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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?

  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads 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?
    edited February 16
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13020 replies244 threads 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?
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13020 replies244 threads 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).
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34579 replies385 threads 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. ?
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3063 replies39 threads 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.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior 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.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior 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.
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  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 4150 replies89 threads 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.
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  • kiddiekiddie 3458 replies218 threads 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.
    edited February 16
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    To succeed to in math and science (including computer science) often require single-mindedness. Most girls just aren't "wired" that way, perhaps because of cultural and societal biases. Girls tend to do well, and in fact better than boys, in math and sciences in HS. But how many of them win, or even participate in, Olympiad-level competitions in those subjects? Competitions at these levels require extremely high levels of dedication and single-mindedness. Looking for sexism is not the answer.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    CS and Math were losing bright science-loving women to Bio because Bio was more welcoming to women.
    Biology is much less math-intensive than CS or physical sciences. In fact, you can't even compare. Biology has always attracted more female students and one of the reasons is precisely because it doesn't need as much the hardcore math and physics.
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  • allyphoeallyphoe 2447 replies59 threads Senior Member
    That trend is even true at the high school level.
    http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/content/chapter-1/at01-10.pdf

    Girls as a percent of all AP test takers in the HS graduating class of 2012:
    Biology: 59
    Environmental: 55
    Statistics: 52
    AB Calc: 49
    Chemistry: 47
    BC Calc: 41
    Physics B: 35
    Physics C Mechanics: 26
    Physics C E&M: 23
    Comp Sci A: 19
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  • mathmommathmom 32466 replies159 threads Senior Member
    edited February 16
    I think the problem is not with ability but opportunity or perceived opportunity. In 1975 only 22% of medical school students were female, in 2017 it was over 50%. Did women get better at bio in the past 40 years, or did the perception of success and opportunity change?
    Or did women decide that they would fight the sexism in med school and hospitals? In the early 1970s a pair of Duke professors published a truly appalling anatomy text book. Enough women objected that it is no longer in print. I really think the only way CS culture will change is for enough women to work at the badly behaving companies and changing them from the inside. It's no fun and it's not fair, but I really think that's the way change happens.

    Back in 1975 I took an intro CS class, but I just didn't like the fiddly stuff required to debug code. It never occured to me it was a boy's field. I ended up in architecture instead - another male dominated field. My architecture class in the early 1980s was 50/50, but if you look at stats for women in positions of power in architecture it's still mostly men.
    edited February 16
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    In 1975 only 22% of medical school students were female, in 2017 it was over 50%. Did women get better at bio in the past 40 years, or did the perception of success and opportunity change?
    Perhaps women have become more passionate about bio and medical careers? There's nothing wrong with that, even if women take the majority of jobs (equally good paying jobs, btw) in those areas. Why do we have to have equal representation in every single area? We all have different talents and we should be allowed to do the things we're most talented in and passionate about, regardless of our gender (or anything else).
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78671 replies698 threads Senior Member
    http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/cracking-the-code:-why-aren-t-more-women-majoring-in-computer-science may be of interest.

    It does note that "A paradoxical finding is that even when men’s and women’s achievements are similar, women typically have lower confidence in their programming abilities than men."
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