Friday, December 18, 2009

To a Pinker World

Nothing to do with Steven Pinker!
In the midst of all that I am drowning in (which spells work work work), I read this article about how "Instead of trying to change the women who do not relate to the stereotype, our research suggests that changing the image of computer science so that more women feel they fit in the field will go a long way to recruiting them into computer science" and I felt like throwing up! I can't believe that there are so many jobless people out there trying to figure out why some sex/race/creed is not interested in a particular job! As long as there is no legal and bureaucratic constraint, I think the reason why people don't get into a job is because they are not equipped for it or are not interested. Pretty simple. Why don't most men become cooks (though actually most chefs are men)? Because they are not interested or can't be creative enough! Someone who truly loves food will go and do it. Similarly, someone who truly loves fashioning clothes will go ahead and do it. If women don't like computer science they simply don't. This is also true about Math as a subject. Why should people who love computer science change their ways for those who don't in order to "change the image of computer science"?

I have been in the software industry for over 7 years and I have found only a handful of women truly interested in their jobs. We don't have coke cans or science fiction memorabilia in our cubicles. Most women are here to supplement the income of their house or make some money for themselves. They don't care about software or computer science. So be it with a lot of men, too, but when I assemble all those who love computer science and love hacking and coding and designing and coming up with new ideas, women are a minority (if present). Not because of coke cans and Star Trek. I am part of the invention evaluation team at my organisation. How many inventions come in from women!? You can count them on a pair of hands. Why? Not because of Star Trek and coke cans. Sheesh!! I can't believe this is a university professor (and no guesses, she is a woman). I would love to see women in software industries. It can lend perspective to design (esp. UI). But if they don't like it, I will let them be. It is like forcing the women in your house to fall in love with a Man U game by watching it on a pink TV or having the players occasionally enact a scene from "Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi". The content is the same, for Pete's sake!!

These sort of lame studies ruin the technical edge and vitality of organisations and departments. How? Let me give you a personal example. Last year two papers of mine got selected at two very prestigious conferences. I was excited and applied for travel permit. My "illustrious" organisation refused citing curbs on expenses. Sounded fair to me so I kept quiet. Then I got to know that a female manager was being sent to CA, US to attend a "Women in Technology" conference (which was internal to the company and not even a worldwide conference) for which she was just an attendee and contributing nothing beyond her weighty presence! Here is a technology company that prefers this gimmick to actual technical vitality and participation in IEEE and ACM conferences. All in order to claim a tag of a "women-friendly" company or some such crap.

If the women were mature enough, they would go visit software companies and computer science labs to see what reality is and form their own impression rather than live off stereotypes. Frankly, it is often difficult working with some women who play the sob story and try to get away with actual hard work. Not all of them are like that (and I know of one who can put any guy to shame) but a lot of them will capitalise on their being a woman with "so many roles to play" and sob their way out of real work. Frankly, we need people who can work and with brains and who are self-motivated: sex/age/race no bar. I can do without people who want me to grow a beard in order to feel more welcome or prefer floral wallpaper in the office. Most east coast (US) companies have the worst interior decor in all their worldwide offices. Try convincing them to invest dollars in better decor!

And what then happens to a guy who likes to have the coke cans and pizza crumbs on his desk to feel more at home and in the peak of his form? He has to clean up so that some women can join his office? Coming to think of it, he might just agree (till they join)! Guys!
I would like Ms. Sapna Cheryan to try this recommendation on the annual Harley Davidson gathering. I am sure we will have an article that says:

"When people think of computer science riding bikes the image that immediately pops into many of their minds is of the computer geek bearded man in black leather surrounded by such things as computer games, science fiction memorabilia and junk food boots, babes and beer," said Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington assistant professor of psychology and the study's lead author. "That stereotype doesn't appeal to many women who don't like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes. We need to have pink bikes with wider seats and a place to keep pet poodles."

Given that Harley Davidson lovers frowned on the introduction of the V-Rod 7, I can only imagine their response to this!!

Rule of Thumb: If you don't like it, find something you like to do and do it. Don't ask the world to change for you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Something To Say

I have been here for the past thirty days. They needed help in setting up the turbines for the power plant and they couldn't afford to blow the coils on this one. When I had decided on playing with wires and electricity, my dad thought I was going to be a great physicist; my mom thought I would be on the radio, my brother never thought about me and hence, stole the wires and sold them for his cigarettes. He still hasn't departed from his barter mentality and the biggest problem in that is that he thinks everything in life is a fair exchange, till he fell in love. No exchanges there.

I ended up manning turbines and laying the induction coils in them and I thought I was going to be someone great. I didn't know that all they would want me to be is the guy who would fit things in the spindle housing right. This takes me to odd places like this one. They say they need me and can't find anyone like me but they also don't want me to become anything else. Like the man who wound the city clock thrice a week, but that's a different story.

He wasn't one who would create problems but he was still not allowed here. He managed to get through the chicken-wire fencing before he was thrown out and convinced that he should not venture beyond sitting on that rock and watch the entire grand activity below. Metal and instructions sparked the space beneath where he sat and watched. No one knew who he was and in that ignorance, he gained identity amongst us. I didn't like him because he watched us work with genuine interest and curiosity. HushEven children got bored on the third day. He made me feel embarrassed about my work and its plainness. I soon started working with my back towards him. He would sing a variety of songs while we worked or ate our lunch. When we were about to leave, he continued singing and we knew he had left when we couldn't hear him anymore.

Today he smiled at me and I wasn't sure what to do. I pretended as if something had fallen into my eye and rushed to where my colleague was and asked him to blow hard into my eye. We soon started chatting about his brother-in-law who lost his eye when iron filings had fallen into one of them. It was a while before I thought of our man up there.

He began singing again and it didn't seem like this was a song anyone could sing as it was probably never written down.

You will find something to say, my love

When you heart beats faster

And your nerves tremble a tune.

When your eyes water for no death

But for something that is dying within.

You will find words to shout out, my love

When water dries every green plant

And a man's truth is the dagger that stabs.

When what you thought won't, has happened

But it has already happened, already.

You will find words to fling sharply, my love

When your breast will burst, if the mouth

Doesn't spill what belongs to the world.

When your feet tire from having walked all along

And only words can cover what remains.

You will speak and cry out loud, my love

When what you believe in is raped

And hurtled amongst the felled trees.

When love is the seed for all hate

And pain is the bowl which gathers joy.

But why speak then, my love

For words are but beats

That left the drum

Never to return

And marry the fingers

That thumped the skin.

Why sound your mind, my love

When they never reach

The hand that cracked the whip

Or your soul which sells itself

For a sliver of moonshine

For an ounce of joyous moments.

Why talk and groan, my love

When you could be silent

And die nevertheless.

Why utter your private thoughts

In a public concert?

Why speak, my love

Why speak.

What is there to say anymore

Why speak, my love

Why speak!



Silence is the tongue you should speak.



He had left for the day, and if there was more to his song, we didn't hear it. I looked around at all the people who had heard the song and I knew that I didn't know them as I had when we met in the morning. We continued our work in silence and left a little early for the day (the manager, who had also heard the song, didn't say a word). 

Some say he was run over by a truck that was speeding down a hairpin bend. Some say he went back to where he came from. Whatever be the truth, none of us ever looked up at the rock again.