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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?

  • oldfortoldfort 23114 replies294 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    No, I think your D will have a better chance than male applicants.
    edited February 2019
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 3211 replies44 threads Senior Member
    @19parent Brace yourself, the job search can be rough for women, too.
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  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 4184 replies92 threads Senior Member
    So I thought about my career as it related to the original topic, which spans 35 years or so. (It's a bit sad in retrospect, a lot of regrets and bad choices along the way, but that's getting off topic). Anyhow, as a CS major, my first job out of college (mid 80s) was as programmer at a huge company in Silicon Valley. Once I started my MBA 6 months later, I moved to a more financial programming group, which probably was about 2/3 women, most of them programming in COBOL If you don't know COBOL, it's pretty much a straightforward procedural language, with inputs, transformations and outputs. It was by far the dominant language in the mainframe days. My next job, 6 years later, was another huge semiconductor company, also with a huge COBOL and IMS base and about 50/50 men and women programmers. But the paradigm started to shift a bit. Client-server was starting to get in vogue, which meant there was a growing need for relational databases storage like Oracle and Sybase, and clients like VB and PowerBuilder. Also right around that time, the Internet in its current form started to take shape (circa 1994 or so). I didn't see the shift of women into these areas. Once programming models became mainly object-oriented with the likes of Java and its off-shoots, I think women stayed completely out. Why, I don't know, but it can be argued that this was a much more complex way of programming, one that is based more on mathematical principles than say COBOL was.

    In the last 20 years, I have rarely seen women in programming capacities, and I have been consulting or in many different companies in all disciplines during this time. They are almost invariably either QA, in management, project management, UI designers or occasionally DBAs. Never as software engineers or architects or in IT. To be honest, until last month, I had never met a female Java or C# programmer before as a co-employee, though I often have wade through my boss' (female) code, she got moved up to a senior director position.
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  • oldfortoldfort 23114 replies294 threads Senior Member
    I have hired quite a few female software engineers, especially data engineers. When I was at a start up I had around 20 software engineers and it was around 60-40. At trading IT, I also worked with female software engineers and they were quite good. I don't see as many females on the hardware side.
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1196 replies3 threads Senior Member
    @19parent Please keep us updated. I'm assuming your D applied early to a reach school, so it's a little early to get discouraged. I'm sure she will land at a school where she will flourished. I don't think that admissions have a bias against girts especially in STEM.

    In my career I have worked in companies that have been HW focused as well as pure-play software houses. In my (anecdotal) experience there are fewer women around the HW side. In the pure SW companies I have worked at there have been many female SWEs and many in the management chain as well.
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  • 19parent19parent 228 replies8 threads Junior Member
    Thanks for the comments. I think it is hard right now for everyone who is applying in computer engineering, it is so competitive. I don't think my D19 will be discriminated against because she is a girl, her background just might not look the same and her male counterpart without gaming and a lot of programming experience, but other social/problem solving experience. Maybe girls come to coding a little later in the game. I don't know. Very interesting thread.
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  • yearstogoyearstogo 695 replies30 threads Member
    @19parent keep your hopes up, I bet your daughter will do very well in her acceptances.

    Last year one of the girls at my DS school was accepted into a very prestigious uni for CS. We know her and the family pretty well. Her scores were very good but not super. She never took the AMCs, but did take AP Comp Sci A - although not the exam as she felt she would not score highly on it. We understand that her first semester was very tough but she has worked very hard and I think will pull through.

    There was a boy in her grade that did not do nearly as well in his acceptances even though his scores, APs, etc were more impressive. He also did not take the AMC's though even though my son arranged to have them offered for the first time last year at the high school.

    Based on this very small sample size, it is much easier for a girl to get into a top CS program than a boy.
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  • Data10Data10 3282 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    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.
    As mentioned, when the female CS percentage was highest in the 80s, CS was generally less lucrative than other STEM fields, so it wouldn't have been chosen by women looking for the most lucrative fields. One of the most noteworthy market crashes in US history occurred in 1987 -- "Black Monday." Interest in banking/finance notably declined following this crash, yet banking/finance women as a whole didn't switch over to CS. Instead the late 80s was a period of rapid decline in both female CS percentage and total number of women in CS.

    If you mean just the current CS percentage at "elite" colleges where women are most likely to have excellent IB opportunities, such colleges don't show a lower female CS percentage, as would be expected if the CS women were choosing IB instead. Instead the opposite occurs, with preferred IB recruiting "elite" colleges having a much higher female CS percentage than the national average, and generally a slightly higher female CS percentage than other highly selective private colleges that are not as preferred among "elite" IB recruiting.

