Friday, December 18, 2009

Ladies vs. Nerds

According to both a new University of Washington study and everything you know about the human species, women are turned off by big old dorks. And since so many computer science majors are big old dorks, there's a shrinking percentage of women entering the field. Research subjects were sent into a computer lab and asked about their impressions of computer science. When the lab was decked out with "Star Trek" memorabilia, soda garbage, and other geeky bric-a-brac, women generally expressed a more negative opinion of computer science than men. Then the lab was decorated with nature posters, dictionaries, and coffee mugs, there was no difference in gender opinion among the research subjects. The psychologists who designed the study think that there's a masculine cultural stigma associated with geekdom, which makes women feel out of place. That may be true, but it's also reasonable to assume that geek symbols are negatively associated with the kinds of socially handicapped, condescending, unhygienic dorks that no one wants to associate with. Geeky TV shows, movies, and books could do a better job trying to appeal to women, but so could the guy who wipes his clammy palm on his "Last Starfighter" t-shirt before shaking a woman's hand. Sure, these are gross stereotypes, but even the grossest stereotypes are sometimes rooted in truth. For instance, most Scottish people do, in fact, eat nothing but barley-stuffed sheep stomachs. Yeah, I went there. More details here.