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The Cautionary Tale of Mr Washington’s Retirement

September 10, 2014

Ron Washington quit his job last Friday. He is a 62 year old black man who worked in Arlington, TX. He resigned his position as a manager.

Mr. Washington’s resignation made nationwide news. Not because he quit his job, but because in his company, there are 29 other managers and out of all of those employees, only one other person in his position is black. His company is working on trying to hire more black managers, but they haven’t been very successful at it.

Perhaps we should encourage more black kids to play catcher.

I’ve been in IT for over 25 years. In that time I’ve noticed there very few women and minorities in IT. I’ve sat through countless boring meetings in those 25 years. One of the games we’d play to try to pay attention was to recast the members of the meeting with hollywood actors and actresses, mostly actors. I always saw myself as Fred Savage of The Wonder Years.

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(Photo Credit: imdb.com)

My friends said they thought of me more as the John Cusack type. (I liked my friends’ movie better!)

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(Photo Credit: johncusack.net)

The real point was that the cast looked more like a buddy or sports movie than it did like a romantic comedy or a Julia Roberts film. Typically there were about 2 men for every one woman. In some Microsoft meetings the ratio was even higher.

When I ran RESMARK, we had 7 men and one woman. I would have been happy to hire more women. There just weren’t any.

In my Computer Science classes at BYU it wasn’t unusual to have less than 5% women in a typical class. I dated a girl in my CS 142 class. She finished her final semester project early and helped my roommate and me finish up ours. You could say we hit it off. We’ve been together ever since.

But, she was the exception that proved the rule.

How do we hire more female programmers? We get more women to graduate in computer science?

How do we get more women to graduate in computer science? We get more young women to go into computer science.

How do we get more young women to go into computer science? We get more girls interested in computers.

How do we get more girls interested in computers? We make math and science fun.

How do we make math and science fun? . . .I don’t know. I have 8 daughters. My wife studied computer science. My oldest daughter took the AP Calculus exam at 15 years old and got a 5.

Have you considered going into science?

Not really.

You can probably get scholarships to any school you wanted to attend if you majored in a science or math.

I’m good at math. . .I just don’t like it.

And she never took another math class. But, I still have hope for her younger sisters.

Ron Washington’s manager job? He was manager of the Texas Rangers baseball team. With Washington’s retirement, Lloyd McClendon the manager of the Seattle Mariners remains the only active Major League Baseball manager who is black. Black players make up 7.8% of the rosters of MLB teams. That’s down from a high of 27% in the late 1970’s.

How do we get more black managers? We get more black kids to play catcher. Seriously, catchers are over represented in MLB manager ranks. This despite the fact that there are some who suggest that catchers don’t make the best managers.

Interestingly, if your son is left handed, you probably don’t want to have him go into catching. Pretty much only one one professional catcher was left handed.

Have him be a pitcher. Good left handed pitchers are highly valued. And ironically, they also have a much higher winning percentage as managers than catchers, despite being fired sooner and having placed less than half as many of their ranks into the manager role. (See the link above.)

So, to get more black managers, recruit more right handed black kids to play catcher.

To get more women into IT isn’t quite so simple.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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2 Comments
  1. Shanna permalink

    Having been one of those women in IT, I totally agree. However, it doesn’t require a CS degree (mine is in history). It requires being interested in the things IT does. I found understanding computers to be like learning another language, which I love. If we could approach IT from other than a CS perspective, we could recruit a lot more women. The only place I worked with lots of women in IT was Intel. Every other place, I was a significant minority. I think we’ve created too much of a box of expectations, so many women don’t consider STEM because of how it is positioned. I think it is very much a marketing challenge and people who find a way to change the perception as the ones that will help all the under-represented join the ranks.

    • Excellent point, Shanna. There’s a reason we call them computer languages. I wonder if language majors would ever be interested in IT, or computers.

      So far, I’m 0 for 3 on my girls in STEM:

      Sports Medicine
      Veterinarian
      Certified Nurses Assistant

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