Doubt-Raisers, Stuart Reges, Jobs for People with Disabilities

June 27, 2018

A new study finds that letters of recommendation for women include more “doubt-raisers”—statements that introduce doubt into the mind of the reviewer—than those written for men. Examples include “hedging” statements like “She might be good,” or “faint praises” like “She’ll do OK.” They can also take the form of downright negative statements or irrelevant information. Michelle R. Hebl, Martha and Henry Malcolm Lovett Chair of Psychology at Rice University, summarizes the findings: “In essence, writers may be more likely to describe women and men as, ‘She has the potential to be good,’ whereas, ‘He is good,’ or, ‘She may not be the best leader but she is competent,’ whereas, ‘He is competent.’” When researchers planted doubt-raisers in letters of recommendation during the second part of the study, those letters were evaluated more negatively than letters without doubt-raisers. Hebl hopes the study inspires letter writers to be more careful with their word choices and to “proofread their letters so that they write letters that are just as strong for women as they are for men.”

Help That Hurts Women by Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed


In the spirit of James Damore (the now ex-Google employee who argued that biological differences explain the lack of women in tech), a lecturer at University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science, Stuart Reges, has released an essay arguing that “we will never reach gender parity” because women “don’t want” to code. He says diversity initiatives should focus on equal access, not equal outcomes, and that we should be satisfied if the field is about 20 percent women. Reges’ colleagues spoke out about the essay. Ed Lazowska, a computer science professor, says he thinks there are indeed “differences between genders” but that, ultimately, there are also many other factors at work, such as “early exposure to technology,” “stereotypes about programmers and programming,” “perceptions of the work culture in the software industry,” “socioeconomic factors,” and “sexual harassment.” Leilani Battle, a postdoctoral researcher, writes, “As a black woman scientist, I have seen first hand how discrimination shuts the door on people…It is critical to consider how our positions of power can influence our thinking with respect to programs designed to address discrimination.”

University of Washington lecturer’s essay on ‘Why Women Don’t Code’ stirs controversy, by Monica Nickelsburg of GeekWire


In accordance with the 2014 federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the state of Minnesota has begun opening up a broader range of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The law mandates that “[young people with disabilities] be evaluated for regular work in the community before being steered to subminimum wage work,” the latter of which typically compensates people with “just pennies an hour” for tasks that involve little to no interaction with other people. Since the law was passed, Minnesota has reached a “record high” of 8,058 people with disabilities working in the community—an example of whom is Charlie McGrory, who now balances working a few days a week as a grocery bagger with his time at a developmental achievement center. “This is a 180-degree change,” remarks Chris McVey, a director at Minnesota’s vocational rehabilitation program. “We are working to raise expectations across the board that young people with disabilities deserve to work in the community.”

In Shift, Work Opportunities Expand For Young People With Disabilities, by Chris Serres of DisabilityScoop