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IEEE, you rock November 3, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, feminism, older son, societal commentary, younger son.
Tags: , ,

In amidst the paper writing frenzy of the past week, I wasn’t paying close attention to email.  When I started sorting through my box, however, I came across this gem from Susan Hassler, the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Spectrum:

Dear Members and Readers,

Please accept our sincere apologies for the headline in today’s Tech Alert: “With the Arduino, Now Even Your Mom Can Program.” The actual title of the article is “The Making of Arduino.”

I’m an IEEE member, and a mom, and the headline was inexcusable, a lazy, sexist cliché that should have never seen the light of day. Today we are instituting an additional headline review process that will apply to all future Tech Alerts so that such insipid and offensive headlines never find their way into your in-box.

Spectrum’s insistence on editorial excellence applies to all its products, including e-mail alerts. Thank you for bringing this error to our attention. If you have any additional comments or recommendations, do not hesitate to contact me or other members of the editorial staff.

Running around some forums, however, I was surprised at the comments implying there was nothing wrong with the link title.


I admit that I saw the title and didn’t think much about it.  I was sort of in a mailbox deleting frenzy as I’m getting close to 1000 messages and barely keeping up.  When I read this, though, it hit me what I’d missed.

My mom is an accountant and has been an early adopter on many types of software, especially those particular to her industry.  Maybe she can’t program an arduino now, but she sure could if she wanted to.  She’s very technically competent, especially for a non-engineer.  So yes, I don’t like that it perpetuates this stereotype that women, especially mothers are not technically competent.

And I think I would flip if my kids saw this, or worse yet, agreed with it.  I am extremely proud of my older son for seeing through stereotypes, especially when it comes to women.  Unfortunately, my younger son is still very susceptible to these types of social messages, and this is the type of thing I don’t want coming in front of him.  We already have enough struggles with simple things like, “Pink is a girl color.”  I don’t want someone telling him that his mother is too stupid to program something (because, frankly, I’m not).  In fact, I’ve made a point to help him with fixing and making things so that he doesn’t get the idea that ‘dads fix things and moms cook’.

Anyway, kudos to the IEEE for calling this out and making a point that this sort of thing is uncool.  Getting rid of a lot of these thoughtless implications would really help to make the profession more friendly to women.


1. - November 3, 2011

My mother can out-program me in most languages… but she is computer scientist. I think the headline also forgot that first generations of computer programmers have kids who are old enough to be IEEE members.

I do love her use of adjectives, though. “Inspid” is just inspired.

2. Blaise Pascal - November 3, 2011

Even ignoring the lazy, sexist, cliche, it’s a bad headline.

An Arduino doesn’t make it easier for me (or my mom, for that matter) to program; it’s programming environment and language is no easier to work with than most other modern programming environment. It is, however, critical to making it easier for me to build an electronic concertina (my current Arduino project) or a sous vide cooker, or a robot, or a quadcopter, etc.

Excel and Word are what made it easier for my mom to program (that, and a job where programming macros in Word was easier than not).

3. Taraz - February 25, 2014

My mom learned to program on punch cards. I’m pretty sure she could figure out an Arduino if she wanted to. :-)


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