Every so often, the conversation about women in technology and computing - which grumbles on quietly and constantly in the background, even when the media isn't commenting on it - breaks out into mainstream reporting. The cycle generally goes like this: a new study or survey reveals the numbers of women in tech are consistently low or even dropping. People start wondering, in a concerned tone, why is this? Smarter people push the questions of what we're going to do about it. Then the backlash starts of why we have to treat the question of women in tech especially and that they're SO BORED with this same old conversation. And then the talk ebbs until it's, a few months down the road, dragged into the foreground again. But it will come back, because in all the years since the conversation was started, for all the talk, we haven't solved the problem and, worse than that, there's no clear indication we're even making any progress in making people understand what the problem is, or that there's a problem in the first place.
Who would you guess to be "just about the last group of people it's safe to mock in polite company" ... Republicans? Nudists? Nope - it's actually nerds:
David Anderegg has just published a book espousing that theory, Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them, and how the social stigma and social prejudice against nerds reveals our negative attitudes towards intellectualism and learning achievements - which, he says, are dragging our entire culture down.
And because I was watching The Twilight Zone over holiday and feel like drawing some moral-filled, foreboding, sci-fi similarities between real life and fiction - compare this line from the book, quoted in the above linked article:
In 2004, we graduated more sports-exercise majors from U.S. colleges than we did electrical engineers.
With schools turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.