Dr. Norm Matloff Asks "What Planet Does Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg Live On?"
April 08, 2013, 06:22 PM
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Dr. Norm Matloff writes to his email list:

I have long felt that one of the most important societal problems is extrapolating from one's own tiny world, especially those in privileged worlds. This has always been exemplified in my mind by the big industrial tycoon who, during the Great Depression, remarked, "Oh, I never advertise my firm on the radio on Sundays, because everyone is busy playing polo."

Unfortunately, the "polo player" I'll cite in this posting is someone I have admired, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who has now made what probably is the most outrageous statement I've encountered in all the time I've been writing about H-1B:

 "There’s not a single trained computer scientist in this country who can’t get a job — at a really high salary."

See here.

I, of course, know a number of unemployed or underemployed CS people, counter to Sandberg's statement. I know a lot more who left the field after encountering repeated difficulty in finding CS work. (As I've pointed out before, the underemployed and the left-the-fields show why unemployment.)

But there is more to what she said.

The alert reader of this e-newsletter who brought Sandberg's statement to my attention is not a fan of Sandberg's other recent statements, especially about women in tech. Let's start with the title of the above article, "Facebook’s COO Sandberg Says Parents Need To Push Girls Towards Tech."

My reader points out that Sandberg herself is NOT in tech. She is NOT an engineer. Anyone who worked for Larry Summers as chief of staff, as Sandberg did, has got to be very sharp indeed, but that doesn't mean she knows what it's like to be an engineer; she doesn't.

I've emphasized over the years that there is serious age discrimination in the tech industry, starting at about age 35—and the H-1B fuels the problem, by providing a ready supply of young workers. And I've said the problem is even worse for women. So should parents really push their daughters towards tech, as Sandberg says?

I've mentioned before that when CS enrollment plummeted following the Dot Com Bust, the female numbers dropped a lot more than the male ones.

I interpreted that as being due to women being more practical. Hard evidence supporting that came a few months later in a survey that found that women put much more emphasis on the practical when choosing a college major, compared to male students.

Sandberg's boss, Mark Zuckerberg, once stated that only young people can make good software developers. He later apologized for making the remark, but clearly he believes it. I've visited Facebook on a number of occasions, and it looks like a giant dorm room; the vast majority of the developers are 20-somethings. Just go to their slide show,”Careers At Facebook” and see for yourself; other than the odd manager or two, these look like my students, including my graduate students, and that's exactly what I've seen every time I've visited the place.

I've pointed to a number of instances in which employers say they are "desperate" to hire, but then mention that they are hiring mainly new or recent grads. Remember, that is an official job category at these companies. Here is one at Facebook, for a job titled, "Production Engineer, University".

I at first was puzzled by the word "university" in the job title, until I realized it means new graduate, shown in the smaller type "New Grads, Masters & PhDs."

I just looked at the job listings for their main location, Menlo Park.

 By my count, there were 83 openings in engineering, 20 of which were for new grads and/or internships.

Most of the rest look to be aimed at 20-somethings; the one here for instance, asks for 3+ years of experience, and my long observation of the industry has shown that "3+" doesn't mean 15.

So for those who wonder, "What planet does Sandberg live on?" the answer is "Planet Facebook, where all developers are below average—in age."

Norm

 

Archived at http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/Archive/PlanetSandberg.txt