Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Programming Software IT

A Bechdel Test For Programmers? 522

Nerval's Lobster writes In order for a movie or television show to pass the Bechdel Test (named after cartoonist and MacArthur genius Alison Bechdel), it must feature two female characters, have those two characters talk to one another, and have those characters talk to one another about something other than a man. A lot of movies and shows don't pass. How would programming culture fare if subjected to a similar test? One tech firm, 18F, decided to find out after seeing a tweet from Laurie Voss, CTO of npm, which explained the parameters of a modified Bechdel Test. According to Voss, a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a woman developer, that calls a function written by another woman developer. 'The conversation started with us quickly listing the projects that passed the Bechdel coding test, but then shifted after one of our devs then raised a good point,' read 18F's blog posting on the experiment. 'She said some of our projects had lots of female devs, but did not pass the test as defined.' For example, some custom languages don't have functions, which means a project built using those languages would fail even if written by women. Nonetheless, both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Bechdel Test For Programmers?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:33PM (#49328247)

    My favorite porn always passes the Bechdel Test.

  • Here's MY test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:33PM (#49328249)

    If you can substitute the term "white male" into your premise and suddenly find it offensive, then was actually racist/sexist all along.

    "a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a white male developer, that calls a function written by another white male developer. "

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ultranova ( 717540 )

      If you can substitute the term "white male" into your premise and suddenly find it offensive, then was actually racist/sexist all along.

      "a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a white male developer, that calls a function written by another white male developer. "

      So... does that offend you? Why?

      • Re:Here's MY test (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @01:12PM (#49328689)
        It offends me because I could give two shits who wrote a function in a program. All I give a fuck about is does the fucking thing work the way it's supposed to when it hits production; and if not whose salary am I cutting in half next quarter? All groups - Men, Women, each with various levels of melatonin dictating skin color and race - contain shit programmers as well as brilliant ones. It's about the fucking dedication of the coder. Fuck the race card. Fuck the gender card. If I have to fucking fix your shit in production cuz you couldn't be bothered to make sure it works in test and model environments, you're a shit coder. I don't give a shit who you are.
    • Re:Here's MY test (Score:5, Interesting)

      by shadowrat ( 1069614 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @01:02PM (#49328569)

      If you can substitute the term "white male" into your premise and suddenly find it offensive, then was actually racist/sexist all along.

      "a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a white male developer, that calls a function written by another white male developer. "

      i'm a white male and most of my projects don't pass. It's a joke i know, but it's a good metric in a way. Really, joking aside, to pass, a project should feature at least one function written by a developer that calls a function written by another developer. i'm aware that sadly, I don't work as well with others as i should. I often reinvent the wheel and isolate my codebases. From what i've seen, this is common.

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      The inverse is often used as a test too, and is not considered offensive.

      It should also be noted that in media, the number of projects that fail the reverse is negligible, while the former is extremely common, even in content that passes the first.. Thus the inverse is useful in demonstrating just how minimal the requirement should be and how unidirectionally it tends to fail.
      • The inverse would be an illegal test. Some classes of people are protected from discrimination, others are not.

    • by Nermal ( 7573 )

      ...and if we lived in a world where it was ever a question whether 99.9% of projects would pass your version of that test, you might have a point. In that world, the "white male" version would, for whatever other faults it has, at least be trying to provide a metric for measuring integration of a marginalized group. But as that is not the world in which we live, your version of the test is pointless at best, and offensive at worst not because it is inherently so, but because in the real world it can only se

    • Re: Here's MY test (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @01:26PM (#49328861)

      You just unintentionally illustrated the entire point of the Bechdel test - how many team software projects pass your version of the test? Nearly all of them, right? The bechdel "test" is meant to illustrate how low the bar is, and how many movies/projects still fail it.

      • The bechdel "test" is meant to illustrate how low the bar is, and how many movies/projects still fail it.

        I think the point isn't whether some movie or coding project passes or fails this test, but that the test is truly meaningless.

