Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Overcoming Stereotypes One Parent At A Time

I just got back from a children's sports club dinner where I hardly knew anyone and apparently I was seated with the other social leftovers. It turned out the woman next to me was very nice and we had a long conversation. She was excited to hear that I do computer science and software development, and mentioned that her daughter is starting university next year and strongly considering CS. I gave my standard pitch about why CS is a wonderful career path --- hope I didn't lay it on too thick. The daughter apparently is interested in computers and good at maths, and her teachers think she has a "logical mind", so that all sounded promising and I said so. But then the mother started talking about how that "logical mind" wasn't really a girly thing and asking whether the daughter might be better doing something softer like design. I pushed back and asked her not to make assumptions about what women and men might enjoy or be capable of, and mentioned a few of the women I've known who are extremely capable at hard-core CS. I pointed out that while CS isn't for everyone and I think people should try to find work they're passionate about, the demand and rewards are often greater for people in more technical roles.

This isn't the first time I've encountered mothers to a greater or lesser extent steering their daughters away from more technical roles. I've done a fair number of talks in high schools promoting CS careers, but at least for girls maybe targeting their parents somehow would also be worth doing.

I'll send this family some links to Playcanvas and other programming resources and hope that they, plus my sales pitch, will make a difference. One of the difficulties here is that you never know or find out whether what you did matters.


I used to sale CS to youth, but, turn out, I stop it after one time I encouraged a junior in the college years. I have learned if I am not sure that someone has strong passion in CS, not only THINKING it FUN, I don't encourage him/her to study CS. Without passion, people very likely fall to discouraged and frustrated. They may get a better life and good at if they choose other types of careers. So, I don't sale to people by telling them the demand and rewards, because it is very likely to mislead youth and their parents to choose a career that he don't really interest.
As I said, I encourage people to find something they're passionate about. However, for people who haven't already latched onto something, CS is worth trying, and the demand and rewards are part of the reason why.
Simon Geard
Ouch. Yeah, that's the last thing the IT world needs... well-meaning parents steering children back towards the stereotypes we want to break. If it's something that interests them, encourage it!