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Why I sometimes despair of this profession, number 1,987: Adam Bien in his JavaOne Best Practices Java EE 6 talk: "Explain it to an alien... my first version of this slide was 'Explain it to a woman,' but I got lots of criticism." Huge laugh from the 99%-male room. UGHHHH.
Dan Strohschein's profile photoSharon DiOrio's profile photoRachel Blum (Groby)'s profile photoAdam Bien's profile photo
I actually got up and made him apologize for his stupid and offensive joke. On the way out, one woman thanked me and one man told me I should "relax." (I told him he should shut up.)
I'm really proud of you for being so brave, sweetheart.
In my university job, we wonder why women don't study engineering. um. points That attitude, right there.
Been reading Adam Bien's tweets. Dude clearly knows he messed up but his attempts at apologizing are only continuing to dig. It's kind of sad.
Thanks for the supremely uncomfortable moment!
Yeah, and his claim that he "never meant to make fun, that's why the alien" is a straight lie.
+Neal Swearer you were at the talk? If you were one of the people who laughed at his joke, then thank you for the same.
It would appear you have a lot of reasons to change your career. One thing we need more then anything us to be able to laugh at ourselves. Maybe it would've been funnier if it was an Indian, Chinese, or white male joke. 
Yes, I was at that session, and no, you cannot have a mic. And yes, the audience was 99% male. JavaOne is a pure entertainment event these days. Is there a reason why Adam can't play to his audience?
+Josh Swann yeah, somehow I didn't hear any of those today. I did hear a large room full of mostly men laughing at the idea that women don't understand programming. Thanks for the career advice though.
Sandy J-T
+Josh Swann Assuming any segment of the population is stupid, (race, gender, what have you) isn't something folks should be expected to laugh off in order to interact in their professional community.
Neal, no one owes someone who made them uncomfortable any comfort. And it's unreasonable to think you can decide what other people are allowed to be offended by. Intent is not a magic bullet.

Josh: seriously? Change your profession because there are uphill battles to fight in an industry you care about?
Thank you for standing up and speaking out Shifra.
Estelle Weyl
Neal and Josh-

JavaOne is a pure entertainment event? Is that why you spent $1,995 to attend. Is that how you described it to your CTO as you requested the funding and time off to attend? I didn't think so.

Adam is not a standup comedian. And, if he were, what type of audience goes to see comedians that make fun of women only, and not of themselves. Would you have laughed heartedly had he said Germans instead of women? Was it funny to you because you believe women are incapable of understanding the concepts presented? The answer is No and Yes respectively. And when you are enlightened you'll be ashamed to realize that I am correct. It wouldn't have been funny if he had said Germans because you hold no assumptions as to whether Germans can or cannot understand the concepts. It was funny to you because you DO think that women cannot. That is why the joke was offensive, your laughing at it was offensive, your defending it is offensive, and your lambasting the person who pointed this out is offensive. Ask yourself, if a man had pointed out that it was offensive, would you have lambasted him? The answer to that is 'no' too. You ARE sexist.

It is bad enough that Adam made the offensive / lame joke, but the fact that you support it, and even applaud it, makes me kind of nauseous. I can excuse Adam, because maybe he made a mistake. Lack of judgement. Maybe he isn't really sexist. Those who defend the right to be sexist, however, there is no excuse. Those who suggest we change careers to one where women are more accepted, well, Josh, I think the problem with engineering as a career is that there are people like you in it.

P.S. We all "know" that aliens are technologically advanced, so don't really understand why it was funny at all to anyone, even sexist guys like the two of you.
+Neal Swearer that discomfort you felt? Pretty much what it was like to be female and have that joke made at their expense. I'd say our but I luckily missed out on this episode of "It's Just a Joke, Why Can't You Relax?" Unfortunately reruns play all the time at tech conferences.