        If movie producers want to make movies with two women who talk to each other about something other than men, they are free to do so. Whether it will be a success depends on what they talk about. I think any movie that focuses on two people talking is going to be boring so I wouldn't choose to watch it, no matter whether it was two women or two men. Or one of each. I mean, I found

      • Here is an interesting or painful question, would the Sex in the City movies pass it?
    • Re:Here's MY test (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Orgasmatron ( 8103 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @01:58PM (#49329159)

      Sigh.

      It is sad how many people don't get your point. It isn't that anyone is expecting much software to fail your test, it is that the test itself is foul. The original test.

      Perhaps subtlety is no longer called for. Run the whole article through the translator [menkampf.com].

      I'm about fucking done with the SJW invasion of slashdot. Is it possible to take the site back?

  • The dumbest thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jonathan P. Bennett ( 2872425 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:34PM (#49328253)
    Seriously, this is the dumbest thing ever. Just make the code work. I don't care at all if women wrote it. There are so many issues that actually matter, and this isn't one of them.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:50PM (#49328455)

      This is the kind of thing that discourages women in traditionally male-dominated fields. Nobody cares if a programmer is a man or a woman if they can write good code. But when a team member starts disrupting the work culture with irrelevant things like making things a man vs. woman contest, they're no longer going to be welcome regardless of their sex.

      • Whoa! Stop with those common sense arguments you AC devil, you!
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        Even if programming was a perfect meritocracy that ignores the two main reasons why there are so few female programmers in the workforce.

        1. A lot of hiring is done through networking, and because the guys in the industry tend to network with other guys it limits the number of female candidates available to them. It's bad for the company as they don't get to pick from the widest possible pool of talent, but it's cheap and easy so it happens a lot.

        2. When the work culture is framing any effort to even examine

        • And that's the thing... Egalitarian and fair are neither when one group has been systematically discouraged for (well, forever).

          You actually need to go with stats then to redress the issue. And the stats don't actually lie (much).

          You don't like their stats? Get your own. Figure out how many % of women are actually interested in programming vs. anecdotal evidence that "women don't want to do STEM" or "networking is biased". There are other places where you could gather appropriate statistics and bolster your

    • by MrLint ( 519792 )

      The functions written in software is not a 'society facing' item. I would really like to see this misogyny is everywhere groupthink to stop.

    • Author vs. content (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @01:22PM (#49328819) Homepage

      This even stupider, because the original "Bechdel Test" is about the *content* of the movie.

      i.e.: the Alien movie discussed in Bechdel's comics happens to have been written and directed by guys. But none the less, it depicted strong female caracters, who actually have motivations, goals, etc. of their own.
      the female *characters* of the movie aren't passive decorations, they are not only here to observe (or obsess about) the guys, they have a life of they own, their actions are here to move the plot forward.

      counter exemple: you can probably find tons of romantic film or novels, written by author which happen to be female, but completely fail the test as their female protagonists are more or less only here for the sole purpose of falling in love with male caracters.

      This "Programmer's test" is stupid because it only considers the *author* of code.
      An author should be judged solely based on the quality of the work produced, no matter what sets of reproductive organs the author happens to be equipped with.
      What should be judged in theory, is the depiction of gender role in the produced work. As code is sexless, there is no point in that. It doesn't depict roles or creates models for future generation, in merely gives instruction to hardware.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        The Bechdel test is far from perfect, but it's an interesting test to apply to movies that have no real reason not to pass it. It's supposed to make you think. It's supposed to make you question why not just women but lots of other groups often get stereotyped or sidelined in films, or why directors don't think that the more central characters can be female, or if they even considered it.

    • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @01:28PM (#49328887)

      Seriously, this is the dumbest thing ever. Just make the code work. I don't care at all if women wrote it. There are so many issues that actually matter, and this isn't one of them.

