Let me start off this post by admitting that I’m exhausted. Last week was the 2018 SIGCSE Technical Symposium, which is a long run of fun and exciting things that keep all of us who volunteer for SIGCSE busy and not sleeping nearly enough. Final exams for winter quarter at DePaul are just around the corner. And winter isn’t done with Chicago yet, so grey skies have rolled in again. All of this makes maintaining a positive attitude more of a struggle than it would be fully rested under blue skies.

Today I was a presenter at an event for high school women hosted by College Connect, an organization at DePaul that works to encourage high school students to go to college. At the event I was supposed to talk about careers in computing, and thanks to NCWIT and my college’s web page I had a lot of great things to mention. During the question session afterward, the College Connect organizer asked me to name a barrier for women in computing. I told her that confidence was a big problem, that women with high GPAs drop out of computing programs when men with lower GPAs stay. And I specifically mentioned the tendency of men in computing classes to ask questions and make comments as a way to show off, since it can contribute to the lack of belonging that women feel by eroding their confidence.

I came home from the event to work and the first thing I saw was a report about a study of technical recruiting sessions. The study found that the very phenomenon I was talking about this morning, men showing off via questions and comments, was something seen in recruiting sessions for technical companies. They also found all sorts of behavior that is highly discouraging for women (and frankly some men).

And my first reaction, in my tired state, was to be discouraged myself. Even if we’re successful in getting some of those women at the event today to major in the School of Computing and to complete their degrees, they might face the very same behavior I was warning them about when they go to interview. I want to believe that what I’m doing makes a difference. It’s just hard on days like today.