+Shifra Pride Raffel thanks for not staying silent, it would have been easy to do, but your courage is appreciated.
+1 for you standing up and saying something, not for the bad "joke"
Thank you for objecting, publicly. That's hard, and important.
+Neal Swearer +Josh Swann Are you listening to yourselves? It's like a snake eating its tail, the way you're embodying the exact problem with that joke. You think Shifra doesn't get it? Because she's a woman? I understand you don't want more women in your boys club because then they'll start competing for all those sweet high-paying engineer jobs, and I give you credit for your honesty. But I think you need to get over your fear of being challenged the way you think Shifra needs to get over sexism.
+Neal Swearer +Josh Swann Really, boys? Think long and hard about being in a world where people would offhandedly put you down again and again, and then punish you for calling them out on it. Now, +Shifra Pride Raffel, thank you for all of us who ever wanted to say, "hey, homie, that's fucked up. apologize", whether we did or didn't.
shifra, that was very brave and awesome of you.
Thank you for standing up and being brave!
Sigh--back to the seventies. I actually thought that public displays of patronizing misogyny had gone out of style. ("Do you know the women's movement has no sense of humor?" "No, but hum a few bars and I'll fake it.")
Talk about backpedaling... Another developer posted about this joke on Twitter, sounds like he was in the room at the time:!/planetsizebrain/status/121781346891857920 And in reaction, Adam Bien tweeted this:!/AdamBien/status/122844437490565120 He says "I said: Try to explain THAT (strange programming practices) to someone who is smart but neutral..." -- Yeah, that must have been what made everyone in the room including +Neal Swearer laugh so hard, that it sounded like Adam Bien was saying women were smart but neutral.
Adam Bien
Hi Shifra,

I (the JavaOne speaker) finally get the chance to write something more than 140 characters about that :-). I actually had already twitter conversation with another woman and thought it was you.

For some reason your post appeared today in my stream...

1. I really apologize - it never was meant negatively. IMHO: (Java) programming is the most creative job you can get - even more creative than (e.g. Photoshop) design. I had long discussions with my wife about that... Btw. I usually don't care about the "quality" of developers because of: So the questions who is better - doesn't really matter to me. Who is more passionate counts more...

Interesting: in all recent projects there was at least one woman I worked closely with. And they were exceptionally good (Java programmers, database experts, designers, project managers). My biased opinion - they were less biased and so more pragmatic than guys.

2. There are really bright women's at Sun / Oracle (Marina, Amy, Nandini, Linda, Eileen...) - they are extremely good. So it would be really stupid for me to do jokes about the quality of women's in the IT. We have even two female spec leads in Java EE 7 and EJB 3.1 - and it is a pleasure for me to work with them.

Now the story behind the alien. I hacked ~5 years ago my own heating control to save energy "Project GreenFire" ( with Java EE 5. My wife (she is not a developer) was always skeptical about that and asked me some real good "why" questions: "Why you are doing that?".

Then I went in spring (=can be cold in Germany) to a contract and left her with my autonomous system alone. We got some minus degrees - what caused my system to overflow shut down and display 65k Celcius. Then I got some really interesting questions :-).

I explained that on a conference and got similar "problems", because I did not mentioned, that my wife has nothing to do with development...

I had to provide the context in my talk - but wanted to save the time. We had only one hour... It was clearly a mistake.

From then I got the idea with a neutral alien

The alien really helps me to find strange things in the IT. I use the metaphor frequently in recent years to challenge architects.

I also said nice things about architects in my talk but look at the URI: :-)

You reaction really surprised me. I never intended to make a joke about women's, rather than make a joke about strange things we are implementing in the IT.
Now my complaints:

1. You didn't gave me any chance to explain my unfortunate sentence. You always repeated: never do it again.
2. I was misquoted from the beginning "How To Explain It To..." which I never said.
3. Instead of waisting energy with me:-) please join: I had already conversations with Duchess'es - with bright Java women during JUGs. This organization really rocks - and you will even get a nice t-shirt with duke.

Whatever sounds negatively in this comment. It is really not intended.

