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Friday, December 6, 2013

December 6th, 1989

Here in Canada, today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, in remembrance of the Montreal Massacre.

24 years ago, a madman went on a mass-shooting at the École Polytechnique of Montreal. He killed fourteen female engineering students whose only "crime" was being a woman. A woman who wanted to learn engineering.

His suicide letter and eyewitness accounts indicate he was motivated to kill these women for being feminists.

24 years ago, being a woman engineering student was an act of social change so radical -- so role-incongruent -- that a madman like Lépine considered it punishable by death. Being a woman in engineering was an act so radical, so role-incongruent, that it was (and is) inherently feminist.

And as comforting as it may feel that the Montreal Massacre is history -- or simply the act of a madman -- women in engineering continue to face a much more aggressive sexism than we see in the other sciences. 69% of female engineers have experienced sexual harassment on the job. We still have a long way to go.

1 comment:

  1. Some further info on that 69% stat from the Hewlett et al study (it's on page 9): that same study found that 56% of women working in science had experienced sexual harassment, and 64% of women working in tech. These stats do not reflect the phenomenon that a woman who has been harassed is more likely to be harassed again -- these are the numbers of women in those studies who had been harassed on the job at least once.

    For comparison, the rate of sexual harassment of women in society is around 50%. Science isn't a whole lot worse than the rest of society in this regard, but engineering definitely is.

    The numbers have been going down over time. In 1986, the rate of sexual harassment of women in in engineering was estimated to be more around 75%: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00287982

    On a different note: I find it completely horrifying that the Wikipedia article on the Montreal Massacre refers to Charles Rackoff as a "University of Toronto computer science professor" when quoting his bigotry and denial about the Montreal Massacre. It sets a terrible image for our department and certainly doesn't make it look like computer science in Canada has progressed since 1989. :(