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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 2019
    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.
    When I started at a buy side shop, the first thing my "mentor" told me was that the job (no one calls it a position or refers to a career) would be like "walking into a large gymnasium with a pocket knife, seeing everyone around you with a machete, and realizing that all the good spots against the walls had been taken."

    Good memories....
    edited February 2019
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  • Data10Data10 3298 replies11 threads Senior Member
    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.
    I thought my post was clear. Cost of living is one important factor in salary, but not the "only" factor. Google (and other companies) located in higher cost of living areas tend to pay higher salaries for similar positions than in lower cost of living areas. However, cost of living is far from the "only reason salaries are high." CS salaries will still be higher than the vast majority of other bachelor's degree fields in lower cost of living areas, but new CS grads probably are not going have 6 figure starting salaries in lower cost of living areas, like is common in SV, NYC, or similar high cost of living area. I expect something similar is true in finance.

    I don't doubt that there are some women who choose other fields over CS because they think that field will have a higher salary. Just as there are also plenty of women who go in to CS because they enjoy the field, rather than chasing the highest salary. However, the important part for gender balance is whether women are more likely to focus on salary than men.

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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1582 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    Companies, whether in high tech or high finance or any other industry, don't pay you more because the cost of living is higher in your area. They pay you more because their competitors in the area would pay more for your talent. It's a function of supply and demand.
    edited February 2019
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1201 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    Edited to below
    edited February 2019
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1201 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    Some companies actually do pay a geographical adjustment to salary. Mine did. I'm retired now. :D
    edited February 2019
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  • droppeditdroppedit 1035 replies18 threads Senior Member
    One data point from the time in question. I pulled out my old senior HS yearbook from 1980-81 (in the attic gathering dust!) and looked at the "Computer Company" page. There were 16 students: 14 boys and 2 girls. I was one of the boys, with the long hair and bad attitude. Our CS/math teacher was a woman. She was my math teacher and pulled me out of Study Hall, where I had been sent after causing trouble in Spanish class, into the CS class and club. I will be forever grateful to her for that. I especially remember how she made me stand up in front of the class and tell her (she was acting as a computer) how to sit in a chair. Seems simple ... but isn't if you're a dumb computer because she wouldn't bend her knees, etc. unless I told her to, so she'd fall down all the time trying to sit in the chair. It totally demystified computers for me. They're just dumb machines that can add, subtract, and compare numbers quickly. That's it.

    My public San Antonio HS had a Wang minicomputer with a card reader, a teletype-like machine (maybe the Wang, I don't remember, but we could play a teletype "Star Trek" game on it and blow through paper like there was no tomorrow), and an Apple II microcomputer. I was *always* focused on making them do something rather than on the machines themselves. So, I figured out how to make the Apple do fast line drawing (a DDA) and had it draw the logo of my favorite band (Rush "Hemispheres" album logo) with a "laser" beam coming up from below (XOR'd to make it erase). It was a big hit at the school. One of my classmates put the monitor at the window to the class and there was a crowd outside watching it. Cool!

    Later on I was an usher at the local movie theater that had game machines in the lobby. When you'd open of the machines for the coins there were always schematics for them. The "Red Baron" machine was vector graphics as opposed to bitmap graphics like Centipede, so I "borrowed" the schematics to see how they worked. They had counter chips feeding other counter chips to control the electron gun -- basically a DDA in hardware. Really cool!

    Fast forward several years to EE at UT-Austin and one of my professors labeled one of my solutions as, too heuristic. I had too look up the word to discover that he was actually insulting me :) I eventually dropped out and worked on microcomputer software full time, with all the craziness, stock options, patents, pipeline cycle counting, TV commercials, etc. Even after all that one neighbor, a GT engineer no less, told my wife that, how can he do that,he has no training?. All it takes is a willingness to get your hands dirty and dive into it.

    All I wanted to do was stuff that I thought was cool. As to my fellow programmers (microcomputers, I don't know anything else), I don't care whether you're male or female, do something "cool" that you like. I don't have much sympathy for people who crumble at a perceived "insult".
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  • Data10Data10 3298 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    Companies, whether in high tech or high finance or any other industry, don't pay you more because the cost of living is higher in your area. They pay you more because their competitors in the area would pay more for your talent. It's a function of supply and demand.
    Some companies actually do pay a geographical adjustment to salary. Mine did. I'm retired now.
    The overwhelming majority of larger companies have some kind of geographical salary adjustment calculation. These adjustments are primarily based on salaries of competitors as 1NJParent mentions, which are indirectly correlated with cost of living for a variety of reasons including CS employees comparing jobs in multiple cities. However, many calculations also do directly consider cost of living.

