Why Are Too Few Females in Robotics? Could It Be the Robots?

2456

Comments

  • ercoerco Posts: 17,679
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    RS_Jim wrote: »
    ROFL
    Jim

    Time-wise, I can only get away with that joke in the "uncanny valley" after Mother's Day and before Father's Day.
    "When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you."

    - Pablo Picasso
  • RS_JimRS_Jim Posts: 987
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Got it!
    Jim
  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 18,971
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Phil,
    ...control is a predominantly male characteristic as opposed, say, to cooperation, perhaps that might explain the gender imbalance.
    That statement is an expression of some kind of cultural bias or expectation which as far as I can tell is not remotely true. Try living in Finland for some time. I swear it is a matriarchy. Perhaps not so much for the younger generation. If you said that to my partner she would give you such a dressing down you wish you had been more polite. In a former life she managed a hundred guys on the shop floor in a factory. No time for non-sense.

    Also as far as I can tell any attribute one might categorize as "male" or "female", by habit or cultural expectations and upbringing, can apply either way around. We humans live on a spectrum of abilities, talents, motivations, wants and desires that cuts across both genders. That includes such obvious things as physical strength and endurance.

    Perhaps it's as hard for a girl to express an interest in robotics as it is for a boy to say he likes My Little Pony.

    What ever the gender situation is with respect the robotics hobby is just a reflection of the situation in technical/scientific interest.

    Some here have said something to the effect that "the situation is improving". I'm sure I have said this here before but here we go:

    My observation is that the "situation" has actually gone backwards in my life time.

    Remember that 150 years ago girls could not get positions as academics in universities or any high level position for that matter.

    It was less than 100 years ago that girls were starting to be allowed to vote.

    Girls started to shake off their role as wife, child barer and dish washer with the coming of the First World war and again in the Second World war, when the boys were away killing each other.

    By the time the late 1970's arrived there were many girls studying with me in technical school and university. Later they were around in the engineering environments I worked in. Not many but a noticeable few. Yes the "situation" was indeed improving. We had a female Prime Minister for goodness sake (Who my the way had a very good technical education, Oh and did you mention "control")

    But then, what happened, all of a sudden I realize I have not seen a girl working as an engineer or programmer for nearly twenty years, not in Nokia, not in many other places.

    What happened?

    I have recently had interesting talks with groups of young software developers who have been wondering the same thing. When they organize a meetup they get over a hundred people wanting to come, including perhaps two girls!
  • GordonMcCombGordonMcComb Posts: 2,943
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Most women aren't interested in walking into groups where there are 8-10 males for every female. Men can have difficulty with this concept -- we love being surrounded by the opposite sex. For most women the thought of it is a drag.

    OTOH, there are some kinds of programming that actively attract females. The kind I do -- office automation using word processing -- is a good example. Participants might be 60/40 male to female. Consultants in my field are more likely to be female.

    I'm not sure "control" is the reason why women don't want to make robots. Isn't all programming a way to control something? There are far more men than women in traditional programming tasks, but we're back to cultural bias that started decades ago, and still exists today. Strip programming to its core basics, and it's about applying logic to problem solving, something for which females demonstrate at least an equal aptitude. Given that there's nothing intrinsically masculine or feminine about programming, isn't it strange that the profession continues to be so male dominated?

    The same solutions to getting females interested in programming apply to robotics, but we have to stop thinking there are mechanical reasons for the gap. In a sense, it's all in our heads. We have to change our thought, which unfortunately is the far harder task.
  • rod1963rod1963 Posts: 734
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    UserName brings up a very interesting point. Not all electronics hobbyists are interested in robotics or even a sizable percentage, I've been doing electronics, auto mechanics and metal working as hobbies for 30 years and never once was I really interested in robotics. Even most of the engineers I worked with had zero interest in them as well and these guys were specialists in terrain following missiles and into sensor fusion, real time data acquisition and such.

    So it's more than just females aren't interested or how robots look.

    Hobby robotics isn't that interesting for most people.
  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 18,971
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    GordonMcComb,
    Most women aren't interested in walking into groups where there are 8-10 males for every female.
    I can kind of see what you are saying there. But if that is really true there is no hope. If girls won't go where there is a majority of men then it will self perpetuate and always be so. Unless we put Noah on the door and he allows in one boy, one girl, one boy, one girl...

    In general I don't think it is true. Girls have successfully "infiltrated" parliaments, previously a male only domain. And at another extreme pubs and bars and so on.