    One also needs to consider that the typical CS grads that are driving these overall national female CS percent statistics are not the type of top students you find at HYPSM... who are likely to be able to pursue their choice of "elite" IB, medical school, or law school. Instead most CS majors in the US as a whole are unlikely to have the stats for admission to med school or a top tier law school. Many also have financial or time restrictions that prevent more years of school. The vast majority are also unlikely to be even considered among "elite" iB employers. Instead the typical CS grad attends a public school and achieves mediocre grades. There are far less barriers to working in CS than in the listed "lucrative" fields, so such fields are not even on typical CS major's radar as potential alternative careers.

    While IB may be making an effort to be more friendly to women, it looks like they still have a long way to go. For example, in 2018 there was a survey at https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/25/surveyon-wall-street-workplace-biases-persist---but-men-dont-see-t.html showing few women in higher level positions, among various other problems. Tech companies as a whole also have their share of corresponding problems, but I don't see evidence that IB as a whole is more friendly to women than CS.



    edited February 2019
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  • oldfortoldfort 23114 replies294 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    One of the most noteworthy market crashes in US history occurred in 1987 -- "Black Monday." Interest in banking/finance notably declined following this crash, yet banking/finance women as a whole didn't switch over to CS. Instead the late 80s was a period of rapid decline in both female CS percentage and total number of women in CS.
    Yes, because we were still getting paid a lot of money on WS even after the crash. Our pay went down in 1987, but went right back up in 1988.
    If you mean just the current CS percentage at "elite" colleges where women are most likely to have excellent IB opportunities, such colleges don't show a lower female CS percentage, as would be expected if the CS women were choosing IB instead. Instead the opposite occurs, with preferred IB recruiting "elite" colleges having a much higher female CS percentage than the national average, and generally a slightly higher female CS percentage than other highly selective private colleges that are not as preferred among "elite" IB recruiting.
    Would you please clarify this. Not sure what you are sayin here.
    Instead most CS majors in the US as a whole are unlikely to have the stats for admission to med school or a top tier law school...Instead the typical CS grad attends a public school and achieves mediocre grades.
    The tech company in discussion here is Google of the world, not some run of the mill technology company or department, at least based on the salaries shown in your post. The reason Google pays such high salary is because they hire best of the best, not CS graduates with mediocre grades.
    edited February 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80147 replies720 threads Senior Member
    Regarding how well paid computing jobs are compared to other jobs, perhaps it may have more of an effect on male students. If male students are more post-graduation-pay-sensitive, then increasing pay levels in computing jobs may lead to a greater increase of male students in CS, compared to the increase in female students. If that is the case, then female percentage will fall, even if the absolute number of female students increases.
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  • oldfortoldfort 23114 replies294 threads Senior Member
    Regarding how well paid computing jobs are compared to other jobs, perhaps it may have more of an effect on male students.
    Why? Are you saying females do not care how much they get paid?
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1563 replies35 threads Senior Member
    Maybe males are more aggressive in pursuing higher paying jobs? It could help explain, at least partially, why the two highest paying professions are dominated by males.
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    This is an interesting thread. I don't have any experience in CS specifically, but I do have high level experience in finance (hedge funds).

    No one has mentioned the single, largest, overwhelming advantage enjoyed by the most successful men I have personally worked with: very smart and successful wives who see staying at home full-time with their children as their highest priority, the best utilization of their talents.

    I know it sounds sexist, but I would caution people against challenging their choices. As I mentioned somewhere above I think, many of these wives I'm thinking of have multiple degrees from HYPSM-tier schools, and typically had promising careers themselves in their 20s (though not all, of course). No one forced them to stay at home, and for each of the families I knew, money was not an issue - they could afford round the clock nannies without blinking an eye.

    Now, how many females are content to find a man who would himself be content to stay at home and raise their family? Those men are out there for sure. I am not saying that all men, all women, all families need to adhere to this model. But I am saying that children typically become high priorities both for men as well as for women no later than the 4th decade of life, and usually early in the decade. Successful people do not want them raised by strangers, at least not as their default choice.

    It is difficult to have it all. Women often demand that hypercompetitive workplaces like finance change for them, but how about women change their preference in marriage partners? As I said, there are men who would be willing to give up careers. It's time for competitive women who want it all to start seeking them.
    edited February 2019
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1563 replies35 threads Senior Member
    There're certainly many exceptions, but women tend to be more involved in family affairs including raising children and more willing to make the career sacrifice. This is true in every culture.
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  • Data10Data10 3282 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    Yes, because we were still getting paid a lot of money on WS even after the crash. Our pay went down in 1987, but went right back up in 1988.
    Interest in IB had a sharp decline in 1988, regardless of whether your pay was similar. For example, the NYT quote below from https://www.nytimes.com/1997/01/02/business/the-crimson-crop-is-plenty-green.html mentions a drop from 30% of the class to 11% of the class in just 1 year, among Harvard MBAs.

    "Investment banking peaked in 1987 when Wall Street firms snapped up 30 percent of the graduating class, which arrived just in time to see the stock market collapse in that year's crash. In 1988, only 11 percent of the graduates found investment banking jobs."
    Would you please clarify this. Not sure what you are sayin here.
    I'll spell it out in more detail. Elite IBs do not recruit equally at every college. For example, the study at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1257/b58493844ac84b81d28f99ed3b46cbce6e87.pdf found " evaluators most frequently used the prestige of a candidate’s educational credentials" and "firms typically processed only those applications from prestigious “target” and “core” schools." If you look at just those colleges that elite IBs target, which have largest portion of the class going in to elite IB, then the CS gender balance improves. Specific numbers from my earlier post are below. If you break it down further and compare the top IB target schools to similar non-tech selective schools that are not top IB targets, then the targets tend to have slightly better female CS percentage.

    Across all CS Majors in US -- 19% are Female
    At Top 26 Highly Selective Colleges -- 30% are Female

    When students have a better opportunity to pursue elite IB, it seems that the percentage female in CS tends to be higher. This is the relationship that would occur if CS men were more likely to switch to IB, and CS women were more likely to stick to a career in CS.... essentially the reverse of the relationship you described. Obviously this is not the only factor in why the percentage female is higher at highly selective colleges, but it does not suggest the low percentage women in CS relates to women choosing IB.
    The tech company in discussion here is Google of the world, not some run of the mill technology company or department, at least based on the salaries shown in your post. The reason Google pays such high salary is because they hire best of the best, not CS graduates with mediocre grades.
    The primary reason why the Google salaries are quite a bit higher than the overall CS average is because of the Silicon Valley location. SV has an extremely high cost of living with 7-figures for a basic home, so salaries tend to be higher. If you look at Google divisions in other locations with a lower cost of living, Google salaries tend to be lower for than their SV location for a corresponding position. Similarly, many other SV companies try to stay competitive with Google for salaries of new grads. Google still has a higher average than most in SV, but there are many others that also regularly have 6 figure starting salaries for CS software engineering type positions. Payscale lists an average entry level salary of $102k for a "Software Engineer" in SV... not quite as high as the $105k Payscale lists for Google, but still well above the overall average for CS.

    Google also has a different hiring procedure with less focus on top grades than IB. An article that compares the two is at https://qz.com/382570/goldman-sachs-actually-google-gpas-arent-worthless/ . The HR chief at Google writes,

    "We did a bunch of analysis and found that grades are a little predictive your first two years, but for the rest of your career don’t matter at all."

    In any case, the point of this thread is why there is a poor gender balance in CS overall -- not just at elite IB target colleges or just among the "best of the best,"


    edited February 2019
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  • oldfortoldfort 23114 replies294 threads Senior Member
    The primary reason why the Google salaries are quite a bit higher than the overall CS average is because of the Silicon Valley location. SV has an extremely high cost of living with 7-figures for a basic home, so salaries tend to be higher. If you look at Google divisions in other locations with a lower cost of living, Google salaries tend to be lower for than their SV location for a corresponding position.
    So what you are saying is that software engineers really do not get paid that much, and the only reason their salaries are so high (from glassdoor) is because most of those high paying companies are located in SV, which then leads to the point I was making earlier that women who have aptitude to be software engineers may want to pursue other more lucrative careers rather than duking it out with those boys in tech.
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  • oldfortoldfort 23114 replies294 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    @SatchelSF - no, I don't think you are being sexist at all. Most people would rather raise their kids than have someone else do it, and most often it is the woman who ends up staying home if money is no object. In my case, it was my Ex-H who decided he would stay home. My job was such that I was out of the house 6am-8pm most nights when my kids were growing up. I also traveled a lot and lived abroad for a while. Even though their dad was home, I was still the go to person when they were sick or when they were unhappy. I think women are still more nurturing than men.

    D1 is considering to start a family soon. She has planned it so she could have a child before she is promoted to MD (in 2-3 years). Both of them plan to continue to work, but to take advantage of their respective firm's family leaves. I know they will pay up to get necessary in home care for their kids. My advise to my girls is not to give up their careers because life is long after kids leave.
    edited February 2019
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1563 replies35 threads Senior Member
    On Wall Street, individual performance is measured directly in dollars and cents. Compensation disparities are much greater and the culture is less collaborative. Would most women be better off in that environment? I seriously doubt it.
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