    As an example of this effect, I listed the average Payscale entry level base salary for a "Software Engineer" in some cities and also converted to SF dollars using Bankrate's cost of living calculator. In this example, SF has the highest base salary, but the lowest salary after considering the higher cost of living in SF with Bankrate's formula. When considering the cost of living adjustment, the salaries look a lot more similar in the different cities, but they aren't identical. It's only a "tend to" relationship, like I stated in the original post.

    The reasons why the differences remain go well beyond just cost of living or competitors' salaries. For example, of the listed cities Atlanta has the highest salary after converting to SF dollars. Atlanta has a small sample size that is largely dominated by Home Depot. Home Depot may favor employees with a particular CS skill set that is more valuable than the standard entry level CS grad, or they may be dominated by GeorgiaTech grads who are more likely to have greater past work experience through their co-op program, or they may need to pay a salary premium if CS grads do not think working for Home Depot is as cool as their high tech competitors, or Home Depot may give smaller bonus or stock options, or the small sample may just randomly be on the high side . There are countless possible explanations.

    San Francisco -- $110k
    Seattle -- $97k (equivalent to $122k in San Francisco)
    Chicago -- $76k (equivalent to $115k in San Francisco)
    Denver -- $73k (equivalent to $117k in San Francisco)
    Atlanta -- $72k (equivalent to $127k in San Francisco)
    Minneapolis -- $72k (equivalent to $117k in San Francisco)

    The specific numbers make little difference for the original point of why women have become underrepresnted in CS since a peak in the mid 80s. I very much doubt that women have become underreprented because potentially CS women as a whole are more focused than men on who has the biggest salary and as such turn to other fields. Instead there are a variety of contributing factors that have been discussed in this thread and the original article .
    edited February 2019
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 3212 replies44 threads Senior Member
    These are smart, highly able young women who have done really well in school but who have still had difficulty finding post grad employment. Granted, they have managed to find places in the end but not as easily as I would have expected..

    My kid's experience as well. Most of her cohort (and by the way, she was the ONLY female in straight CS; there were some others who were in CIS) had jobs by or shortly after their April graduation. D did not and it would be fall before she landed a reasonable offer (and then, of course, there were 2). I did like the company she picked hires based on "sanitized" interviewer feedback. No one can ever say someone got a job for being female or a minority (d is both) because the hiring body couldn't have known.
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  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger 2990 replies161 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    @3girls3cats

    My own sense is that the companies whining that they can't find qualified women are not looking hard enough. Women are out there. Approximately 40-50% of the students in my daughter's classes are female. Perhaps her school isn't typical but more and more women are entering CS in some form

    Your daughter's class may be extremely atypical. If you go back to page 1, nationally only 19% of CS degrees are awarded to females. More and more women are not entering CS. The pool is simply not there.
    edited February 2019
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1201 replies3 threads Senior Member
    May be even more atypical but at our kids school CS has been the most popular major for women (was the most in 2015 and remains high competing with Human Biology). Additionally, women in study groups and class projects are (anecdotally) common.

    Hiring, processes are intense, but seem reasonable. Apparently, many companies found that while many candidates looked good on paper they were weak on execution. So, many now utilize programming tests including white-board presentations to see how the candidates approach problems and present their solutions (something they will routinely be required to do if hired). Typically, the phases of the hiring process (multiple tech reviews, project reviews, and hiring committee approval) are all compartmentalized and fire-walled from each other. A much different process that what I have been familiar with, but the process is well known by students and there are even books that instruct on how to prepare.
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  • 3girls3cats3girls3cats 1998 replies6 threads Senior Member
    @Rivet2000, in fact it's not true that they use the whiteboarding exercises once hired or that the exercises measure skills relevant to the job. Even the men I know admit that the process is flawed and that the industry is slowly moving away from it. There are several major tech companies (Slack comes to mind) that have abandoned the process completely, in part because they know they miss excellent candidates with it and in part because they want to bring in more women. My nephew, who runs his own company, says that he wouldn't even pursue an interview with a company requiring a whiteboarding interview because the process screens for the wrong attributes and it leads to a workplace that doesn't foster a collaborative culture. What I find most troubling about the process is that there is an assumption that those who thrive during it are most able candidates. Perhaps those who want more time to reflect and consider are equally or more able. Perhaps a mix of personality types is a better outcome.