    You are right, robots and robotics is not the issue. It's so minor that 99.9% of the population is not into it. It may be symptomatic of the wider issue that girls are not expected or encouraged, or perhaps actively dissuaded from thinking about mathematical, technical, scientific, engineering pursuits. How that happens I have no idea.
  • mindrobotsmindrobots Posts: 6,483
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    An interesting interview I stumbled across (and it's actually ON TOPIC - rare for me!!)
    MOV OUTA, PEACE <div>Rick </div><div>"I've stopped using programming languages with Garbage Collection, they keep deleting my source code!!"</div>
  • Carol HazlettCarol Hazlett Posts: 220
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Has anybody noticed that even in this discussion on women in robotics there are not many women? I do feel a little overwhelmed by all the so adamant opinions of you guys. If I have any validity at all in this discussion as a woman and based on my interactions with other women in my 68 years on this planet, it really, really, boils down to, girls like to play with dolls and boys like planes and trains. It has always been different for me and I do not know why because I am not a "tomboy" but have always been more interested in science and technology. I don't think it has anything to do with nurturing either as my brothers have not the slightest interest in any of this.
    Carol Lynn Hazlett
    carolhaz391@gmail.com

    In the birthing of any machine there is that moment when it actually works. It is always fresh and astounding for me...............Red Whittaker

  • GordonMcCombGordonMcComb Posts: 2,943
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    rod1963 wrote: »
    Hobby robotics isn't that interesting for most people.

    That's true, though the kind of robotics that were mentioned at the top of the thread aren't hobby robots. Just like not all broadcast engineers are amateur radio operators, not everyone in robotics builds amateur bots.

    As far as electronics niches out there, there are *many* more people interested in combining music and electronics, than there are motorized platforms and electronics. The subject comes up only occasionally here, leading us to think people aren't interested. We'd have more music-related discussions if Parallax had related products (not that I haven't tried). Well, they can't offer everything, and there are plenty of online sites and forums that cater to every genre and niche.
  • WhitWhit Posts: 3,633
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Has anybody noticed that even in this discussion on women in robotics there are not many women? I do feel a little overwhelmed by all the so adamant opinions of you guys.

    :-) Thanks Carol!

    Love the video Rick!
    Whit+

    "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney
  • ercoerco Posts: 17,679
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Of course there are some very capable women roboticists who have been in the limelight for a while.

    Cynthea Breazeal : http://web.media.mit.edu/~cynthiab/NewFiles/bio.html

    Helen Greiner: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Greiner

    Maja Mataric: http://www-robotics.usc.edu/~maja/

    Joanne Pransky (tongue in cheek Robotic Psychiatrist ) http://www.robot.md/

    Heather Knight: http://www.marilynmonrobot.com/

    See also http://robohub.org/25-women-in-robotics-you-need-to-know-about/
    "When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you."

    - Pablo Picasso
  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 18,971
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    And the totally awesome Amy Mather who, at 13 years, old did this http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-10/19/clive-beale--amy-mather who explains herself here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLGh5vutEzU

    If Amy does not smash every stereotype we have read here I don't know what to say.
  • WhitWhit Posts: 3,633
    edited July 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Whit+

    "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney
  • Good for her! What a dumb rule, boys only. Girls rock robotics!
    "When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you."

