider the alternatives – inability to teach some people, sexism, favoritism, or some other character flaw. “It is easier for the CS education community to believe that some students ‘have it’ and others do not than it is for the community to come to terms with the shortfalls of our pedagogical approaches and assessment tools,” the paper explains. Read the original article here

Theory of Knowledge for the 2016-2017 School year…

Well, the new school year is upon us, and with it the challenges of TOK for this year. The course for grade 12 students was scheduled outside the regular school day, so it is a challenge for the students to give up their lunch hour every second day. Below is a picture of this year’s class doing our annual “mask” activity for our study on the Arts!20160920_122822