- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 5, 2017

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 4

Welcome recognition for a St. Louis tech firm trying to eliminate gender bias

LaunchCode, a St. Louis-based tech firm, is getting well-deserved attention for its focus on training women computer coders as part of the workforce of the future. The company recently received a $100,000 donation to grow its three-year-old CoderGirl program, aimed squarely at arming women with the skills needed to launch careers in technology.

Studies indicate that women are generally better computer coders than men and that there are neither biological nor temperament reasons affecting their entry into the computer science field in greater numbers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73 percent of workers in the field are men.

The burgeoning tech industry is ripe for women. Social scientists say the gender difference in average mathematical ability that once favored males has disappeared in the United States. Though women tend not to do as well as men on tests of spatial abilities, that is not a significant factor in many tech jobs.

Women may be discouraged from entering the field because it’s not people-oriented, and women tend to be more attracted than men to jobs that offer contact with people. But another, darker reason that works against women seeking and keeping tech jobs is the high rate of gender bias, sexual harassment and overt sexism that has been documented in the industry.

By expanding training for women code writers through apprenticeships, LaunchCode will be providing women with the skills they need to compete on an even footing in a male-dominated industry. Boosting the presence of women in the tech workplace helps serve notice that gender imbalances and biases cannot be allowed to persist.

The image of Silicon Valley as a boys-only club that doesn’t allow women to participate fully has spread through the industry. The representation of women in tech jobs has fallen the past 15 years, while women have made great strides in other fields, such as medicine and law. Women are not only hired into tech jobs at lower rates than men, they also leave them at twice the rate.

In the largest examination of the influence of gender in the industry to date, researchers analyzed data from a San Francisco-based open source software community with 12 million users. The analysis allowed them to determine whether bias was a factor in coding.

The study found that women’s coding suggestions were accepted only 62.5 percent of the time when their gender was identified to new users of the company’s software, and 71.8 percent when their gender was kept secret.

Future manufacturing jobs will depend on increasing automation and require skills such as programming, operating computer-controlled tools and maintaining and repairing sophisticated machinery.

There will be fewer and fewer boy jobs and girl jobs in the future, so the value of preparing women to compete in this realm is critical to this nation’s ability to compete.


The Joplin Globe, Sept. 4

End ride for ‘cowboy of the Capitol’

Not two weeks ago the Globe’s editorial opinion opened with:

“Sometimes a public apology is enough.

“But in the case of Missouri Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat from University City, no amount of regret over her actions will be enough. Someone who was elected by the people and who represents the people simply cannot post to social media the comment: ‘I hope Trump is assassinated!’

“We ended by saying “Her effectiveness and credibility are gone. She should go as well.’”

On Wednesday, Republican Rep. Warren Love of Osceola took to Facebook to vent his anger at vandals who defaced the Confederate monument in the National Cemetery in Springfield, writing “This is totally against the law. I hope they are found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

Yes, that is a Missouri state representative referencing, depending upon the historical timeline, vigilante justice for horse thieves in the Old West or the lynchings of blacks - something that was very real in this state and caused an exodus of the black population from both the Joplin and the Pierce City area.

When the backlash came, Love told The Associated Press that he was “deeply sorry for the extremely poor choice of words” and “Where I am from the expression I used simply means we should prosecute the offender to the fullest extent of the law, but I understand how what I wrote offended those who saw it as advocating for violence.”

What the representative fails to understand is that it no longer matters his intent. It’s for his action that he must account.

At present, Rep. Love still refuses to resign. He told the AP: “My constituents voted me in, and my constituents will vote me out.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Love had confirmed his Facebook post, but said he was not calling for a lynching.

“That was an exaggerated statement that, you know, a lot of times is used in the western world when somebody does a crime or commits theft. . That’s just a western term and I’m very much a western man. . You know, I wear a coat. You know, I dress western. And, you know, I’m the cowboy of the Capitol.”

Sorry, Mr. Love, but in the sentiment of your public persona, it’s time to cowboy up.

We would say the same to you as we did to Chappelle-Nadal. It’s time to go.

It’s no longer about you Mr. Love; it’s about our state and what we stand for.


The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Sept. 3

Survey sheds partial light on public workforce

A recent survey by state workers sheds some - but not much - light on the state of Missouri’s public workforce.

The same could be said for Gov. Eric Greitens’ reaction to the survey.

State workers were polled in July. They most frequently describe Missouri’s government as “caring,” ”underpaid,” ”good” and “unorganized,” according to the Associated Press.

None of those descriptive words surprise us. We’ve always believed state employees to be a caring group, and it’s no secret they are underpaid. We’ve chronicled Missouri’s bottom-of-the-barrel pay compared to other states in news stories, and we’ve pushed for salary raises in editorials.

Greitens told the AP most workers who answered the survey questions say they care about state government and find work meaningful. But most also said the state is not focused on what residents need and how to help them. According to Greitens, many workers also reported agencies lack clear direction.

We’ve heard our share of anecdotal stories about mismanagement, chaos and general disorganization. And we’ve all seen the audits that highlight these faults, which occasionally even rise to criminal offenses.

But that’s not the norm, and government and its workers always should expect such oversight and scrutiny.

The survey was voluntary, but 35,000 - a good portion of the state workforce - took it.

But the few results of the survey given to the press don’t tell the whole story. What percent of workers are engaged in their work and how is morale? What do workers believe needs to be done to address disorganization? Have there been past similar surveys to compare answers and look for trends?

Greitens, who took office in January, said he met with his Cabinet last week to review answers. He says they’re committed to change.

We hope the survey, as well as its analysis by Greitens and others, is shared with the public, which can give input to their elected officials as to what the promised “change” entails.



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