Category: Media

Stating the Obvious: Google Consumer Surveys finds more men than women in STEM

…and we’re back! Following my 2-month study-induced hiatus, I’m finally catching up with a bunch of posts I’ve wanted to write since the fall.

One of the upsides of working at Google is trying out cool new products. In particular, I weasled myself a coupon for Google Consumer Surveys, Google’s new shiny online platform for rapidly collecting user feedback. Google Consumer Surveys, in spite of its clunky name, is a surprisingly simple and elegant approach to data gathering that has the added bonus of potentially saving the publishing industry. Basically, people who want data can pay some money to site owners to pop up a one or two question survey for users to answer as an alternative for paying for content, like a magazine article. It’s also been praised by data-nerd guru Nate Silver as the second most accurate polling data source for the 2012 Presidential election.

The Question

Not being an expert pollster, I chose a pretty simple question: Have you ever considered a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field?

The Insights

The first insight Google finds is completely obvious: “Men picked Am currently working in STEM more than women.”


Glad I used a coupon. The data is pretty clear: at all levels of STEM involvement, the gender stereotypes are well preserved. Sigh.

The other insights were not nearly as obvious. For instance, “Among men, those aged 35-44 picked No, have never considered STEM more than those aged 65+.” In fact, among men the 65+ crowd were the most likely to have considered a STEM career at some point.

My guess is that this is sampling bias. Older people are less likely to be tech savvy, and those who are have probably had some level of involvement or, at the very least, some interest in the sciences.

Another digital divide is also apparent: (sub)urban vs. rural. Rural respondents were much less likely to be working in high tech, and among respondents who haven’t worked in STEM, rural respondents were the most likely to have aspired to work in STEM. The results are particularly pronounced for women.



The challenges of getting into technology as a person living in a rural community comes up in an upcoming tech lady profile. Personally, I know far fewer people from rural communities in technology than women. So again, Google’s results capture this well.

Overall, the results weren’t really insightful, mostly just validated previous understandings of the disparities in STEM. But this is more due to the boringness of my question. What I really need is a better understanding of what to ask to get more meaningful information.

Any suggestions for questions? I’m back and I’ve got time to mess around with some data.


I am a terrible blogger

It’s been about a month since I last posted. It’s been very hectic – my team at Google launched a totally new product and I’ve been taking a grad course at Stanford in my non-existent spare time. As a result, I haven’t been making as much time for the blog as I had hoped. I’m especially eager to write up the most recent interview I did – she’s an amazing lady with a completely unique story that I can’t wait to tell. Luckily, she’s also extremely patient 🙂

In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out a series Google Developers Live team is presenting on Women Tech Entrepreneurs. You can see the previous recorded episodes, or login at 5:30pm EST Thursday and Friday to watch episodes live. So far, they haven’t received many live questions, so I’m sure they would appreciate your input. I’m amazed at how young some of these women are – and they’re running multimillion dollar businesses!

Waiting for the first tech lady sitcom

Given the current rage of workplace-based comedies (The Office, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, etc), I keep waiting for there to be a sitcom about a tech company. And of course, I would expect it to include if not focus on some fabulous tech ladies, preferably all of {Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Rachel Dratch, Mindy Kaling, Margaret Cho}.

At this point you may be saying “Hey tehMLE! Haven’t you heard?  There’s some movie in production that explores the world of tech! From the comedy genius behind Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus!” Once I finish rolling my eyes at you, I will point out that, though technically about “Tech”, the movie in question is unlikely to be much of a comedy, and certainly not of the caliber I’m looking for.

In the meantime, I have discovered The Mindy Project, for which I will do some shameless (though as yet unsponsored) buzz marketing. The show is great, and not just because Mindy reminds me very much of a close friend whose All-Star profile is in the works. Mindy plays a smart, capable Indian-American doctor who has an overly dramatic personal life. There are, in fact, many women I have studied and worked with in my career who fit this profile (not necessarily Indian, though). Thus far, The Mindy Project comes the closest to my dream sitcom, especially since the show’s soundtrack is very in line with my personal dance parties.

Check out the trailer.

The Gender Trap

So this isn’t women in tech specific, but it is about the strong evidence that exists showing that gender differences are almost entirely learned, and I think that goes to the heart of why girls and women self-select out of the hard sciences and engineering.

Some highlights:

  • It’s much sexier in academia to publish a paper validating innate differences between the sexes than it is to refute them;
  • Hasboro’s “Pink Hotwheels for Her” with a prefab track that goes straight to the hair salon is grounds for a riot.
  • CBC radio holds a place in my heart that NPR just never will. Sigh.

A related analysis of where Lego went so, so wrong: