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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?

  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 873 Member
    edited February 17
    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.
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 1,385 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.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,790 Senior Member
    edited February 18
    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.
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 873 Member
    edited February 18
    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.
  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 5,155 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.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,799 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?
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 22,812 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.
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 2,098 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.
  • momprof9904momprof9904 Registered User Posts: 301 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.
  • 19parent19parent Registered User Posts: 223 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.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 22,812 Senior Member
    edited February 18
    No, I think your D will have a better chance than male applicants.
  • ordinarylivesordinarylives Registered User Posts: 3,182 Senior Member
    @19parent Brace yourself, the job search can be rough for women, too.
  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 Registered User Posts: 3,057 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.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 22,812 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.
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 827 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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