      Moreover, it's probably sexist. We have established that there is a gender imbalance issue in the workplace. If the requirement is that two women are in close collusion on the project, that's statistically less likely than two men (which may number 5:1 in some fields, including mine). The mathematical proof is left to the reader, but select 2 from N where N is a collection of one of three genders with a skewed distribution: Male, Female & No Interaction where No Interaction defines tasks that are purely self-contained and represents the greatest part of the distribution. The way to pass this test then is to force your women to work together and isolate them, functionally, from the men. The odds of those two interacting increases dramatically (but as much of our work is solitary, it's not a definite). To get definite interaction you need to have a woman work on the user facing portions of the code (i.e. "outside" the engine) and another who is a user. Either way this doesn't strike me as good for anybody, and certainly doesn't seem very equal opportunity/diverse/ideal or even rational.

      It has to be much, much worse on the kinds of software projects I see a lot these days. Someone buys/acquires some code written elsewhere by persons gender unknown but almost certainly male (more so as the software approaches the OS/hardware level). You can have an entire company of women tying their code into this codebase and they may never write a function for each other, each tackling this big hairball independently for her own module. They may not have cause to interact, and your all-woman company fails the test.

      Bad idea. In any event I don't think it solves any issues I see affecting women in the workplace in a helpful way, it just seems to be more distracting data-points leading away from the cause of the actual problem that should be examined.

  • by seepho ( 1959226 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:36PM (#49328267)
    That automatically comments on Nerval's submissions asking why no one mentions that Dice is /.'s parent company.
  • discussion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:37PM (#49328285)

    both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.

    And what exactly is it you want to "discuss"? Are you entering this "discussion" being open to the idea that your ideas about "gender balance" are wrong? Or are you just trying to hit other people over the head with your particular views?

    • H1B applicants will discuss anything you wish, and they're all gender balanced. Just ask them!
  • This is stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:38PM (#49328303)

    The Bechdel Test is about female characters. It depends on the story taking their characters and lives seriously.
    This stupid thing is nothing like that. It totally trivializes the real gender inequalities that still exist.
    Code has no gender.

    • It's also sort of funny just how strongly the idea of the Bechdel Test has taken hold, even to the point that the underlying idea has been somewhat lost. It made a point of how unusual it was for movies to treat women as independent characters, rather than as attachments or ornaments to the male characters. It's not a perfect test though - for instance, the last James Bond movie passes the Bechdel test, yet is probably far and away from what anyone would consider remotely feminist, that one scene aside.

      Now
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:38PM (#49328307) Homepage
    It isn't about getting jobs for female actors.

    It's about people misrepresenting the world as lacking interesting women with something on their mind besides men.

    If all you do is insist on two functions, each written by another women calling each other, you have made a mochery of the test.

    • by N1AK ( 864906 )
      This point can't be made often enough. We're already seeing any meaningful discussion drowned out by claims even checking for sexism is sexist, that they should have something better to do etc, and they're hiding an underlying issue.

      Checking whether two functions coded by different women interact is a really poor proxy for the lack of gender issues at a firm. It would comically easy to game, and I can't see what it offers that simply looking at the proportion of women employed in coding roles doesn't do
    • I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't love to talk about relationships with other women. Hers, her friends, a celebrity, whatever. It's by far the most popular subject. And while men may not talk about relationships per se, we do talk about women. A lot. In fact, there's a convincing argument to be made that everything we do is in the pursuit of securing or keeping a mate, so it's not so strange that we would talk about it, male or female. (Replace opposite sex with same sex as applicable -- this is

    • Exactly. The Bechdel test is about the broader misrepresentation of women in media more so than it is about gender imbalance. It makes little sense to apply it in a work environment, simply because we're already dealing with reality there, meaning that women can represent themselves how they choose.

      The project I'm currently on has two full-time employees working on it, both male. We routinely call functions written by one of the original devs on the project who was a woman and was responsible for much of th

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @12:42PM (#49328347) Journal
    The Beschdel test is based on the idea that many writers will create female characters not as actual characters but as a love interest. Hence the qualifiers. It's not a perfect test but you can at least see how it is likely to correlate to a specific type of poorly written character.

