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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?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 81248 replies729 threads Senior Member
    oldfort wrote:
    First year law associate is at $190 and $350 for 8th year plus token bonus.
    IB after 5-7 years is 250K+ base and 500K+ all in
    anesthesiologist is at 350K

    However, those career paths are much less accessible and much more elitist in general. So a student who does not get into the dozen or so targets (undergraduate for IB/MC, law school for big law) or get through the gauntlet of pre-med is not going in those directions. Also, the law and medical school paths involve enormous debt unless the student has a wealthy generous family.

    CS has fewer of these types of elitist barriers to entry.
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads Senior Member
    ^ And the I-banking numbers seem low - at least at bulge bracket places - even 20 years ago. But who cares? As someone pointed out, we are talking about only a small subset of students who have a legitimate chance at these sorts of positions.
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  • mathmommathmom 32918 replies160 threads Senior Member
    Not everyone just looks for the job that makes the most money. My son at Google with stock options makes almost twice what dh makes in academia. He has never had to work overtime either, unlike dh who pretty much works all the time. But as oldfort points out most CS majors aren't working for the big names.

    Most of the lawyers I know do wills and real estate closings. They live comfortable lives, but they aren't making big bucks.

    I think we have to change things at all levels. When my kids played chess most teams were mostly boys except at one elementary school where the teachers in charge of that chess team were women. They had lots of girls and they did very well in competitions.

    The NYT article talks about how Dads would learn computer programming with their sons, but much less so with their daughters. The point of the article was that in the 1950s women were pioneers in programming. It was assumed they'd be good at it because it was like knitting or reading a recipe. Then in the mid 1980s it became a boy thing to do. I think it may have happened sooner than that. I graduated from college in 1978 and knew a lot of Applied Math majors (which was where the CS courses were housed). I can only remember one woman.
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  • cfsnowycfsnowy 129 replies1 threads Junior Member
    There was a time when women in technical fields heard, "software is for women; hardware is for men." I'd like to think at least some women are no longer limited to software and are indeed working in those hardware "mens" jobs.
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1283 replies3 threads Senior Member
    Very interesting thread. I'm not sure how we can get more girls interested CS. There are quite a few programs out there that are specifically designed to get more girls into STEM and specifically CS. In our own experience (both parents in tech: Me MSCS wife MSEE) we have not seen anything in schools to discourage girls. If anything it seems like the schools actively advocate for girls in STEM. I wonder if social pressure from other girls may actually be a factor. Also, the draw to medicine/pre-med seems very strong with or D (HS freshman) and her friends. But that may change as she moves through HS.
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    I wonder if social pressure from other girls may actually be a factor.
    Bingo. This is exactly what we've seen. Talented girls in middle school succumb to social pressure not to hang out with the "geeks" in the math club, and they are totally gone from the club by high school. Personally, I do not think anything can change this dynamic. Perhaps single sex schools at the high school level should be considered by parents concerned that their daughter might be susceptible, because there WILL be social pressure.
    edited February 2019
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  • MSNDISMSNDIS 252 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I asked my D about her thoughts on this. She took AP Calc AB, BC/multivariable, and CS in high school. She and her friends had to get enough student signatures to force the school to have an AP CS class senior year. Her best friends were male (she did have some female friends but more male friends) so being in mostly male classes didn't bother her too much.

    She didn't enjoy being in Algebra 2 as a freshman though because one senior male, in particular, picked on her and the handful of other freshmen in the class. The teacher used to post test scores on the wall (using student numbers, and I assume grade levels) which I think is insensitive. A few months into the school year, after a test, the disgruntled senior asked the teacher why all the top test scores were from freshmen and she responded that they were smarter than he was (very mean) and that finally got him to stop being a jerk (at least to my daughter's face).

    All her math teachers in high school were female, as were all but one of her math teachers in elementary through 7th grade. She was put in advanced math in 4th grade. So she had wonderful female role models. She had a spectacular male geometry teacher in 8th grade who was also a great artist and very knowledgeable in many subjects. He taught them math concepts that my older daughter learned in college.

    She participated in Knowledge Bowl, DECA and a national economics challenge so she was used to competition. She also played sports. She liked video games but she didn't spend hours daily playing them.

