There has been a missing part to the Satya Nadella story, and that is Maria Klawe. Maria Klawe is the woman who asked Satya Nadella the question about how women should ask for raises. It’s likely you haven’t heard much if anything about her. Part of the reason for that is that she hasn’t spoken out much since the Satya Nadella story broke. Who is Maria Klawe? She’s a member of the Microsoft board of directors and the president of Harvey Mudd College. It is highly probable Klawe is the reason that Nadella was even at the Grace Hopper conference about women in computing in the first place. In an interview, Klawe said that she regularly brings female Harvey Mudd students to it every year, and that this action has spread to companies like Microsoft.
Given that Klawe is likely responsible for Satya Nadella wasting his time at a women in computing conference and asked him the question about women asking for raises, Klawe is at least partially responsible for the uproar about Satya Nadella. Given that she is on the Microsoft board of directors and is supposed to have a good working relationship with Nadella, one would expect her to do something to defend Nadella. If Klawe wasn’t on the Microsoft board of directors, she would still have a moral responsibility to help defend Nadella. However, since she is on the Microsoft board of directors, Klawe has a responsibility to defend Nadella as a member of Microsoft’s board of directors in addition to her moral responsibility. Her lack of serious action in this case is endangering Microsoft. People are calling for Satya Nadella’s resignation based on a butchered quote in the media. In addition, a lot of the demands for Satya Nadella to resign are being driven by anti-Indian racism and xenophobia. If nothing else she should be speaking out against that. For all these reasons Klawe should do something to defend Nadella. This situation proves that she is willing to sacrifice the best interests of Microsoft when a “women’s issue” comes up. Whether it’s wasting the time of Microsoft executives at a bogus women in computing conference or defending Microsoft against baseless media attacks, Klawe is clearly unwilling to take her responsibilities as a Microsoft board member seriously. Microsoft shareholders should start demanding Klawe’s resignation since she is endangering Microsoft.
This is not a unique situation for Klawe. As president of Harvey Mudd College, she has similarly focused on “women’s issues” to the detriment of the college. Klawe is praised for raising the percentage of women in its computer science program. Since it is safe to assume that the number of seats in its computer science program was not expanded, women replaced more qualified men. How can we know this? The introductory course for computer science was broken up into three sections, the first section for people with no experience in computer science, the second section for people with a little experience in computer science, and the third for people with lots of experience in computer science. Given that computer science programs tend to have a high percentage of people with at least some prior experience in the subject matter, people (mostly men) with prior experience had to be discriminated against in admissions for people (mostly women) with no prior experience. (While most of the victims of this policy are men, some women will be victims too. It is likely that foreign born women, who are more likely than women on average, to have prior experience with computer science will be discriminated against for American born women with no experience in computer science.) It is difficult to come up with another situation where prior experience and a desire to learn some of a subject on your own is considered bad. Yet, that seems to now be the case with Harvey Mudd’s computer science program.
The problem at Harvey Mudd goes beyond who is admitted into their computer science program. People who ask too many questions (most likely to be men) in computer science classes at Harvey Mudd get told to stop asking so many questions about “arcane details” in class. This is done because other students (presumably women) found such questions “intimidating”. Supposedly, students with questions about “arcane details” can just ask questions after class, but the net effect of this policy is that students will be less likely to ask questions of their instructors. (From an academic freedom perspective, this is particularly disturbing. Anytime an instructor or Harvey Mudd College wants to shut someone up, they can just accuse them of “intimidating women”.) Personally, when I was getting my degree in computer science, I learned a lot from men who were asking a lot of questions about “arcane details” both inside and outside of class. They definitely improved the education I received. Thus, Harvey Mudd students in computer science are now receiving an inferior education.
Defenders of these policies will say that they are designed to bring “equality” or some such to Harvey Mudd’s computer science program. However, 54% of Harvey Mudd’s seniors in engineering majors are female. Given that the percentage of computer science seniors at Harvey Mudd is less than 40%, even after Maria Klawe’s “reforms”, other engineering majors must be significantly more than 50% female to get a 54% average across all engineering majors. Where are the policies and programs to bring more men into those engineering majors that are more than 50% female at Harvey Mudd? There aren’t any, obviously. What has been done at Harvey Mudd is to make the college more hostile to men by discriminating against students with prior experience and students likely to ask a lot of questions. Maria Klawe has helped turn Harvey Mudd’s computer science program from a first rate program to a third rate program just so more women could benefit. Just as Maria Klawe is endangering the future of Microsoft, she is also endangering the quality of education at Harvey Mudd.