    So what ae they testing for here? Are they saying that female developers are just macguffins?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    18F is not a tech firm. It's a technology program at the General Services Administration of the Federal Government. https://18f.gsa.gov/

  • And I thought it couldn't get any more useless and idiotic than the original Bechdel test!

    Learning something new every day!

  • So some CTO decides to take a visual arts litmus test which admittedly does not work, modify it in arbitrary ways, and then apply it to the software engineering field to determine whether or not a project will fail.

    .
    I have to agree with the previous poster who said, "Seriously, this is the dumbest thing ever. Just make the code work."

    • by seepho ( 1959226 )
      Thankfully all of my code passes the seepho test, so I have an equally arbitrary metric to send up the management chain.
  • Here's how foolish this nonsense is. Assume we have two classes, Woman, and Kitchen, which are written by different women. Passing the Bechdel test:

    self.sandwich = [woman getSandwichFromKitchen:kitchen];

    I learned something about myself writing that. Objective C really is as shitty as Java. I should stop oppressing Java programmers.

  • On my team, there are as many Y chromosomes as X chromosomes. It's impossible to pass this test. In my almost 30 years of writing software, The only time there was more than 1 woman on my team was a year during the dotcom boom. Otherwise, if there is a woman, she's the only one. I didn't need this test to know that.

    You don't need to come up with circuitous gimmicks to prove that there aren't a lot of women in tech. We know it. Everyone who has worked in this field knows it. Society knows it. The unknown
  • ...could make real names for themselves by writing, respectively:

    1. code for something kinda useful
    2. a RESTful web service exposing the above

    Then every web page on Earth can pass the Programmer Bechdel Test just by consuming the web service.

    However, I suspect that's not what the test is intended to accomplish.

  • by ggraham412 ( 1492023 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @01:12PM (#49328691)

    Maybe code should be written by Political Science majors from now on. It's important that the right categories take credit.

  • Nonetheless, both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.

    Or you could just, you know, write good code and make that the thing that matters.

  • Check out iNotRacist [youtube.com] an app to tell exactly how racist you're not.
    • I saw that. Gamification at its finest. So iNotSexist could potentially include "used a program that passed the Becthtel coding test" for 50 bonus points!
  • I work alone. I'm still at the point of writing boilerplate I'm very picky about, and it will take time before I'm doing anything for an end user. When I hit that point, I will probably still work alone because building a commercial product with the possibility of later pay rather than the liability of payroll isn't really the easiest thing to organize. I would LOVE to have some talented programmers on my team in times coming within the next year, but they won't be no matter what their gender is.

    HOWEV
    • I should add an explicit statement here.

      There IS a problem with the genders being unequally represented in the software industry. But aside from sexism, there's also nepotism, cronyism, and a culture that wants developers to be overqualified. As a result, MOST programmers work for themselves, if they program at all. Many give up. So, don't expect those who are in the same boat to grow a money tree and fix things. Instead, be the new software company that will do it right.
  • The Flintstones, The Honeymooners, Here Comes Lucy
  • I knew a woman who complained to management when other people used code she wrote. She felt she was being denied credit for work she had done.
  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @02:25PM (#49329459) Homepage

    I teach computer science. No one will be surprised to hear that most of our students are men. This is a problem, at least, we are continually told that it is.

    The news yesterday had a report on schools that train people to become small-animal veterinarians here in Switzerland. They happened to mention that 80% of the students are women. This is apparently fine; there is no outcry to find more male veterinary students.

    My son works in professional child care, where women are something like 95% of the workforce. No one seems terribly concerned by this, even though the lack of male role models for young boys is arguably an actual, genuine problem.

    Personally, I am very tired of articles like this. Why the continual one-way focus on women? Why can't we just let individuals be individuals, and do whatever they want? Ensure that there are no artificial barriers due to gender (or skin color, or hair color, or whatever), stop pushing people in directions they don't want to go, and just let people choose whatever career they want.

  • by puzzled_decoy ( 3900563 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2015 @06:57PM (#49331747)

    Literally the best way to pass this test about gender imbalance is to segregate genders based on project. .... ....
    I don't even....

The person who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.

Working...