Seventeen year old Sara Sakowitz writes in the Washington Post about the attrition that results from gender stereotypes for young women:
When I looked around the arena at my robotics competition, I counted only three other girls out of over a thousand high school students working on their teams’ robots. Glancing at the bleachers, I watched girls parading as mascots, girls cheering for their teams, and girls dancing in the stands. But I didn’t see girls on the competition floor. Maybe in the next few years that gender balance will change, and the timid girls in the bleachers will be replaced by fearless women who are undaunted by society’s confining expectations. Someday, my all-girls team will not be the exception to the unspoken rule, but until then, we have to keep breaking it.
In the Internet industry we see the same sort of thing when people assume that women they meet are designers, product managers, or front-end developers rather than “real engineers.” Getting rid of one’s preconceived notions is difficult, but we can start by keeping them to ourselves.