So spread your Java-love (other programming languages could also work) and encourage other women's to program, attend and join conferences.

If you need more context on aliens - I will find some older blog posts,

Have fun with Java - women rock and sorry for sounding negatively during my talk. ...and please make a bit more jokes about guys and programming. I start with one: Service s = new ServiceImpl() I could never explain it to my wife :-)

Btw. I guess I already apologized for my sentence approx. 15 times :-)

adam bien (the alien JavaOne speaker)
+Kevin Maginn

"Man, male privilege is tough, isn't it?"

I actually never thought before about male vs. female in the development space. I work together with several women and it feels "natural" to me - and I like it: it seems there is less religion in place.

I only often wondered why women are in the minority. Development is such an interesting profession - IMHO vastly more creative than any "Photoshop-like" job.

IMHO: Java-development is a perfect, gender neutral profession - but it seems to attract males more than females...

What I also don't get is the discussion in this thread. Just promote Java, join duchess (, write posts, speak at conferences, but analyzing an unintended joke (I immediately and afterwards apologized several times) is just wasting CPU cycles and energy.

Go promote Duchess in Java. Women in the IT just rock.
And we need more of them.
Hi +Adam Bien . I’m pleasantly surprised to see you take the time to comment on my post and am glad to get to talk to you directly. So thank you for that.

I wasn’t sure I had heard you completely accurately at the time, based on some things you've said here, so I just went and listened to the recording of your talk -- it's around timestamp 2:45: .

Exact quote: “My first version of this ('Explain it to an alien' slide) was 'Explain it to a woman' but I got lots of criticism at the conferences (big laugh from the audience) and one talk was almost cancelled... (more laughing) So I think 'Explain it to an alien' is better.”

I notice that afterwards on Twitter you said that you meant someone “smart but neutral”, and in your first comment here you say you meant someone who would ask good questions, like your wife did about the heating system. Interesting. At the time, it sure sounded to me like you were saying a woman wouldn’t be expected to understand anything about a Java project.

But, you clearly want me to know that you didn’t mean any harm, and you’ve commented here twice while I was busy elsewhere with my holiday season, so I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are sincere and you really didn’t intend to make fun of anyone. I accept your apology.

But meanwhile, there’s another commenter in this thread, +Neal Swearer , who also was there that day. Neal came to comment on this post because he thought you had made a funny joke aimed at the men in the room, and was irritated with me for asking you to apologize. How about if you clarify for +Neal Swearer that you didn’t intend to demean women and you don’t want him to, either? I think it will mean more to him coming from you, seeing as how you are a giant in the field of Java and so many people listen to what you say.

Which is what makes this worth continuing to talk about.

You say you’re tired of apologizing and you don’t want to be misunderstood. Sounds good to me too. Since you haven't been thinking about gender (that must be so relaxing, to have never given a thought to gender in the workplace before -- that's not a luxury I have), I'll help you with some advice about how to make that happen: it would be good to stop trading on stereotypes about women. Even saying that women developers are not religious about technical issues, or that Java is a great profession for women because it’s just as creative as Photoshop, is too much of a generalization. Assuming that all women will react like your wife: also too much of a generalization. Any time you make a comment or joke about all women as a group, it reinforces stereotypes, and it’s just going to annoy a whole lot of people.

There are women and men who are great coders who do excellent work (that they could explain to any alien!), women and men who know nothing about coding. There are women and men who could build a great heating system that can handle German winter, women and men who might have a little trouble with it. I’m a pretty stubborn developer (I don’t agree with you about interfaces, for example) who might not fit your stereotype about women being less difficult to work with.

As you travel and speak, it will help your stated cause of getting more women into the profession if you stop saying things that sound like stereotyping (even if you mean them differently). I’m looking forward to having you help with the project of getting more women into the field, since of course it’s not my job to do it, it’s everyone’s. And when we can get them to come to JavaOne in future, they'll enjoy themselves more if you're not making easily misinterpreted jokes about women when they get there.
Awesome reply, Shifra, thank you for doing this.
+Shifra Pride Raffel

I didn't had your twitter handle and assumed, that @banane(her twitter handle) were you and tried to discuss with her the issue. I'm not even sure whether she attended my talk :-).

