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Education Programming

Girls Go Geek Again 378

nessus42 writes "Computer science has always been a male-dominated field, right? Wrong. In 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women. And 34% of the systems analysts in America were women. Women had started to flock to computer science in the mid-1960s, during the early days of computing, when men were already dominating other technical professions but had yet to dominate the world of computing. For about two decades, the percentages of women who earned Computer Science degrees rose steadily, peaking at 37% in 1984.... And then the women left. In droves. ...it looks like women are now returning to computer science."
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Girls Go Geek Again

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  • by shoehornjob ( 1632387 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @03:48PM (#36912684)
    I thought the headline read "girls DO geek again" and I got all excited for a minute there. Domn Slashdot misrepresenting headlines.
    • by robot256 ( 1635039 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @03:50PM (#36912716)
      Not to be confused with "girls do geeks again", which has its own set of likelihoods.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The fact that this is the first comment on this article is pretty ironic, given that it's these kind of attitudes that keep women away.

      • Re:Oh I'm sorry (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:24PM (#36913226)

        ... given that it's these kind of attitudes that keep women away.

        If that were true, wouldn't women keep out of pretty much every industry?

        • You, sir, are notably pithier than I am.
      • Re:Oh I'm sorry (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:27PM (#36913282)
        Yeah, because you know jocks aren't chauvinists. There is nothing endemic to geek culture which is necessarily negative toward gender equality or respect. Those negatives exhibited by males in geek culture or jock or metrosexual or what-have-you are endemic to the social values imprinted across the entire gender. It is wrapped up in what it means to be male and how men should value themselves vs. women, and the cultural context in which these are expressed, be it geek culture or some other, is really just a lens on that broader social deficiency.
        • Women are no different than men, a group of women will have misandry, chauvinism, sexism, stereotypes, and desire superiority instead of equality. This fact renders 99% of feminist rants, and rants on their behalf, as a hypocritical pile of B.S.
          • I don't disagree. In fact elsewhere in these threads I recounted an anecdote about how female dominated industries discriminate against men in the exact same way they complain about being discriminated against in male dominated industries. There are bound to be hypocrisies and double standards when people feel some irrational loyalty to a shared property determined genetically before they were even born. I am staunchly opposed to any kind of gender loyalty. I don't care if it's 'bros before hos' or 'sisters
      • Re:Oh I'm sorry (Score:5, Insightful)

        by smelch ( 1988698 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:31PM (#36913356)
        No, that's not it. Girls love to be talked to that way, they dont' like seeing other girls talked about that way when they aren't. The problem with geeks doing it is that they're overtly creepy and unable to bluff enough "casual" interest to cover the scent of their all-too-eager interest.

        Women stay away because guys intimidate them and don't respect their intelligence, it has nothing to do with sexual jokes.
  • by rinoid ( 451982 )

    S/He said girls. ...

    it's a good thing.

  • It seems the girls are looking for something.... coming, leaving, coming again. What might it be? Girls are strange :P

    • My dad says that's how they shop, check the same shelf over and over again to see if anything's changed :-P

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      It seems the girls are looking for something.... coming, leaving, coming again.

      Am I the only one thinking of that song from Blazing Saddles here?

  • most of the hot women i've seen on Google+ so far seem to work for MS or Google. and in media

  • Thank god! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jailbrekr ( 73837 ) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:01PM (#36912920) Homepage

    Its been a total sausage fest in I/T for the last 20 years. We need more women so we can act uncomfortable and awkward in what we consider our native surroundings.

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:09PM (#36913014) Homepage

      We need more women so we can act uncomfortable and awkward in what we consider our native surroundings.

      Wait, we're geeks ... I thought uncomfortable and awkward was our native surroundings. :-P

      • The meaning of "geek" has changed too much. In 1987 I was just coming out of school and having my first full time job. I would guess there were maybe 1/3 females in the CS classes and 1/3 in the workforce. However, male or female, only a very tiny number were geeks. Most were in CS to get a career, it was a growing field and their parents pushed them that way, etc. Back then a geek was the person who stayed late programming even if it wasn't for an assignment, they opened up disk drives to see how they

  • by chrisj_0 ( 825246 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:04PM (#36912954)
    and then get me a beer :)
  • Numbers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brit74 ( 831798 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:06PM (#36912970)
    In 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women... the percentages of women who earned Computer Science degrees rose steadily, peaking at 37% in 1984
    If women with computer science degrees peaked in 1984 at 37%, then it also means women working as software developers were less likely to have a degree.

    From the Article: "In the past year, the number of women majoring in Computer Science has nearly doubled at Harvard, rising from 13% to 25%"
    If there was that much change in a single year, I'm betting it has more to do with the admissions process or other factors than any society-wide phenomena.
    • by Dthief ( 1700318 )
      less likely compared to what stat....what is only 1% of men had a CS degree.....also 37% of women is 37% of a larger group than those developing software, which is a small subset, so 100% in that subset might have degrees. Unless you are leaving out some crucial information, or wording what you said very poorly.
      • You sound like one of my community-college stats students.

        • by Dthief ( 1700318 )
          heh, I did read that wrong. although the point is still valid. if 37% of degrees are held by women, and all go into industry and 63% of the degrees are held by men, and none go into CS-industry, and instead all the people hired have no degree, then you end up with a higher percentage of women working with degrees than men. so although I cant read, my statistics (I think) are fine.
    • "If women with computer science degrees peaked in 1984 at 37%, then it also means women working as software developers were less likely to have a degree." ... in computer science.

