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« Reddit yet? Cute Aliens, Community News, and Youth Venture ... | Main | Female Nerd Myth Busting: Female Nerds Are Not Ugly! »


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Deirdre' Straughan

It's very possible that women's brains are different from men's. (I can intuit many evolutionary reasons why that could be so.) That doesn't mean that women can't or don't want to learn technical stuff, but it might mean that they learn it differently. If that is the case (and it's a question that merits serious study, not knee-jerk PC backlash), we should be looking at how technical courses are *taught*.

The notion of "learning differences" among school kids is well accepted now, with the corollary that different learning styles means a need for different teaching styles, so that everyone has the best opportunity to do well with the brain they've got. That there could also be differences in male and female learning styles seems logical to me. Ergo, technical courses taught by men for men may not play to the learning strengths of many women.

The geek life/work style may also be an issue. Expectations of programmers and engineers in professional life are incompatible with the other choices women may make, e.g. to have children. You're not going to be the person staying at your desk til 3 am to complete an important project if you've got to go home and get dinner on the table for your kids. Sure, it'd be nice to have a spouse who is willing to share the burden (I've been lucky in that regard), but not everyone does, and who in their right mind would say "The kids can starve, I've got this project to finish." ?



Thank you for your thoughtful comments! They've helped me crystalize my own in regards to the takeaways for frm the talk.

In fairness, and I checked my notes - she did say there was no conclusive research either way -- so that Summers couldn't make his case (Women aren't interested in science and tech and that's why there are less of them in academia) based on biology.

As an aside, there was a book recently about how motherhood makes us smarter ...,8816,1053659,00.html

I totally agree with your thoughts about the lifestyle. When Analee said, you can have kids and be a female nerd too, it just takes planning ... I wondered if she had kids?
I work and parent - I don't work the long crazy hours I used to do before kids for the reasons you mention. AND, I, too, have a wonderful husband who pitches in 50%! (And sometimes more). Kids take attention, caring, and nuturing and most times the geek lifestyle demands 100% of your attention.

Brad Webb

Wow, great post, Beth. I do agree, though, that this is a shared societal issue. I'll take it from a different tact, though.

Guys would benefit just as much from Women being accepted into geekdom as full and equal partners/peers.

Why? Well, let's hit up the dating issue. As much as Geek is the new Prep, that still really isn't the case. People who want to fully engulf themselves in the lifestyle are still finding the movies are way, way off-base. So, obviously here, women being peers amongst peers is mutually beneficial. I personally really don't like the exclusionary "clique" that geekdom has become, it rings far too strongly back towards (what I would guess) is a mirrored situation in many geeks' younger years. Why do we always end up becoming what we strive to overcome? Sad, that.

That being said, this is somewhat of an off-colour statement, but smart women *are* sexy/sexier. Too many geeks hit their first financial success and forget what really greases their wheels (brains) and what makes them meld/fit in the society that for so long has held them out.

I say More Tech Girls. Oh, and introduce them to me, please. :)

hi beth! i wondered if you saw my interview on and what you thought?



Wow, I loved the interview -- particularly the bit about all the application development and the lies to tell your phone company.

You really bust the myth!


Psst - it's "Defcon", not "Deathcon". :-)



Thanks for the correction. I corrected it!

inky circus

This is a great post and I am glad to see it. True public understanding of the girl geek has a long way to go. Of course we aren't all unattractive - any more than all male firefighters are hot. One of my best friends could be a bloody model (5'11" slim and gorgeous) but she is finishing off her Ph.D in organic chemistry instead.

And of course women are interested in technology - it can be useful (cell phones) fun (iPod) and empowering (solar panels). But it is possible that women and men may be interested in different aspects of technology. How it works, versus how it works for me, for example.

But that being said, there ARE MOST DEFINITELY PROVEN differences bewteen the sex's brains. Hundreds and hundreds of research papers have documented differences in the functioning of male versus female brains given different tasks.

What those differences mean in a practical sense is more open to interpretation. Ie - do they explain why there are less women in academia? I don't think anyone could say.

But what I want to know is why that is bad? Men and women are different. This is GOOD.

Girl geeks have a particularly unflattering, unattractive wrap. This is bad. To ensure that the next generation of girls feels cool and confident about a life devoted to Linux, we have to change that. But ignoring the fundamental differences between men and women in NOT the way forward.

Deirdre' Straughan

We can start with us girl geeks who have children raising them to appreciate geekiness. My daughter's got it on both sides: her dad's a mathematician, her mom "does computer stuff." So of course she outcools everybody in school, but flashes of geek still shine through... and she doesn't put up with any crap from the boys!

Deirdre' Straughan

ps I'm reading Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate" and he has a great deal to say about the differences in men's and women's brains, lots of research references.

Abigail Barlow (UK)

Hi, I was looking onthe internet, for some help with my I.T home work. I was looking for information on Ada Lovelace, and I got your bloggy thing. (excuse the punn) Myth 2. AMAZINGLY EXCELLENT!!! The way you have explained that the modern day woman is portrayed as a nerd or a geek, if she just so happens to know a bit about technical things. Thanks for your help with my I.T home work!

Abigail xx


I say More Tech Girls. Oh, and introduce them to me, please. :)

I know you meant well, Brad, but please stop! Girls aren't geeky for your (or anyone else's) entertainment. My attractiveness (or lackthereof) has nothing to do with my geekiness, my gamerness, or any other part of my personality. And I am so bloody sick of being seen first and foremost as "hawt" and then secondly as the part of my personality I'm trying to express.

Organic Chemistry

The only thing I would like to add to this is that I went to college with Miss New York State 1998, and she was a chemistry major and very good at it from what I understand.


But it shouldn't be a problem if you happen to find a female computer technician beautiful and sweet, as I did during a 6-month stint at a computer shop. We were good friends :)

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