I spotted this thread about 10 days later - after the discussion already escalated.

For me there was, at least before the talk - now I'm a bit more sensible, no difference between the gender in IT. And having only guys is really boring. Many things seem just to become exaggerated - my "Rethinking" talk was actually about that.

Fortunately in Java space women are not that rare. I'm working with "bright female hackers" in Java EE JSR (lead by female expert group member - Linda), EJB 3.1 (Marina), Java FX (three extremely good women) and even one of my "bosses" is a pragmatic woman.

And I really enjoy it. I would have nothing against female majority in IT.

Btw. I'm from Germany - it seems like women in IT are "just usual" here. They are in the minority, but it feels natural.

In USA it seems like it is a sensible topic. In my next talk (probably about another topic - I hate to speak about exactly the same stuff twice), I won't even mention my problematic statements again - it would be the third time in the row :-).

I will probably speak at the european JFokus conference: just look at the front page - just female speakers - it seems like I will be in the minority :-) (what is a good thing).

One advice: I would react as women to my "unprecise" statement with another joke like: "If guys wouldn't build exaggerated stuff, you would not need women to correct that" :-) It would be a nice conclusion of my talk.

If you are a female and would like to speak at a european Java conference (or probably JavaOne) or write a technical article about technical stuff - I could help you.

thanks for reply!,

adam (the Rethinking JavaOne speaker)

If someone develops software - it should be trained to think logical (if - else). If you think about IT - it is absolutely gender-neutral profession.
I'm offering some unsolicitied advice, but I feel a joke that is gender focused -- "One advice: I would react as women to my "unprecise" statement with another joke like: "If guys wouldn't build exaggerated stuff, you would not need women to correct that" :-) It would be a nice conclusion of my talk." -- would not be a good idea.

And slightly offtopic but since it was mentioned a few times by you, Adam: I joined jduchess but didn't see a t-shirt. Maybe the shirts are from the European chapters.
+Jessica Ledbetter
" I'm offering some unsolicitied advice, but I feel a joke that is gender focused..."

Such a conclusion is a terrible idea in general - you are absolutely right. In my particular talk, however, it would resolve any ambiguity regarding my opinion about women and Java programming.

"And slightly offtopic but since it was mentioned a few times by you, Adam: I joined jduchess but didn't see a t-shirt. Maybe the shirts are from the European chapters."

I was not precise again: it is not a t-shirt but a blue polo shirt with a duchess on it. It looks like "duchess / duke propeller head". All duchesses I know wear this polo-shirt - I just assumed that you will get it.

Regarding European duchess chapters: I gave a talk at JUG Paris about 1.5 years ago and some duchesses from the Paris chapter attended the session ( They are really active. After my talk we spend a half night discussing Java EE 6 architectures and patterns.

Paris duchesses also organize Java female-only meetings - a really nice crows of Java hackers,

enjoy Java programming!,

Adam, I'm @banane on Twitter, and true, I did not attend the talk. Instead I heard about it from Shifra. As I said on Twitter- glad the intention wasn't to piss off folks, but still, having repeated the joke 3 times, I'm still a but confused as to why you think it would be funny to women in tech. I doubt in German it's funny, but I am willing to be convinced otherwise. In the future I'd proof your talk by floating the jokes by women in tech- not just your wife- and ask for their honest response. Best test is to probably show them a talk with or without the joke, and see which they prefer, with no context re: the old failed jokes.
+Anna Billstrom

Hi banane - and I thought you are shifra - thats why I wanted to meet you at the conference to clarify my point of view :-)

"still, having repeated the joke 3 times, I'm still a but confused as to why you think it would be funny to women in tech."

