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Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today. What went wrong?

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Replies to: Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today. What went wrong?

  • PetraMCPetraMC Registered User Posts: 623 Member
    This seems like a good opportunity to plug the hackathons at the various women's colleges! LOL

    Wellesley has a big one open to everyone (I think), as does Smith, and Bryn Mawr hosts one called SisterHacks open to the 7 Sisters (yes, even the men at Vassar.) Lots of women coding on the floor.
  • Gator88NEGator88NE Registered User Posts: 6,516 Senior Member
    edited February 16
    Since the late 80's, a lot of other fields have open up to women. Business is not nearly as much of a old boy's club, as it was in the past.

    Perhaps with more options available, programming doesn't seem as appealing. For example, engineering has improved since the early 1980s, when only 5.8% of engineers in the U.S. were women. It's still low, with only 14% of engineers being women, but much higher than it's been in the past.

    That is a lot of engineers, that in the past may have felt limited to programming.
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 2,493 Senior Member
    This is a pipeline issue. By and large, employers want to hire CS majors for software engineering jobs and as Data10 points out, there’s a 4:1 ratio of male to female CS grads.
  • yucca10yucca10 Registered User Posts: 1,042 Senior Member
    is the time commitment less in other countries where this gap doesn't exist, or are the women different in those other countries?

    EU has much stricter labor laws and general culture is oriented much more towards work-life balance. However, the ratio of female programmers in larger in less developed countries like India and Iran, and within EU I believe it's Bulgaria, one of the poorest. This may be attributed to more opportunities for women to have a decent salary and be respected in fields other than STEM in rich European countries.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/02/the-more-gender-equality-the-fewer-women-in-stem/553592/

    It doesn't mean women are less capable to go into STEM fields, or might enjoy them less. I have a friend in Paris who used to work for a French branch of a large well-known IT company, first as a programmer, then a manager. She liked her job but finally got tired of it, became an elementary school teacher and is enjoying it very much.
  • damon30damon30 Registered User Posts: 786 Member
    One other factor not mentioned in this yet in this thread was the advent "PC" culture in the mid-80s, when the first "PC-compatible" computers came on the market, and before "PC" came to mean political correctness. It was a very specific social demographic. Building computers became the white male nerd equivalent of working on cars, and this eventually segued to "LAN parties", multi-player games, creating web servers and "hacking". Many from this group did go on to get CS degrees, and their influence persists to this day.
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 1,385 Senior Member
    edited February 16
    I found this ironic in the article, regarding the very first successful woman they profiled:
    But even as Wilkes established herself as a programmer, she still craved a life as a lawyer. “I also really finally got to the point where I said, ‘I don’t think I want to do this for the rest of my life,’ ” she says. Computers were intellectually stimulating but socially isolating.
    Could it just be as simple as males on average prefer working with things and females on average prefer working with people?
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 12,561 Senior Member
    I suppose the question I have about that idea is, what changed? Women used to enjoy working on things but around the 1980s most stopped wanting to?
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 12,561 Senior Member
    @yucca10
    This may be attributed to more opportunities for women to have a decent salary and be respected in fields other than STEM in rich European countries.

    It might indeed be that there are simply more and better options for women now, over software coding.

    I'm not sure I believe that is the reason there are fewer now, and here, but it probably contributes.
    It doesn't mean women are less capable to go into STEM fields, or might enjoy them less.

    Agreed. But STEM as a whole is a different thing, this article focuses on software coding - computer programming - specifically. Because lots of women used to do it and now far fewer do (as a % of majors and jobs vs men).
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 31,388 Senior Member
    Interesting, @Data10 . I think we need to ask where these women are going. At one point, late 80s?, I wanted to shift into a more engineering role (including returning to school to make it official) and the engineers around me were adamant that the earnings potential and the variety of challenges were much better in marketing, (which was the broad category for what I was doing, in a hybrid role.) At that time, engineers tended to top out early. Maybe in the 50k range, while marketing allowed a lot more.

    What I did find remarkable about my role was that the need for highly qualified staff was high and *no one* stopped to say, "But she's woman." True in other companies Iworked for, as well. I mostly worked for start-ups and appreciate that.

    Maybe the question is, why do more men stay in CS, keep coding, not branch out. ?
  • roycroftmomroycroftmom Registered User Posts: 2,107 Senior Member
    I don't think it is a pipeline problem at all. Few high school girls study or college women major in CS, so it won't just naturally fix itself in the future. CS coding can be very well paying, and it is unfortunate that many women don't even think of it as a career option. Hackathons may appeal to some, but bear very little relation to the actual work world, so I'm not sure why participation in them is considered desirable by employers.
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 872 Member
    Hackathons may appeal to some, but bear very little relation to the actual work world, so I'm not sure why participation in them is considered desirable by employers.
    Hackathons are about collaboration and solving problems, and major ones generally have well-known corporate sponsors (Googles, Facebook, JP Morgan, etc.). The companies sponsor these events for their own benefits (e.g. discovering new talents), but most student seem to participate primarily out of their intense interests. For some of them, it certainly doesn't hurt to establish relationships with the sponsors via these events.
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 872 Member
    Maybe the question is, why do more men stay in CS, keep coding, not branch out. ?
    Perhaps these men are passionate about CS? Don't we encourage our kids to pursue their passions?

    Anyway, coding is only a small part of CS. CS is not about coding but solving problems computationally. AI, a branch of CS, will likely make many of the programming jobs themselves disappear. Some of those who pursue these programming jobs may become disappointed.
  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 Registered User Posts: 2,970 Senior Member
    The problem is pretty simple. CS is still rooted in math and science. From empirical evidence, females in general start losing interest in math and science by the time as early as junior high, even in our area which is 70-90% Asian. We see this in our school numbers year after year. I would say that for my kid’s HS Calc BC and Physics C classes, 80% were male.
  • kiddiekiddie Registered User Posts: 3,380 Senior Member
    edited February 16
    I can't find the data (my google skills are failing me), but women in other sciences is much higher than CS or Math. So the argument about girls not being interested in science is wrong. I even saw an article (again with charts that showed the numbers), saying that CS and Math were losing bright science-loving women to Bio because Bio was more welcoming to women. The numbers of women in Medical school is also high.
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