    She didn't major in CS because she realized in college that she didn't enjoy programming enough to make that her career. She switched to systems engineering which allowed her to also take econ and business classes in addition to math, science and engineering classes. She did complain about a few misogynistic males in some of her college engineering classes but she was able to tolerate them. She is having a tough time getting a good job in her field though. CS would probably have been easier.
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  • Data10Data10 3299 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    The salaries listed a few posts above are way off kilter, even in Silicon Valley. Those might be the most senior person at most places, but not averages.
    The posted salaries are from Glassdoor, which is a website for employees to compare salaries at different companies. The specific numbers are similar to salary reports in post graduate college surveys for the listed companies. The numbers also are divided by job title, which is closely correlated with experience. For example Software Engineer II are mostly new grads with little experience. They are not "the most senior person."

    One might assume a sample bias, in that persons with higher salaries are more likely to appear on Glassdoor than persons with lower salaries. If you look at 25th percentile instead of average, then salary generally decreases by roughly 15%, so one might apply a 10% decrease as attempt to compensate for sample bias. I listed the full reported salary range for Google below, which includes the extreme outliers. There are a few outliers with as much as 40% decrease below the average, and there are also a few outliers with as high as 7-figure salaries after bonuses and stocks.

    Lower Job Title Levels -- Small sample Size
    Software Eng, II -- $89k to $155k -- Ave, = $111k base + 18k bonus + $22k stock +...., Max = ~$300k
    Software Eng, III - $76k to $184k -- Ave, = $132k base + $22k bonus + $40k stock + ..., Max = ~$800k
    Senior Software Eng, -- $101k to $236k -- Ave. = $165k base + $31k bonus + $80k stock... , Max = ~$1.4 million
    Staff Software Eng. -- $153k to $253k -- Ave. = $203k base + $50k bonus + $172k stock +.., Max = ~$2 million
    Senior Staff Software Eng. -- $185k to $260k -- Ave. = $250k base + $70k bonus + $300k stock +..
    Higher Job Title Levels -- Small sample Size
    The numbers Data10 showed for CS are Google numbers. How many people work at Google/FB. I would say most CS software engineers work at insurance, retailer, banking, etc and their pays are a lot lower than Google and they do not get stocks or much bonus.
    Google is one of the 2 largest tech employers in SV, with ~20k employees in SV and ~100k employees across the full company. Obviously all are not CS. I'd expect Google employs tens of thousands of CS across the full company.. Among Payscale members, Google was the most common employers among all members who listed their job title as "Software Engineer." It's generally one of the ~2 companies with the largest sample size. Google is also probably one of the ~2 companies that has the most influence on students choosing to pursue CS as a career. Yes, there are a lot of CS employers besides Google, just as not all IB employees work Goldman Sachs or similar "elite" company on Wall Street.

    A similar trend of increasing salary over time among CS software engineers occurs at every large company I am familiar with -- not just Google. However, overall salaries do tend to be higher in SV, NYC, and other areas with higher cost of living. Google also averages higher salaries than the average SV company, although many other SV companies are in the same ballpark, in order to stay competitive for SV employees. Smaller start-up type companies can form a different pattern, where a newer college grad has the opportunity to become more invested in the net success of the company than would occur at Google/Apple/Microsoft/.... If the start-up takes off, stock options might be worth a fortune; and if the start-up fails, stock options are likely worthless.

    In any case, almost none of the available information supports the idea that women as a whole aren't entering CS because the salary is too low. As mentioned in my earlier post, during periods when the portion of female CS majors decreased, the field that had the largest corresponding increase in portion female majors was Education. Visual and Performing arts was 2nd. Both of these Education and Visual & Performing Arts are not associated with a higher salary than CS, so it doesn't suggest they women as a whole were leaving for higher salary fields. There is also ample evidence that the gender divide in CS starts well before college, even before HS. At this level few kids are likely to be concerned about CS salary being too low or lower than banking.
    D1 is 7 year out in IB and she works 60+ hrs.
    I'm guessing 60+ hours is an example of hours being low for IB? 60 hours sounds quite high to me. Most employees at the tech company where I work average ~40 hours per week. It's difficult to generalize from 1 person samples. Some software engineers work few hours. Some work many hours. It depends on both the specific company and personal decisions/choice. One survey of hundreds of CS workers found an average of 41.5 hours per week. CS tends to be more flexible than most fields, with possibility of work at home or working limited hours, at many companies. Some also choose self employment through various Internet short term employment and/or consulting.
    edited February 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 81248 replies729 threads Senior Member
    MSNDIS wrote:
    She didn't enjoy being in Algebra 2 as a freshman though because one senior male, in particular, picked on her and the handful of other freshmen in the class. The teacher used to post test scores on the wall (using student numbers, and I assume grade levels) which I think is insensitive. A few months into the school year, after a test, the disgruntled senior asked the teacher why all the top test scores were from freshmen and she responded that they were smarter than he was (very mean) and that finally got him to stop being a jerk (at least to my daughter's face).