I made a single joke a of myself (because my not working greenfire invention in the past) and mentioned my wife and got feedback, that it could be "problematic". Because of that - I used the alien.

"In the future I'd proof your talk by floating the jokes by women in tech- not just your wife- and ask for their honest response. "

The "joke" was neither intended, nor planned. On the slides there is just alien. In future I will not even mention women in my talk - except promoting jduchesses -> this should work in any case.

"Note- have attended JavaOne in the past."

You should attend the next one. This JavaOne was great - full of excitement and interesting content. I really enjoyed it:

Thanks for commenting!,

Adam- actually I may attend in the future. I gave a talk at Oracle to the Java developers on rapid, agile and lightweight development ( my new love now ) and could imagine an expansion of the talk @ J1. I also avoid making gender jokes in talks, usually stick to other things I know better. If you do want to lighten the talk, you could probably poke fun at US vs. Germans quite effectively. Good luck. And do promote Jduchesses, that'd be awesome.
the funny thing is that at other programming language conferences the de facto way to make a slide explaining a complicated concept to the layman would start with the words "Explain it to a Java programmer"
Thanks for standing up to this stupidity. It will encourage the rest of us to do the same.

If this trend toward mono-culture keeps up, our field is going to become a real slog to work in. A decade ago there seemed to be more "veteran-developer" female managers around, not to mention lots of women coming in from CS programs and graphics shops during the early web. Workplaces were a lot of more interesting and -- trying to find the right word for it -- personality-balanced.

Something bad happens when you get a mono-culture dominated by men from a narrow set of cultural backgrounds, sort of an unproductive overconfidence and group think. This also has a feedback effect as good female developers gravitate to firms that "get it". I think that bigger companies get an edge in our industry as they can overcome their biases and hire females, especially in management positions. Part of it is creating a work environment that is conducive to diversity.

I hope that creating business cultures that are not hostile to women is recognized for its important role in software business success.
+Adam Bien The reason there's continuing pushback is that you don't actually seem to understand why your behaviour was problematic, and your explanations of it are very very wrongheaded. Should there be more women involved in Java? Certainly. But don't push the entire responsibility of this onto other women. Projects which figurehead women involved in high-profile roles or which encourage women's involvement in general are great things, but they don't compensate for a social attitude that continually engages in low-level demeaning of their ability. It's not the sole responsibility of women to fix these problems. If you're serious about being concerned about the disparity, do something yourself. Admit your error of judgement in a public manner. Point out poor behaviour on the part of others. Accept that you've been part of the problem, and work towards being part of the solution.
My first reaction was that the joke is really targeted at the speaker himself, or at least stereotype of male IT scientist for whom a woman is an alien - if not mythical - creature (-:
I'm a feminist. I define feminism as the radical notion that women are people.

So if I look at a group of engineers and don't see something close to a 50/50 mix of men and women, I'm inclined to think that group is missing out on some really great talent. Since I like working with really smart, really capable people (and I like to think that's because I am one too), this is annoying to me.

And generally I think that most engineers want the best chance they can have at working with a really talented and smart team and therefore they would want a pretty equal gender balance. And likely an equal balance on geographic and cultural backgrounds - though that's obviously harder to assess as it varies by local demographics. Generally men and women are an equal split so that's easier to assess. The better your team is, the cooler stuff you'll build and the more you're going to learn and improve.

OTOH there might be some engineers who are on the lower end of the talent and intelligence spectrum. Chances are that if talented and smart people who were also female were as well represented as they should be, those less talented and smart male engineers would need to seek employment elsewhere. And really, I'm sure they can - Microsoft can always use some more folks to churn out their next broken OS. But I can understand how such engineers might feel threatened.

But my pity for such people ends when they get in the way of building great engineering teams. So good on +Shifra Pride Raffel for speaking out. And for those arguing against her, think long and hard about what's important. Right now in this industry we're leaving a lot of fantastic talent on the table because of bullshit medieval reasons. That's just plain stupid.

