Women Face Bias in Tech Fields

Is there still a "pervasive macho attitude" within the STEM fields?

5 September 2008


This Month’s Question
Women Face Bias in Tech Fields
A recent study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, a nonprofit that researches women and work, concluded that women leave the science, engineering, and technology fields in disproportionate numbers because of gender bias. Although women enter the fields in high numbers—41 percent of employees are women—and 75 percent of them score well on performance reviews at the beginning of their careers, 52 percent later leave. Primary reasons include a “pervasive macho culture” in which women face strong prejudice, dismissive attitudes from male colleagues, and sexual harassment.

From your experience, do you agree with the findings of this study?

Respond to this question
by e-mail or regular mail. Space may not permit publication of all responses, but we’ll try to draw a representative sample. Responses will appear in the December issue of The Institute and may be edited for brevity. Suggestions for questions are welcome.


Responses to June’s question
Who’s to Blame—You Or Your ISP?

To curb piracy, the UK government is forcing Internet service providers to take responsibility for their clients’ illegal downloads of music and movies. ISPs must apply antipiracy software voluntarily by April or, British officials say, they will impose sanctions. The ultimatum comes after years of pressure by media companies to target ISPs, rather than individuals, for illegal downloads. The service providers argue that they should serve merely as data relays, not monitors, for what passes over their networks. Should ISPs, not their customers, be held responsible for illegal downloads?

Punish the Right People

The only ones who should be prosecuted are those who profit from downloads. After all, many consumers do it for enjoyment, not for profit. Those providing the tools used in alleged violations of copyright law should not be held accountable for the violation of copyrighted materials when the tools can also be used for downloading noncopyrighted materials.

Monument, Colo.


Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Crimes are committed by individuals, and individuals alone are responsible for their actions. I suspect ISPs are being targeted because enforcement is easier, but that doesn’t mean justice is served. The postal service is not to blame for mail fraud. Why should ISPs be held responsible for the unethical behavior of some of their customers?

Piracy is a problem and should be fought. But laws should be enforceable and target the individuals actually committing the crime, with minimal impact on the rest of us.

Beavercreek, Ohio


ISPs Are Ill-Equipped

It makes no sense to hold ISPs responsible for illegal downloads. ISPs don’t have the resources to determine whether a download is legal or not. The primary responsibility for illegal downloads lies with the content providers. Law enforcement agencies and ISPs should work together to shut down content providers that allow illegal downloading.

Santa Barbara, Calif.


Blame the Uploaders

Both the individual and the ISPs are innocent. An ISP’s role is simply to relay data. If it also monitors that data, then it infringes on people’s rights. Who’s to say ISPs won’t start filtering certain political viewpoints? Conversely, the user can’t be blamed—if free content is out there, why should users deny themselves? The people to blame are those who upload illegal content to the Internet in the first place. These individuals should be tracked down by law enforcement agencies. Also, stricter legislation against piracy can help discourage this practice.

Karachi, Pakistan


Shaky Legislation

Although music companies would welcome the additional help, what other content should the ISPs be responsible for? Should ISPs have to identify illegal transfers of other copyrighted information, such as research papers and images? And who would be responsible for enforcing the restrictions? Would the person trying to download the illegal document be penalized? Or would people simply not be allowed to complete the download and instead receive a message stating that their request had been denied due to copyright infringement? There will be plenty of ways to work around the ISPs’ restrictions, unless the source is penalized for illegally providing the information.

Sheboygan, Wis.


No Deal

No government or company can ever ensure 100 percent compliance with any law, no matter the power it has. If you really want to obtain illegal material—whether drugs, weapons, or downloads—there will always be a way to get it. Giving up a civil right for any reason is ridiculous, and doing it for no gain is absurd.

San Diego


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