Summary: Pale and Male: 19th
Century Design in a 21st
Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science
University of Washington
I had a clear line of argument in mind when I agreed to contribute this editorial: that while there
are many reasons for striving to increase the representation of women in our field, the selfish
reason is the most compelling one: the quality of the solutions we achieve is enhanced by the
diversity of the individuals contributing to these solutions.
I quickly discovered that a colleague had already made this point far better than I could ever
hope to. In the Winter 1998 issue of The Bridge (the quarterly journal of the National Academy
of Engineering), NAE President and eminent computer scientist Bill Wulf wrote :
"A lot of people argue for diversity in terms of fairness. We Americans are very sensitive
to issues of fairness, but that's not my argument. Others argue in terms of simple
numerics: Male Caucasians will be the minority in the 21st century, and so to meet the
need for engineers we will have to attract women and underrepresented minorities. That's
true too, but that's not my argument, either.
"I believe there is a far deeper reason why we require a diverse work force. Let me give
you the argument in a nutshell, and then I'll try to draw it out more carefully.