As an aside, this is a great talk on how to get university CS programs to be more inclusive: Women in Computer Science @ Harvey Mudd College: Three Promising Practices
Wow. I am impressed with the amount of both insight and ignorance in the comments here....

Clearly the speakers statements were easily misinterpreted , and lacking the proper context, impossible to parse correctly. Bad on ya.

Ok, now move on. IT shops or clients that overlook qualified talent on the basis of sex put themselves at an economic (if not cultural) disadvantage. That said, there are differences between males and females in all known species in the animal kingdom, and especially among humans where cultural evolution has widened the gap beyond the biological imperative.

To ignore that there are differences in the way that males and females interact with their environments is to ignore objective reality - any behavioral scientist can tell you that. Is this intrinsically a negative for women? Of course not.

The real problem here is a group of people allowing themselves to be victimized by assuming the role of the victim, rather than offering a balancing perspective or an effective counterpoint. By crying foul and invoking assistance from others, they are in effect stating that they cannot handle this either on their own or as a group, reinforcing their status as a marginal participant. This unfortunate knee jerk reaction is based on a deeper form of prejudice, which manifests itself most obviously in those who would try to fight against such prejudice.

Perhaps a more effective strategy for those striving to make their value self evident would be to respond more in kind, or in a dismissive manner. Such is the common language of interactions of groups that present themselves as equals.

I challenge you to imagine the following: Two groups, presented as equal: one member of one group says something mildly disparaging about the other group, by intention or accident.

Would the offended group be better served in both its own self-perception and external perception by responding dismissively, acting in kind (equivalent retaliation) with an air of dismissive humor, or by crying foul and invoking the assistance of an outside governance?

I would encourage the "downtrodden" to not serve as their own caricaturesque doppleganger by acting the part - it is unflattering, at its best. The most important keystone of bigotry, prejudice, and sexism is that the victim must be maintained in a state of victimization - and this is maintained most often through the unknowing cooperation of the victimized.

At least that is what i think as of 5 minutes ago - I reserve the right to assimilate additional information and change my opinion ;-)
+Clifford T Smyth Have you seen any situation in history where the minority that was being discriminated against got their way by just ignoring it and behaving like nothing had happened?
Also, +Shifra Pride Raffel - I know that a lot of people prefer it if people don't have arguments in their comments. I'm completely happy to drop it if this is a hassle.
+Matthew Garrett (sorry for primitive comment from phone), thanks very much for asking, and it's fine with me. I'm fascinated by the very accurate microcosm this is becoming, and perfectly happy not to have to do all the arguing myself.
+Matthew Garrett Well, you have a point. I don't know that I advocated (or would advocate) ignoring a jab, but rather responding in a manner that gains the respect of the relevant audiences, asserting equality by choosing equal footing rather than asserting equality by emphasizing your vulnerability or minority status. It is a very fine line, and I recognize that it might not always be practical, but I have found it to be very effective when negotiating from a position of perceived (but not actual) vulnerability.

We are wired (for right or wrong) to be attracted to and admire strength, rather than frailty, in general.

It could easily be premature in some circles, but I think that women may be close enough to equality in the technical - intellectual subculture to assert their viability without taking the fallback position of being oppressed - in fact, they may be just so close that it is resorting to this position that slows their acceptance as equal or potentially superior in these fields where their apparently greater Left/Right brain bandwidth may well give them a genuine advantage, all other things being equal.

+Shifra Pride Raffel , I do not mean for my comments to be a debate about your actions, in particular - I really see nothing wrong with your reaction, and very well might have done the same in your me it just brought to mind the "end game" of a petition for acceptance, and brought the possibility that (hopefully) gender issues in programming might be close enough to that point where an end -game approach might yield better results. At any rate, your post brought these issues into the visible light spectrum, and that surely has the potential to be positive! Thank you for raising the issue, and through it my awareness. I'm going to crawl back into my cave now... ;-)
I for one recognize women as our alien overlords and plead mercy for the speaker, as he seems truly repentant.

