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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 Registered User Posts: 1,385 Senior Member
    ^ The field matured, got competitive, and women bowed out. After all, a few women could always have branched off and started Microsoft. What stopped them? Better opportunities elsewhere that more matched what they were looking for. That's my take.
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 2,503 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    @OHMomof2

    We don't. But women were software pioneers and there were lots of them working in the field for awhile, and now there are not.

    "What happened to change that" is an interesting question, to me.

    One obvious answer is the barriers to entry changed. In the early days of computing, a smart, tech savvy person, with a degree in anything or maybe no degree at all, could get a job as a programmer and be trained on the job. Now, employers want to hire CS majors or something closely related such as computer engineering. Looking at Data10's data, except for a very brief period around the mid-80s, the number of women majoring in CS never came close to the number of men.
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 1,385 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    This is a pretty well-known "debate" between two Harvard professors that has some relevance for this thread. Mostly focused on the general question of women in STEM fields rather than CS particularly, the participants cover some of the research over the decades by psychologists, evolutionary biologists, neuroscientists, geneticists, etc. on relevant topics. It's long (~2 hours) but watchable on 1.25x or 1.5x speed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bTKRkmwtGY
  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 Registered User Posts: 3,077 Senior Member
    In schools at the national level for chess, the top players are 99.9% male, at all ages. Why that is probably parallels what is happening with females in the classrooms. There is absolutely no reason why girls should not be elite players but it happens. The elementary school that I am associated with at wins national championships for girls in chess yet you see the same pattern - by the time they are 11 or 12 they have moved onto other things. Now in all fairness the same thing happens to 98% of the males as well, but nevertheless at the higher levels, it is always male.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 22,814 Senior Member
    How much do CS and engineers make? Their salaries generally look a lot more attractive first few years out of school and then they plateau after few years, whereas other careers, IB, consulting, management, law, medicine, etc salaries can grow quite a bit. (there are always outliers where CS pays very well, but in general the pay is fairly good and steady)

    D1 probably could have been a decent programmer or engineer, but she realized she could do a lot better if she went into banking. Her pay is a lot higher than her friends who are in technology, and their time commitment is not less than hers.
    I wouldn't be surprised if many very smart women in STEM end up with more lucrative careers than CS/engineering- if you have to fight inequality, might as well do it in an area that's more worthwhile.

    I switched over to technology midway through my career because it required less time commitment from me and I found it to be easier for me to raise my family. I was never married to a technology, it was whatever was the best solution. I still remember in my early programming career, some guy complained about my code. My boss said, "She is one of the best programmers I have seen and it is because her code works." (hint, hint)
    Not sure if it is a gender difference...I personally tend to look for solutions that worked rather than trying out something that may not work.
    In very few years I was promoted to management because there were so few women and because I was good. :) A lot of my female colleagues were also promoted to head up various key areas.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,796 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    How much do CS and engineers make? Their salaries generally look a lot more attractive first few years out of school and then they plateau after few years, whereas other careers, IB, consulting, management, law, medicine, etc salaries can grow quite a bit.
    Every large tech company I am familiar with does not plateau salaries and instead has frequent salary increases, as well as a series of job title levels/promotions beyond just managerial track. A common structure is to have a salary increase each year, and the percentage varies depending on both the individual annual review ratings, and meeting certain goals at a large team or full company level. If an employee's salary does plateau, it's common to switch to a different company, where the employee can get a salary increase and signing bonus. Increasing salary regularly is necessary to keep quality employees.

    As an example, it's my understanding Goggle using the following technical job title track for software engineers. There is also a different managerial track, which some switch to later on in their careers. The managerial track starts at a similar level to Senior Software Engineer. I've listed average base salary from Glassdoor when available. This salary does not include bonuses, stock options, and similar which tend to get higher at higher job title levels.

    Software Engineer I -- Often an intern who is in college, job title has changed in recent years
    Software Engineer II (typical starting point for CS degree) -- $111k
    Software Engineer III -- $132k
    Senior Software Engineer -- $165k
    Staff Software Engineer -- $203k
    Senior Staff Software Engineer -- $245k
    Principal Software Engineer
    Distinguished Software Engineer
    Google Fellow
    Google Senior Fellow -- Recently added new level, rumored to only have 2 persons --- Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 22,814 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    Senior Software Engineer -- $165k
    Staff Software Engineer -- $203k
    Senior Staff Software Engineer -- $245k
    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
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 2,102 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    "The problem is that for top math/CS girls who can get in both MIT/HM/CMU and HYP, they are more likely to choose the latter by my observation."

    Typically the ones that can get into MIT or Cal Tech do not apply ED anywhere, as they will apply EA to MIT or Cal Tech or SCEA to Harvard or Stanford and RD the others.

    "Their salaries generally look a lot more attractive first few years out of school and then they plateau after few years, whereas other careers, IB, consulting, management, law, medicine, etc salaries can grow quite a bit. (there are always outliers where CS pays very well, but in general the pay is fairly good and steady)"

    You can't compare straight up salaries for CS since there's a lot of stock in the compensation. You have to see the context in how the numbers were calculated. If you hit director mid-career, your stock and bonus are typically 2 to 3x your salary, so a 150K salaried CS could be taking in 450-500K total say ten years out of college. This is probably about what a partner makes at a law firm or a doctor or a consulting director/lead, so I see you point, but you shouldn't drop CS because of mid-career salaries plateauing. There is a downside to this, which is good lucking leaving all that money on the table if you want to change companies, hence the golden handcuffs analogy.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,796 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    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
    I could dispute several of these numbers based on things like how the portion leaving IB is so much larger than the portion achieving that salary or how the anesthesiologist net take home pay after insurance and other factors is not the same as base salary. However, the fact that jobs exist with higher base salaries than CS isn't particularly relevant, as it doesn't mean CS salaries " plateau after few years" or that the poor gender balance in CS relates to the salary being too low.
  • roycroftmomroycroftmom Registered User Posts: 2,151 Senior Member
    Oldfort, most of those people have graduate degrees, whereas the CS degrees are generally just undergrad. And law is bi-modal. Yes, the top firms pay well, but very few who start there remain after 5 years. It is very common for a starting class of 50 lawyers at a firm to have 1 or 2 make partner 8 to 10 years later. I know plenty of young techies with fabulous lifestyles in SV with plenty of time off; all my relatives in IB and top tier consulting work 90+ hours per week
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 2,503 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    Occam's razor might apply here. In a record year, only 28% of those taking AP CS were female. For whatever reason, video games, STEM interest overall, boys seem a lot more interested in computers and programming than girls. The divergence in interests seems to start far earlier than most hs students are thinking about big law partner salaries or planning their career at McKinsey. The brief peak of women majoring in CS in the mid-eighties seems like a historical anomaly, that wasn't repeated before or after.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 22,814 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    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.
    D1 is 7 year out in IB and she works 60+ hrs. She regularly takes long weekend trips. She has many friends at various tech companies. Not all of them give generous stock options or large bonuses.
    I am by no mean saying one line of work is better than another. What I am saying is if a woman needs to put up with discrimination at work then might as well do it where one gets more returns.
    I also know at D1's bank they are making a more conscious effort to make the work place more female friendly, by allowing longer time for maternity leave, cutting back on hours while kids are young and making sure more women are considered for senior positions.
    D2 babysits for a couple who are both lawyers. The mother is very close being a partner at a major law firm in NYC. She has it worked out so she could leave work at 5pm 2 days a week and her husband at a public legal office leaves at 5pm 3 days a week.
    Employers either pay up so people will put up with all the crap or they try to make the environment more friendly.
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