The Petrie Multiplier – a mathematical model of sexism….

That is the Petrie Multiplier: An argument that an attack on sexism in Tech is NOT an attack on men.

“So let’s get this straight: the luckiest woman out of 10 experiences worse sexism than the unluckiest man out of 40.”

A Dundee University lecturer has come up with a mathematical model to explain why women in computer science bear the brunt of sexism. Senior lecturer, Dr Karen Petrie, demonstrates how being in a minority makes someone more vulnerable to sexist comments.

“This has been a particularly good way to demonstrate it, so it is mathematical and there are no feelings involved,” said Dr Petrie.  The school of computing academic said her research on sexism in tech jobs was not an attack on men, as it assumed men and women were equally sexist.

“This isn’t anti-men. Even if men and women are making the same level of sexist comments, if women are in the minority they bear the brunt of it.”

Her findings impressed Professor Ian Gent from the school of computer science at St Andrews University who wrote about the research on his online blog. To read Ian Gent’s favourite tweets about The Petrie Multiplier, click here.

“The maths that explains this is simple,” he said.

“With 20% women the gender ratio is one to four. So there are four times as many men to make sexist remarks, so four times as many sexist remarks are made to women as to men.

“But there are four times fewer women to receive sexist remarks, so each individual woman is four times as likely to receive a given remark than an individual man is.

“These effects multiply, so in this example the mean number of sexist remarks per woman is 16 times the number per man.

“There is an unlucky guy who receives three sexist remarks, as it happens from the same woman. That is not acceptable, and she should stop.

“But that’s the unluckiest guy out of 40. The luckiest woman receives four sexist remarks.

“So let’s get this straight: the luckiest woman out of 10 experiences worse sexism than the unluckiest man out of 40.”

Dr Petrie is all too aware of the gender imbalances facing women in computing science, being immersed in the industry herself.

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What do you think?
Is the sexism that women experience a mathematical problem or a sexist male problem?

Is it wrong to assume that men and women are equally sexist?

Do you think  that  this Petrie Multiplier calculation explains, justifies or just excuses sexism?

And why can’t people tell the difference between gender imbalance and sexism? They are not the same thing.

And why O’ why are all so concerned with ensuring conversations about sexism don’t hurt men’s feelings?

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4 thoughts on “The Petrie Multiplier – a mathematical model of sexism….

  1. goodrumo says:

    Reblogged this on iheariseeilearn and commented:
    The Petrie Multiplier


  2. No. The model is stupid. All subjects receive a limited exposure to the population. Every woman in tech does not encounter every man in tech. Would the only woman in a group of 1,000,000 receive 1,000 times the abuse of the only woman in a group of 1,000? No.


  3. […] you imagine how many times each woman will be harrassed????? The Petrie Multiplier  demonstrates a mathermatical formula for working this out. But if each man harrasses each woman […]


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