Seriously, sometimes we say stupid things w/o realizing it and need people to point them out to us or we realize it ourselves a bit too late (foot in mouth). This may not be done out of malice, but it does reflect a culture that we should all be actively trying to change.

That said, I've also experienced others doing the same consciously, repeatedly and be completely unrepentant, for these there are no excuses. Making noise, pressing the issues is the only way to change the "majority" behavior, those that want you to "let it go" or "be patient" might mean well but will keep the "status quo" alive a lot longer, which is unfair and unjust.

Sorry for the abuse of quoting.
It's so weird seeing this sort of thing. I'm always tempted to think that sexism died out a generation ago, but there seem to be people who live in a very different world from me. Then again, I program in .NET so maybe we're just a little ahead of you Java folks. ;)
+Ravi Kotecha "Explain that to a Java Programmer" is just brilliant. I will steal your idea and transform it to: "Explain That (strange, exaggerated superfluous patterns) To A Ruby / Python Programmer" This is what I looked for. A lot better than Alien.
All others:

1. There should be more women in Java - a majority would be really nice.
2. There should be (IMHO there is no) difference between female and male developers. Everything else is just stupid.
3. Women: join

Explain that to a Ruby / Python programmer is actually what I meant -> Alien is just a workaround. Thanks +Ravi Kotecha
+Shifra Pride Raffel thanks for speaking up - especially in professional contexts there is no place for diminution, at least in places I would want to be. I think this is a very serious social issue that can't me talked about openly enough. Sadly, time and again, these things happen in events, but finally (after some #hundret years) some people seem to be cool enough to start talking about it instead of either ignoring or silently accepting it. Thanks for bringing this particular discussion up, although it is a pity that it still is necessary.
And I think the reation of +Adam Bien in this thread is a good example of how critzism can be accepted.
On the other hand, I am not confident that +Josh Swann and +Neal Swearer are still following this thread - so probably they won't be able to take a heart and admit that have made inapprobriate statements. Which is a pity, too, really.
Clearly there is an issue: I've worked as a developer for 15+ years. In every job, 95% of my colleagues are men, no matter what the industry is we are performing development work. I am also a student - and out of all of my Computer Science courses, there have been 2 females. The numbers do not lie - There is some reason or another that there are not more females in our industry. As men we must be more diligent not to add to alienation. Already in the U.S. it is more acceptable (albeit wrong) to allow for gender discrimination than say, racial discrimination. Take the latest Dr. Pepper "10" commercial - which says "It's not for women". We saw this commercial in class. Everyone laughed. But what if it said "It's not for Blacks" ? It would be considered racist. No one would laugh. Why is the same standard not applied to gender? This problem is bigger than just our industry - it's all over our media. The sad thing is, most don't even realize this until faced with it. Raise the awareness. Change your habits.
+Dan Strohschein
It seems (my impression), that Java (I'm working 100% with Java) development is less appealing to ladies. We can encourage learning programming (because it is the best profession on earth), but it is really hard to convince a non-programmer to become one. Sometimes it has to "click".

I also met some guys who said: "my children should not become programmers any more - it is a horrible job" - so we should not encourage too much...

I do not know Dr. Pepper - if it tastes horrible - I'm o.k. with the slogan :-).
Female "customers" of Dr. Pepper should be asked about this slogan - the outcome would be interesting.
Thank you for standing up to the guy. I'm glad we're past the "we better be quiet" stage :)
Now, I ask anyone here who still doesn't quite get it...if Adam had said "Explain it to a black guy". Would you have told him to get a sense of humor?

I didn't think so.

Adam, we know you're sorry. We're pretty sure you won't do it again. I'm not worried about you, but I am dismayed at the number of people who really don't seem to get it. They don't get how hard it can be to be the only woman in the room time and again. They can't see how we want to encourage their nieces and daughters to enters these fields because we love the work and want them to love it too, but we also pause because we know that a lot of fields, while not actively discouraging women, do subtly make it clear that we are not quite a member of the club either.
I not even intended to make a joke - there is also nothing on the slides like that. I'm angry about myself, that a superfluous sentence caused such a trouble.

