Time: Today afternoon
Place: Klaus Computing Building, Georgia Tech- Parallel Computer Architecture Class
Context: Long argument between a guy and the teacher about why a particular cache coherency feature is essential to make that protocol sequentially consistent (Ya, ya Greek and Latin not only for the rest of you, but for many in the class :P) It is a conversation with one or two more guys pitching in once in a while- some normal guys, some of the other kind, you know, the kind who are always asking doubts in class and answering the teacher's questions etc etc
Most students are trying not to chat with their neighbors and looking at their notebooks or mobiles or at the prof and hoping he will somehow end this argument and move on to the next topic..
At this point...
Anonymous girl voice: Adding to his question, sir, if you just did this ........
80% of the class turns around and looks at her as if she is a Martian who directly landed in Klaus Building.
Note that the same 80% was looking at their own notebooks or the professor and nobody ever looked at those other guys who were discussing so long, even the normal ones, who probably spoke for the first time today.
And that got me wondering. When was the last time you heard a woman ask a question in class? Or at a monthly meeting? Or any public gathering? I remember how, in Intel India, me and my teammates used to discuss why very few women ask questions in meetings. And I can't remember girls asking serious doubts in class EVER in my undergrad. (Serious doubts here imply questions that involve some logical argument and goes AGAINST the teacher's line of thinking. And makes you argue with the teacher. The only kind of doubts I ever heard from girls was- "When should we submit the assignment?", "How long should the answer be?" or "How much weight-age does this chapter carry?"
I know I sound like I am biased here, (which is quite against my general tendency) but I have been thinking about this since afternoon. And I really can count the number of girls, who I have seen asking serious questions, by the fingers in one hand. Yes, it is THAT dismal!
In fact, thinking about this further, I remember one pattern which I observed at work. When a manager, or a higher authority made some kind of rule or decision that you didn't quite agree with, some of the men I knew used to fight. Not fight in the sense of shouting. But assert their opinion and disagree, argue and be firm with their decisions until something else happened (or they realized this was not going to work). This kind of thing could be so detrimental to their career, at first sight. But then again, maybe it isn't, if you look at it closely. Maybe that is how men eventually get what they want. Anyway, my point is I have not seen a SINGLE woman fight against bureaucracy or stupid decisions or any other kind of enforcement the way men did. Women crib about this kind of stuff a lot, they express "mild" disapproval, and they do argue with peers and sometimes direct managers. But they don't fight. Or if they do, they give up too easily. I know I have worked for a very short time and have met very few people, and so, I might be committing a fallacy here by over-generalizing. But no, as I said before it is not just work. It is everywhere. From not wearing "real" casuals to work at a "no dress code" company to being afraid to be normal in front of a teacher to not asking questions to drawing margins in notebooks and underlining answers with red pens.
Seriously. Why do women always play safe? Why don't women ask questions? Why are women generally afraid to be assertive and more ready to submit to authority?