    No doubt coding challenges/programming tests are useful screens but the whiteboarding exercises have historically been based on nonsense questions that have absolutely no bearing on the work the programmer will do and are truly only designed to fluster the interviewee. Nor are tech reviews and project reviews the same at all; they are based on actual work, often involving long hours, in the office environment and after familiarity with the substance of the work and the role one plays in the company and the project. I don't disagree that hiring processes should be intense. I do disagree that they are all reasonable.
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  • 3girls3cats3girls3cats 1998 replies6 threads Senior Member
    @roethlisburger what is your source for the statement that more women are not entering CS? I should clarify that I was talking about women at elite schools and perhaps that's unfair. Yet these women are still finding hurdles to employment in tech.

    https://www.wired.com/story/ap-computer-science-2017/
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-women-technology-stanford/computer-science-now-top-major-for-women-at-stanford-university-idUSKCN0S32F020151009
    https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/16/forget-techs-bad-bros-stanford-berkeley-boost-female-computing-grads/
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1201 replies3 threads Senior Member
    Different companies look for different attributes. To me white boarding measures the ability to present ideas. No process will be perfect. For my S, white boarding has always been used to test knowledge of common CS topics. The white board used to write code and capture test cases. No crazy questions. My S has said that he would prefer questions in areas he's interested in, but answering sorting, pattern matching, and scaling questions are common to all. Just like admission to colleges, companies will miss great candidates, but in general they will land more than they miss.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2634 replies5 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    "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."

    I think that's key point, both tech and IB are not friendly, well maybe hostile is a better word, to women, however many people in tech realize that while IB in general doesn't. The google male employee that went on about the female brain got fired because women said they could not get a fair peer evaluation from him which is part of the review process.

    "Whiteboarding sessions are very much like Jeopardy games in which a candidate is expected to answer questions, often irrelevant, often unsolvable or off the wall questions, quickly, under pressure, and with a group of people watching and evaluating each move. They do not measure thoughtful consideration, intelligence, collaboration, or even patience. Yet these are the very qualities that are important to the job! It involves careful and patient debugging, working with other people, and creativity."

    So if that interview process wasn't working for Google, they'd stop it, but obviously a company of their size, influence, innovations, market valuation is not going to change things that work. And it's not irrelevant, the problems are typically what the product group is working on. It would also be unlike Google or most tech company to tell a group whom to hire. They give general training on interviewing, selecting, but not really interfere with the offers.

    So Google can't win either way, they're getting sued by a former white employee who worked in recruiting and was told to dump the white and Asian candidates and concentrate on diversity hires (his words). He claims he was told to reject any resume with less an 5 years experience unless they were women or minorities.

    edited February 2019
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  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger 2990 replies161 threads Senior Member
    edited February 2019
    @3girls3cats

    Look at Data10’s posts on page 1. I don’t think the OP was asking only about Stanford.
    edited February 2019
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  • LikebikesLikebikes 80 replies1 threads Junior Member
    edited February 2019
    delete
    edited February 2019
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  • 3girls3cats3girls3cats 1998 replies6 threads Senior Member
    No, it's not only Stanford or MIT or CalTech or Berkeley or even the Ivies. The point is that CS is increasingly popular and women are entering in greater numbers at these leading schools; it changes year by year. My point was only that there is a pool of women out there and they are not being snapped up so quickly.
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  • droppeditdroppedit 1035 replies18 threads Senior Member
    Hiring, processes are intense, but seem reasonable. Apparently, many companies found that while many candidates looked good on paper they were weak on execution. So, many now utilize programming tests including white-board presentations to see how the candidates approach problems and present their solutions (something they will routinely be required to do if hired).
    @Rivet2000 -- Exactly! You can't simply rely on a resume or how well they can talk about things. You have to see how they think on their feet as a programmer. At the company I worked for in the 1990s, candidates would go through a series of 1-on-1 interviews during the day (IIRC, 4-5). The candidate would come to your office and you'd send feedback to the other interviewers after they left. I wasn't a CS major so I didn't ask the CS non-code trick questions (the answers or the methods to solve them can be memorized). I would start with simple code problems to loosen them up then progress to more involved problems. None were difficult or tricky. I wanted to know if they could "see" the problem and come up with a decent implementation.

    Two interviews were memorable. One guy came in with a decent resume and good "talkies" (I think I was the third interviewer), so I asked the simple code questions. He took forever and every implementation was ridiculously convoluted. Definite no-hire! On the opposite extreme was a guy who would practically start writing his answer before I'd finish stating the problem -- and his solutions were great.
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