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It Could Take More Than a Century to Close the Computer Science Gap: Broadsheet

June 25, 2019, 12:04 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The young women of TikTok are fighting back against creepy older men, the media isn’t paying much attention to E. Jean Carroll’s accusations, and we need a few years to close the CS gender gap—like at least 100 of them. Enjoy your Tuesday.

One hell of a gap. A new study from Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a research lab in Seattle, finds that when it comes to closing the gender gap in computer science, we may be even further away than we thought.

To gauge the state of the gap, the researchers concentrated on the number of computer science research papers published between 1970 and 2018, breaking down the authors by gender. For a sense of what they discovered, consider 2018, when the number of male authors was about 475,000 compared to 175,000 women.

Frankly, I worry that I'm getting numb to such studies, since we've seen so many predicting that X or Y metric of gender parity won't be reached until the year 20-something-super-far-away-sounding. But it turns out that even someone who makes a living covering such things can be chilled by the results—as I was by these lines from the NYT story about the study:

"The most realistic possibility is gender parity in 2137. But there is a chance parity will never be reached, the researchers said."

So, in other words, the best we can realistically hope for is to close the gap in more than a century. The Times does a good job of laying out why the Allen Institute chose to focus on academic publishing—most of the big industry players publish their research in the same journals, and "academia is also where the next generation of tech workers are taught."

As to why we should all be worried about this century-sized gap, think about just how reliant we have become on the devices and algorithms that power our lives. Now consider the gender bias that tends to creep into these technologies when they're built by men or all-male teams. Then there's the macro effect: tech's growing importance in the world of big business means that, if the industry leaves women behind, the economy will too.

Kristen Bellstrom


 TikTok's dark side. Perhaps not surprisingly, TikTok, the year’s fastest-growing social media app, has a dark side: sexual predation, specifically, older men who lurk on the app harassing the young women who make up one of its largest user groups. To fight such behavior, women are banding together in a DIY effort to collect "allegations and evidence of sexual misconduct, blasting it out across YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, bagging and tagging the older men trying to prey on them." Buzzfeed

Quiet about Carroll. After Media Matters chronicled how few major news organizations covered E. Jean Carroll's accusation that President Trump raped her 23 years ago, many wondered why exactly, the media was so quiet on the story. (Trump denies the claims.) Vox, for one, speculated that the problem is, at least partially, a more overarching one: "How do you cover a president whose shocking actions on so many fronts threaten to overwhelm the normal apparatus of journalism—and overload the public’s ability to care?"

Knowing her value. In this spicy Q+A, Jessica Chastain calls on Hollywood to highlight more diverse voices, talks about industry's attempts to silence women, and urges her fellow actors to "understand that it isn’t that difficult to put something together where the control can go to the creatives instead of to an executive who’s deciding which women are valuable, and before which age." New York Times

 Truth! If you haven't yet caught Lizzo's glorious performance of "Truth Hurts" at the BET Awards on Sunday, now is the time! Full video here: CNN

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Ann Sarnoff, who was most recently president of BBC Studios Americas, has been named CEO and chairwoman of Warner Bros. Peloton names Amazon vet Mariana Garavaglia its first chief people officer. Robinhood has promoted Gretchen Howard to chief operating officer. Moda Operandi has hired Ming Yang as managing director, China.


Women's soccer scores. With World Cup fever building, this story argues that women's soccer is finally at the "verge of going mainstream" for two reasons: "First, the quality of play in the women’s game has improved drastically, especially since the last tournament. Second, money is starting to flow into women’s teams, making professional careers more viable." The Economist

Gillibrand on guns. The story of Jennifer Pryear, whose daughter, Nyasia Pryear-Yard was fatally shot in 2009, reportedly changed Kirsten Gillibrand's mind on gun control. But years after the two women met, questions remain about Gillibrand's follow-up on the commitments the senator made to the mother and her Brooklyn community. Washington Post

Crappy behavior. The FBI is reportedly looking into whether lab-testing startup uBiome, led by co-CEOs Jessica Richman and Zac Apte, used improper billing codes in claims and sought payment for unnecessary tests in order to boost revenues. WSJ

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