    Seems like it should be fairly obvious that the best-in-math students in algebra 2 are likely the ones two grades ahead (frosh) while the worst ones are likely those a grade behind (seniors).
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  • yucca10yucca10 1390 replies40 threads Senior Member
    I think there are many factors on different levels here, and it's hard and probably pointless to nail a main one.

    As somebody who've met a lot of very smart people over the years, I tend to believe that when we're talking about high achievement levels like winning math olympiads, being a math researcher or inventing the Internet there are more boys who naturally have the ability and inclination to go into the highly abstract areas of math and CS, and girls on average prefer real world-oriented ones like biology or Earth sciences, and also gravitate to jobs that require more people and/or writing skills. Plus boys are more likely to be narrowly focused on one area, and girls tend to be more well-rounded. The last part is important, because when a person is equally good in several areas, societal pressures can push them a lot more towards some of them.

    However, if we're talking about regular programmers as opposed to highest paid tech people at Google, this work can be done by any reasonably smart person, and I don't think abilities play a big role here. (Personally, I think being a teacher is much harder and requires more talent than being a programmer.) It's very hard to separate natural inclinations from societal and parental pressures at this level. There are many people who in high school are not sure what they want to do, and their parents, friends, role models, or just random events may push them in one direction out of several possible ones.

    I think the current hype around CS degrees and computer jobs isn't sustainable or healthy, and I don't think we should try to specifically bring more women in CS. I think we should encourage all kids to explore various areas and make their decisions based on their inclinations and economic prospects, while, of course, avoiding any discrimination or disparaging comments. Naturally, this includes encouraging girls to explore math, CS, and other fields they may feel are "boys only", especially if they show promise.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1855 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    Both high tech and high finance industries cover a wide spectrum of jobs with pay from low 5-figures to 7 or 8-figures (or even higher) in mid-career, so averages don't really mean much. The two industries are trending in different directions, however. High finance is on the decline with the risk of significant disruption in the near future, while high tech is clearly in ascendance. The two industries are likely to cross paths too as fintech companies attempting to disrupt the traditional banking business while banks trying to become more high tech and to fend off the upstart fintech companies.
    edited February 2019
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads Senior Member
    The only female ever to win a Fields Medal grew up in post-revolutionary Iran. In our obsession with self esteem and ego stroking of our kids, we might just be working against the thing we claim to want.
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  • Data10Data10 3299 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    Both high tech and high finance industries cover a wide spectrum of jobs with pay from low 5-figures to 7 or 8-figures (or even higher) in mid-career, so averages don't really mean much. The two industries are trending in different directions,
    While there are some fine jobs in finance, I'm not sure what it has to do with this thread. Suppose finance did have a higher salary than CS as a whole. Would women be more likely to focus on that higher salary than men, causing the gender imbalance? There are decades of history and societal pressure towards the reverse, with men being more encouraged to focus on big earnings. Anecdotally this has also been my experience, with a notable exception of single mothers.