Last week at JaxLondon during a related talk "Clean Code with Java EE 6" I said: "Try to explain that (your cargo cult programming design :-)) to a ruby / python programmer and watch the reactions". This metaphor fits perfectly what I wanted to express.

I don't met anyone so far, who would discourage women to join IT. And if you know someone - who cares?: Any "exclusivity" should disappear soon. Great tools like blogs, GitHub, Twitter, PoD, StackOverflow you are absolutely location, gender etc independent. You only need some enthusiasm.

Btw. not all women are so pessimistic:

Just be constructive. Most of programmers in the IT would REALLY appreciated more women. In my projects we make constantly fun about ivory towers, politics etc. - its funny enough.
+Sharon DiOrio
Btw. Did you attend my talk? :-)
"Explain it to a black guy" would not make any sense in the context.

I looked for someone who is unbiased but smart. I used the alien in my talk for that. Here is the definition (from

Developer developer = me;
Alien alien = new UnbiasedAlien();
alien.setContext("Java EE 6"); //or something else
alien.setRequirements("24/7 eCommerce application");

List designIdeas = new ArrayList(){{
add(new Approach("Service s = new ServiceImpl()"));
add(new Approach("Empty Delegate"));
add(new Approach("DAO per entity"));
add(new Approach("Extensive Layering"));
add(new Approach("Code Coverage Driven Design"));
add(new Approach("External libraries and frameworks"));
//...and whatever is suspicious

for(Approach approach: designIdeas){
Explanation e = developer.getExplanationFor(approach);
}catch(DeveloperReligiousException e){

I needed someone neutral so I used the Alien metaphor. I only mentioned, that with "women" I got some trouble in the past. I explained that already in this thread.

Ruby / python programmers are even better as validators. They tend to be more pragmatic and are not known for exaggerated and overblown architectures...
+Adam Bien I have no doubt that you had no idea how that would come across to women. (Seriously. I'm not wearing my sarcasm hat). It's the nature of the beast - people in a privileged position don't see it. Even entirely well-meaning people. (And again, I have no doubt you are well-meaning). I'm perfectly willing to accept your explanation that you just wanted a placeholder for "smart & unbiased".

But being a woman in software engineering is indeed not exactly fun in a lot of places. Every woman who's been in this industry for a while will be able to tell you plenty of stories where she's been doubted just because of her gender, where her colleagues ignored her suggestions only to appropriate them as "their own" 10 minutes later, or where people constantly make misogynistic jokes without even being aware of them.

And no, Twitter & friends don't really make a difference that will "soon" make those issues disappear. I've had plenty of lively online discussions where people accused me of not knowing what I'm talking about just because I'm a woman. (The upside of twitter is that I can get rid of those people, which is harder in real life ;)

That's why we speak out when we're being singled out, even if it's an unintentional joke. Because speaking out and making people aware is the only way we can really make a dent in this climate. (Which is, frankly, hostile in a lot of places. On the hopeful side, there are also quite a few places that actively work on being a great inclusive environment. I happen to work for one :)
+Rachel Blum

"Every woman who's been in this industry for a while will be able to tell you plenty of stories where she's been doubted just because of her gender, where her colleagues ignored her suggestions only to appropriate them as "their own" 10 minutes later, or where people constantly make misogynistic jokes without even being aware of them."

O.k. - in my environment I was not aware of such behavior. I see too much strange political "strategies" and illogical decisions, between colleagues, departments and managers (usually between guys). In contrary - my impression of women in development so far is that they are less religious and far less "aggressive" - is fun to work with them. My hope is that a good mix of guys and women would better work together.

Kick the guys in the ... with technical excellence (blogs, articles, sessions, hacks and fun) and optimistic attitude. Its easier than you may think :-).

Thanks for the positive comment!
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