Sunday, October 05, 2014

Technical Privilege Reading List

People have been asking about the books I mentioned during last Friday's Challenging Technical Privilege Symposium at MIT. (The symposium was fantastic. So many people came and asked great questions. The video should be up soon!) Below I list the books I mentioned, along with some other books for people interested in the topic. Enjoy. (These are heavy topics, but these books are well-written, engaging, and provide actionable solutions.)

Essential Reading
  • The Curse of the Good Girl (Rachel Simmons, 2010). About how we socialize girls to self-censor. An important read for parents and educators of girls, and also for everyone else to understand why women behave more conservatively than men. (The question of whether this is a "curse" is up for discussion, but it certainly holds women back in a man's world.)
  • Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work (Deborah Tannen, 2001). Georgetown sociolinguist talks about the "cultural" differences between the way men and women speak and how this affects workplace dynamics--and evaluations. She observes, for instance, that men aim to achieve dominance in conversations, while women aim to prevent their conversation partner from being subordinate. Men assert facts; women give compliments. Because of these dynamics, observers will agree that men "win" workplace conversations.
  • Unlocking the Clubhouse (Jane Margolis and Alan Fisher, 2003). Talks about the authors' research about why women tended to shy away from studying computer science and why women leave. They give concrete explanations for how women are socialized to have less interest: for instance, in families the computer will much more likely be in a son's room than a daughter's room. They also talk about phenomena such as how women cite poor performance as the reason they leave computer science, but in fact they are doing better than men who stay. (Curse of the Good Girl!)
  • Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women (Virginia Valian, 1999). I learned so much from this book! It is full of useful facts and explanations. Psychology professor Valian talks about studies that show there is bias against women: for instance, when people are shown resumes with women's names, the resumes need 1.5x the achievements to be assigned the same title. She talks about everything from work to clothing (how men have a uniform whereas all women are "marked") to physical traits (hypermasculinity is associated with competence, whereas hyperfemininity is associated with incompetence) to misconceptions about gender and emotional stability (people talk about women's monthly cycles, but men have both a daily and a yearly cycle). Understanding these gender biases and difference is an important first step towards improvement.

Other Reading

A related thing I also mentioned is the Representation Project's movie The Mask You Live In, coming out in 2015, about American constructions of masculinity and how it's limiting to men. I highly recommend watching the trailer!