    - Pablo Picasso
  • Interesting discussion so far.  I think in conjunction with what was said about google results re: military, women in the engineering field don't seem to be as willing to be "out there" with their projects as men do.  My main example is in our ZombieTech podcast - where we interviewed scientists, engineers, inventors, generally cool people and talked to them about their projects and careers, and loosely tied it to how their careers/expertise would help humanity survive the zombie apocalypse.  
    I did the recruitment for this and realized that all of the guys I asked were totally on board with it, thought it was a great idea, and we'd have awesome conversations.  Even if they were busy at the moment, they'd say, yeah! let's talk in a couple of months!  At some point I decided we needed to even the gender ratio out a bit and asked about 6-8 female engineers to come on and talk about their work.  Not ONE agreed.  "I'm too busy" or "This doesn't seem serious enough" or "How many listeners do you have?" or "Talk to my publicist".
    I should mention, we had, prior to my asking these women, had a NASA/JPL engineer who had worked on the lunar module, had an author who was a 5-time Hugo award nominee, movie director, software engineer who had worked on Pixar's Renderman, ceos of countless tech companies (Voxeo, Random Hacks of Kindness, Tindie, OSH Park, etcetc).  So I'd like to think it wasn't because we were incapable of having quality guests.
    We weren't big enough/influential enough for them to spend their time on us.  As evidenced by their interviews with other large companies/podcasts a few weeks later.  A shame and truly a disappointment for me.  How can we as women say that no one acknowledges our accomplishments as engineers if we're not willing to talk to others about them!?
    So I think that, actually, there are quite a few women engineers out there, they're just not as vocal as their male counterparts. Or they may be vocal, but they are more selective as to who they're vocal to.  The audience has to be more influential/popular/whatever.
    I've since talked to other researchers and curators and they've found the same thing.  That if the engineer was a woman, you would have to prove to them why you were valuable to the further-ment of their career, or why you were worth their time.  
    This is certainly not the case with all female engineers, but I definitely came across this more with them than with the male engineers I asked.  What a shame.
    Addie
    Whisker is a hardware and wetware hacker, and produces geeky content on a daily basis. Atdiy is a cardiovascular nurse by day and an electronics n00b at night. Together we're the Toymakers (Tymkrs) and we post videos/blogs on electronics, DIY projects, and whatever else we happen upon! Visit us at http://tymkrs.com, http://zombietech.tv, and http://firstspin.tv! Our projects are on https://www.reddit.com/r/Tymkrs/ and you can chat with us daily at #tymkrs!
  • For what it's worth, my wife is an Engineer and is attending a women's forum in an hour and a half. I think she's being paid fairly. She actually has an advantage getting hired since she is both a woman and a minority (asian). If she started a business she'd have reduced taxes due to being in those 2 beneficial categories. Another law directly benefiting her.

    In my personal experience women get hired on super fast. I don't currently know a female engineer that struggled to get a job. Yet I see very few female engineers. Companies want to seem more progressive, yet from what I've seen only 10% of engineering students that make it to senior year are female. There aren't enough qualified females to hire.

    Ultimately none of this is what matters. We need more good engineers regardless of whatever meaningless categories you can put them in such as gender or race. The categories that matter are talent, experience, creativity, etc. We need more good engineers, regardless of gender.

    Saying robots are manly is laughable. Saying women don't get in to robotics because they don't look girly is almost offensive. To assume they're all so shallow they pick a career based on appearances seems to be putting them in the same pigeonhole these writers are trying to take them out of.

    Don't focus on making women engineers. Focus on making more good engineers. The rest will sort itself out. That's my 2 cents.
  • I am female and I participated in the DARPA Robotics Finals. I was on the Degraded Communications team, a part of the infrastructure, not one of the robotics teams.
    There were more women on the teams at the DRC Challenge, about 20 months ago. I asked some of the team leaders where the women had gone. Many of the women had accepted positions in industry. The two women I met from Boston Dynamics were scooped up in the Google acquisition.
    - See more at: http://iwl.com/blog/females-in-robotics#sthash.CORQBu3v.dpuf
  • Keith YoungKeith Young Posts: 475
    edited July 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    IMG_1086.JPG?itok=D7QNWecA

    Also, this was our winning robot team. The person to the far right did some of the coding. I don't think she ever tried to make the robot pink or look like a girl. Nor did the rest of us try to make it look like a boy.
  • @Addie,

    Your experiences with lining up interviews are very interesting.

    You probably have another interesting perspective on the profession versus gender thing coming from your day job. Being in nursing which is historically and culturally predominately a female dominated field, do you see the number and growth of males in nursing similar to the (perceived?)  number and growth of females engineering?
    MOV OUTA, PEACE <div>Rick </div><div>"I've stopped using programming languages with Garbage Collection, they keep deleting my source code!!"</div>
  • I am female and I participated in the DARPA Robotics Finals. I was on the Degraded Communications team, a part of the infrastructure, not one of the robotics teams.
    There were more women on the teams at the DRC Challenge, about 20 months ago. I asked some of the team leaders where the women had gone. Many of the women had accepted positions in industry. The two women I met from Boston Dynamics were scooped up in the Google acquisition.
    - See more at: http://iwl.com/blog/females-in-robotics#sthash.CORQBu3v.dpuf

    Thanks for the great post and story techlady - Just a funny piece of trivia - the women's basketball team at Louisiana Tech (our nearest Engineering school) is called the Lady Techsters!
    Whit+

    "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney
  • WhitWhit Posts: 3,633
    edited August 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Who would not want to got to this? https://youtu.be/2WVnfg-5-5M
    Good video here too - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw_9t82qD60
    Whit+

    "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney
  • Awesome, sign my twins up!
    "When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you."

