The title of the post is taken from the opening of a news story entitled, "U.S. faces competitive disadvantage from lack of women in tech jobs." I was made aware of the story from the ACM News Service (a convenient feature, I have found). It seems to be the latest in a series of articles that chronicles the issue of diversity in computer science and information technology.
You should read the full quote of Robert Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley. He explicitly starts with "discrimination" as the problem. That's a serious charge made by a person with credentials.
I teach CS, and have for about 16 years at the undergraduate level. I "know" I do not discriminate (as far as one can tell about one's self -- more about that later). In fact, I have worked hard to become more sensitive to the impact and consequences of certain practices and assumptions. I read Fisher and Margolis' Unlocking the Clubhouse. I have participated in many conversations about diversity in CS and in other places. So it stings to read about discrimination in something so important to me, especially when I believe it does not belong there.
The reality (IMHB)* is that there is some impediment to balance and diversity in computing as it is realized today. I am not an expert in diversity studies, but I have spoken with quite a few professionals (many at SIGCSE conferences past) who have given me "food for thought."
There are certainly many ongoing efforts underway to address diversity in computing and information technology; examples include the CRA-W, the Grace Hopper Conference, and the ACM-W committee. There are many more, and not all address issues for women in computing (please feel invited to share them here).
I am happy that SIGCSE 2008 will (hopefully) provide another venue for dialogue and learning about issues related to diversity in computing education. There are many reasons to promote diversity (e.g., smaller numbers of professionals), but I am most motivated by fairness. I know there is no Hippocratic Oath for CS educators, but I believe we should "do no harm," and that includes barriers for disenfranchised populations.
I also realize that I probably -- almost definitely -- have fallen into habits in my teaching that are not effective for certain people, and I hope to renew my commitment to teaching at SIGCSE 2008. Feel free to join me on my virtual soapbox, or help me get to a better place.
* In My Humble Blog