    If anything , the more recent trend towards a higher relative salary in CS could have been one of many factors that contributed to the gender imbalance and shift since the 80s. For example, in 1985 when female CS percentage was at it's highest, the BLS reports an average early career salary of $20k, which corresponds to $47k in 2019 dollars. In 1985, this was far lower than the reported starting salary for engineering, lower than math, lower than non-biology sciences, etc. Students chasing the highest salary would likely have favored other fields over CS. In contrast, when the female CS percentage was substantially lower in the 90s, the relative salary balance had changed with average CS salary on par with engineering and well above math and sciences. Students chasing the highest salary would be more likely to favor CS, particularly if it seemed an easier or more accessible path than engineering.
    edited February 2019
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1855 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    I think someone upthread suggested that females are better off pursuing finance jobs rather than CS jobs, because of compensation. In any event, high finance is also a heavily male, especially young male, dominated profession. That may be more relevant.
    edited February 2019
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9259 replies93 threads Senior Member
    There are a lot of gross generalizations being stated in this thread. Anyone can be successful in any field. Sure people have preferences, but its society that tries to pigeon hole people.
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  • mathmommathmom 32918 replies160 threads Senior Member
    So the question is, how can we change society?
    Do we need to get rid of the pink aisle in the toy store?
    Do we need to get teachers (and Barbie) to stop telling girls math is hard?
    Do we need to talk to our boys about how they treat girls?
    Do we need more women leading math teams and chess teams?
    Do we need to have all girl math events?
    Do we need to change laws?
    Do we need to speak out more through articles like this?
    Should every college do what Harvey Mudd did to change the numbers in CS?
    All of the above?
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  • oldfortoldfort 23207 replies297 threads Senior Member
    its society that tries to pigeon hole people
    I think it is people who let society pigeon hole them.
    While there are some fine jobs in finance, I'm not sure what it has to do with this thread. Suppose finance did have a higher salary than CS as a whole. Would women be more likely to focus on that higher salary than men, causing the gender imbalance?
    I do think people, not just women, would choose a more lucrative one if many high earning jobs are hostile toward women. Traditionally finance, law, medicine have not been very friendly for women because of long hours and "old boys club," but in the last 10+ years many of those companies have been making more conscious effort to retain women and promoting them.
    The question is what are some of those leading technology companies doing to make their environment more friendly for women. Some reporting recently on how women were treated at those companies were like throw back to 80s in banking.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2731 replies5 threads Senior Member
    "The question is what are some of those leading technology companies doing to make their environment more friendly for women."

    Technology companies are doing a lot, starting first and foremost with making sure that men and women get equal pay, which has been a problem in this country for centuries, and imo, one of the worst ways that women get mistreated. There are a lot of other ways too - 6 months paid maternity leave, some companies give paternity leave so the dad can help out, flex time, work from home if your kid is sick, you won't be judged if you bring your kid in if the kid has a school day off. Now of course there can be a lot of improvements, women are still only about 20% of the product teams, there should be more women in upper management, and there is still sexism.

    "Some reporting recently on how women were treated at those companies were like throw back to 80s in banking."

    I know women that have worked in both banking (Wall Street) and high tech and they say that banking is much worse for women. I know this is anecdotal but I trust the opinions of these women so well that it will be tough to believe otherwise. Personal bias I know.
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  • momprof9904momprof9904 403 replies3 threads Member
    I went to a big state flagship in the early eighties, and had many female classmates in my cs and math courses. We never felt alienated in any way. The girls nowadays have more peer pressure, especially in white upper middle class neighborhoods, to not be a computer or math nerd. Half of the girls in the GT program my son is in already bailed out of honors math in 9th grade. The girls who stayed are mainly of Asian and Middle eastern heritage.

    Many years ago, a graduate student of mine studied state math test scores and found the girls outperformed boys in math in the lower income districts, but was the other way around in more affluent districts.
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  • 19parent19parent 228 replies8 threads Junior Member
    I am reading this thread with both interest and frustration. I am waiting this month with my daughter who has 16 applications out there for computer engineering, and so far not an early acceptance in sight. She received perfect math scores on PSAT, two SAT's, SAT Math II and a 5 on Calc BC. She has great GPA, only two B+'s on non science math courses, 12 AP Classes, attended MIT WTP program (where she fell in love with coding) and even co-authored a math problem book and worked for 4 years on an All- Girls Math Tournament Board (yes there are these tournaments just for girls that sell out every year), and girls who code club. She is also Varsity Cheer Captain and Editor in Chief of her public school year book, and of course tons of volunteer hours and even a part time coaching job, so has leadership and social experiences galore.

    She did get a late start in Comp Science, couldn't fit AP Comp Science into her course load. She didn't take the AMC tests, it seemed to her in order to score high she would have to study just for the test, and it didn't seem worth it at the time, but in hind sight maybe she should have.

    She really really loves math, always has been one of the top math kid in class, and recently fell in love with computer science. She wears her nerdy math cheerleader girl as a badge of honor. She is very excited to go into computer engineering, but I am thinking she will be passed over at the selective schools she is hoping to get in and handed over to the math department where, yes, she will probably end up with a degree in math or finance.

    I am writing this comment about my D19 and giving stats and a current example because maybe the girls are out there but they don't look the same as the boys, and maybe its males who are doing the selecting for the slots, I don't know. She doesn't spend hours on end playing computer games, isn't in robotics club and like I said, didn't want to spend time prepping for AMC tests, but we are hoping some schools can see in her history that she would be a success in Computer Engineering.

    I'll let you know next month.
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