    - Pablo Picasso
  • Whit wrote: »
    Who would not want to got to this? https://youtu.be/2WVnfg-5-5M
    Good video here too - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw_9t82qD60

    Well there's a chance they won't allow boys to go to it. I'm all for getting everyone, obviously including girls, more interested in Engineering. I just don't think the best way to do that is to exclude other groups, particularly due to something they can't choose such as gender. Sound familiar?

    That TED video was pretty terrible. One of the worst I've seen. Honestly my wife has an advantage getting hired because she is female and Asian, and companies want to actively diversify. She is a good Engineer, but being female and Asian gets her more attention, hands down.

    I loved the part where she said millennials want to do good, not build better rocket ships. I've heard a lot of absurd things from feminists but this one rates high on the absurd list. After she used quotes around "Math" and "Science" and that intro I tried to give her benefit of the doubt, but this rocket statement was just too absurd. Notice how she said bigger better faster rocket ship. It's clear she knows nothing about Engineering or its benefits yet she feels the need to diagnose it.

    How about world wide free internet? An abundance of rare earth materials? Hydrogen 3? Improved rocket efficiency will help with these and more. Efficiency. ISP, re-usability, cost.

    "We need to get that message out to our kids, to our second grade girls." She would have said it perfectly if she didn't feel the need to add on her sub category of people she wants to target for some sort of special treatment.

    I used to teach my nieces and nephews tech related stuff every Sunday before we moved. They all want to be Engineers, yes, including the girls. I didn't have to send my nephews to the other room and make my robots pink or put air quotes around words like Math and Science.

    I teach robotics for free in my house to any neighborhood kids that want to drop by. I had my maze solving robot at the family beach day. I had 10 boys standing around me. All the girls were getting balloon animals. They just aren't as interested. Who cares? Let them do what they like.

    She would imply this is due to my subconscious sexism. No. I'm happy to teach anyone and make then excited about Engineering. I'd be happier to have 11 kids than 10. If that extra kid happened to be a girl it wouldn't change me one bit over it being a boy. I just want more Engineers. Period.

    We need to stop focusing on categories of people and try to make MORE TALENTED ENGINEERS. These female only groups have always bothered me. It would be fine really (yet not, covered below), but when it comes down to it if someone tried to make a boys only Engineering group, it would be called sexist. Blatant double standard.

    Why are boys and girls only tech groups sort of wrong? That's not how the workplace works. Get everyone used to working together in Engineering. See what I did there? I just said it in a way that includes girls without having to be offensive and sexist by excluding other groups of people.

    I'm losing my patience for these groups that want to bring about "equality" by inherently using inequality. Boy scouts and girl scouts is one thing. Both genders get a group without much ridicule. But having a girls tech class that would likely reject any interested boys is just plain wrong. Obviously the same is equally true of a boys only group rejecting girls, I've just never heard of it happening and leftists certainly wouldn't condone it.

    Focus on making more *realnumbers Engineers, not making more [bandwagon]female, black, 6 fingers on right hand, rich, poor, gay, muslim, etc[/bandwagon] Engineers. More Engineers. Period.
  • mindrobots wrote: »
    @Addie,

    Your experiences with lining up interviews are very interesting.

    You probably have another interesting perspective on the profession versus gender thing coming from your day job. Being in nursing which is historically and culturally predominately a female dominated field, do you see the number and growth of males in nursing similar to the (perceived?)  number and growth of females engineering?

    Oops - didn't see this comment, sorry! Sure, we're slowly seeing more men in nursing in much the same way there are more women in engineering. But I don't think nursing as a profession is actively recruiting men because they are men.

    In fact, I think it's largely a generational thing as opposed to a cultural oppression sort of thing (not to say there aren't some bona fide punks around). The less we value gender bias for a profession, the more "equalization" occurs. And actually, my old floor had nearly 50/50 men and women, and on the floor, a good nurse is a good nurse, regardless of whether they're male or female. Likewise, a good engineer is a good engineer, regardless of gender, imho.

    I also think part of it is a experience vs noob dynamic. It's like you either have the engineers who think they're above everyone else for knowing how X works, or you have the engineer who's willing to teach anyone how to create things. My hope is that students of this generation find more of the latter!

    Addie
    Whisker is a hardware and wetware hacker, and produces geeky content on a daily basis. Atdiy is a cardiovascular nurse by day and an electronics n00b at night. Together we're the Toymakers (Tymkrs) and we post videos/blogs on electronics, DIY projects, and whatever else we happen upon! Visit us at http://tymkrs.com, http://zombietech.tv, and http://firstspin.tv! Our projects are on https://www.reddit.com/r/Tymkrs/ and you can chat with us daily at #tymkrs!
  • WhitWhit Posts: 3,633
    edited September 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Whit+

    "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney
  • What is your goal here with this?

    If you're trying to get girls interested in STEM it seems this is the wrong place for it. If they're reading Parallax Forums they're probably already interested.

    It seems better to get girls to the forum than posting such links in places where if they can see it, it doesn't matter so much, since they're already in to STEM (I'd think).

    Have you considered helping a First Robotics Team or something similar?

    Find places a lot of girls congregate and get them interested in STEM. Or maybe I'm not understanding your goal. I'm just a bit confused because these posts aren't fitting what I assumed your goal was.
  • For example I teach kids in my neighborhood Robotics and Programming. When my wife and I are out walking/biking, and see any kids (including girls) we invite them to my next workshop. That is helping get more kids interested in STEM (including girls).

    What I don't do is put post it notes in the capacitor drawers of a Radio Shack talking about how I don't think there are enough females in Robotics.

    My actions are fitting my goals. That's why I think I'm not understanding what you're trying to do.
  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 18,971
    edited September 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Keith,
    Find places a lot of girls congregate and get them interested in STEM
    You might want to re-phrase that. That kind of behavior could get one arrested :)
    What is your goal here with this?
    Perhaps it's good that in places where guys hang out there is actually debate about this.

    There is a regular meet up of web developers here that typically has 60 attendees, and another sixty that are turned away simply because there is not enough space for every one. Perhaps two girls turn up. Those young guys do discuss this issue and what to do about it.

  • That is sort of telling in itself. If they're discussing how to fix the "problem" then it indicates women are welcome and choose not to go.

    To me it's a bit silly to claim it's a problem. Sure we need more Engineers. I just don't know what these people want. There aren't many women that drive garbage trucks, but nobody complains about that. It seems like personal choice. No one at my university was denied getting their Engineering degree because they were a girl.

    Not many men choose to be nurses or elementary school teachers. Why try to artificially alter people in to choosing something else? I guess it doesn't make sense to me.

    But I will freely admit we need more Engineers, and therefore that includes females. I just think the people focusing on getting more women in to Engineering are doing it wrong and are even being counter productive.

    Rather than trying to convince me I have a subconscious bias, why not teach this material to anyone who wants to know, including girls? It seems like I'm doing more to solve the problem, yet being blamed indirectly by some of those on this bandwagon.

    I'm happy to discuss things, but when it's open ended vague and cloudy, and the only direct things I've really heard are wrong, it's tough to discuss and work toward an actual solution. Plus honestly I'm still not convinced this is an actual problem. Obviously we need more Engineers, including females, but the way those that bring this up present it, meh, I don't think it's about Engineering at all.

    That said I'm not saying that's what Whit is doing. In fact I'm still not sure what he's trying to do. I'd like to know. And I'm happy to discuss more direct things.

    *disclaimer, Heater is right. Be careful how you get them interested in STEM.
  • Part of me also finds it a bit condescending to try to say something to the tune of "not enough women want what I want them to want for themselves." They should want this or that. They can't do or want what I want them to do or want without my intervention.

    If they aren't interested in Engineering, let them.

    It's like this bandwagon is trying to shape women in what they want them to be. Then when their dreams don't work they blame me of some sort of bias, glass ceilings, etc. My wife (an Engineer) wanted to get the girls purses for Christmas. I said no, we'll get them educational books etc like we also do.

    That's just what I do. Not because I'm trying to force them to like what I like. Yet I get accused, in generalization anyway but also directly when debating leftists, of subconscious bias and buying barbie dolls instead of trucks. They can get makeup from their feminist aunt. I teach, I introduce them to thinks like Kerbal Space Program.

    I just don't understand this bandwagon mentality and I'm not sure if that's what I'm witnessing here. If there's a direct practical discussion count me in. I just don't know the intent of this thread. I'd like to. Happy to discuss it, when I know what the definition of "it" is :smile:
Sign In or Register to comment.