      For example, I worked as a software engineer with my M.A. in mathematics & statistics. I know others who had physics degrees, etc.

  • Just my theory. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:08PM (#36912994)

    It has to do with the complexity of the systems. Those early computer systems were not very complicated. Then, throughout the late 80s and 90s systems and software became much more complex. However, in the last ten years or so, much of the complexity is hidden. Programming and systems management has become just a lot of pointing and clicking without any need (usually) to really understand what's going on underneath the covers.

    I want to add that this is just a theory, and that tt's not that I think women are incapable of understanding very complex systems, it's just that I think the majority of them have no interest in that kind of work.

    • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:26PM (#36913278)

      These days your average person pushes a button, types in a username/password, and starts clicking things to get to work.

      She powered up various large devices in order, typed a long hex boot string into the system, then proceded to load punch cards, open reel tapes and hard drive cake platters, and perform other various complicated tasks.

      It's a lot easier now.

      • by wcrowe ( 94389 )

        That's actually making my point. That 70s era computer was pretty simple even though there were a lot of parts. Jobs tended to be run one at a time in individual batches. There would be books of written procedures that would say things like, "1. Load tape xxx. 2. Insert card stack yyy. 3. Type CALL PR0102C and press Enter." Very simple stuff compared to later systems where multiple users ran multiple applications from multiple locations and networked with systems all over the place.

        When I started in t

        • Okay, pick some task that needs solving. Now try implementing it on a modern computer in a high-level language. Then try implementing it on a machine from the early '80s, say a 1MHz 6502 with 16KB of RAM. Now tell me that programming back then was easy. Maybe I should repeat the quote from the STANTEC ZEBRA users' manual, which said that the 150 instruction (baroque instructions, with hundreds of side effects and behaviour that altered depending on the sequence - not uncommon at the time) limitation for

      • What you did was describe a situation where someone was moving around the room loading cards, messing with reels... now you sit in the same chair most of your day.

        Is it a matter of complexity or a matter of movement? Consider gaming. Mostly male sitting on the couch. You introduce movement (dancing, guitar controllers, Wii) and you see more feminine interest. Secretarial work requires moving about the office filing papers, answering the phone, checking appointments, escorting people around... dominated

    • Computers in the 70's and early 80's were immensely difficult to work on. They were huge, had, at best, text based interfaces assuming that they weren't older models with card readers, were programmed in either C or Assembler (FORTRAN or COBOL if you were a specialist in the relevant field) had disk drives that required physical mounting (as in you picked up the big heavy assed disk and "mounted" it on the drive, that's where the term comes from)... It was only toward the mid-eighties that things for mos

    • "I want to add that this is just a theory, and that tt's not that I think women are incapable of understanding very complex systems, it's just that I think the majority of them have no interest in that kind of work."

      More likely that kind of ridiculous condescending attitude sent them away.

      • by wcrowe ( 94389 )

        Like I said, it's just a theory. I'm trying to explain the interesting fact that women were active in computing, then virtually disappeared from the field, only to begin to return to it. Whatever condescending attitude there is among computer geeks has nothing to do with gender. Geeks are chock full of hubris towards anyone who can't understand information systems whether male or female. Throughout much of the late 80's and 90's there were not enough computer professionals to do all the work that needed

    • I think we just found the real problem: a perceived hostile work environment. Would you want to work in a field where you thought/found that most of your co-werkers thought you were inferior/didn't belong there? I wouldn't and I am guessing that neither would they.

  • Perhaps I missed a math lesson somewhere, but aren't 42%, 34%, and 37% all below half, meaning that even at that time the respective fields were male-dominated?

    • You need to normalize to the percent of the total work force that was female to get a more meaningful picture.

      Or, for a shortcut, you could compare to the percentage of teachers that were women at the time.

      My guess is that those were pretty high numbers for a field at the time.

      And of course, the juvenile comments from some of the slashdotters on this thread is amply demonstrating why many women find these fields unwelcoming.

    • Perhaps I missed a math lesson somewhere, but aren't

      You missed the icon for this story. It's a chalkboard that says "2 - 2 = 5"

      Here's a link to the icon:
      http://a.fsdn.com/sd/topics/education_64.png [fsdn.com]

  • Although it's great that more women are getting back into CS, these kinds of articles make me itch. Geek girls shouldn't be hired or coerced into taking CS because of or in spite of their gender. They should be hired because they're good at what they do, and they should be encouraged to study if they have a sincere enthusiasm for the subject. If it turns out that the best students, or the best employees are male... so be it. /female CS grad and web developer

    • I found that rather interesting as well. The author actually says they were looking to hire more females and the first thought through my head was: "How is this not discrimination?" They went so far as to identify sex based on first name because the resumes could not include sex.

      • "How is this not discrimination?"

        It is, they just call it the euphemism "affirmative action" in this case.

  • by Grond ( 15515 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:21PM (#36913184) Homepage

    Women didn't leave the field voluntarily. Once it became apparent that programming was becoming a lucrative field women were systematically driven out by a system that favored men [stanford.edu]:

    Eager to indentify talented individuals to train as computer programmers, employers relied on aptitude tests to make hiring decisions. ... [T]he tests were widely compromised and their answers were available for study through all-male networks such as college fraternities and Elks lodges. ... [A] second type of test, the personality profile, was even more slanted to male applicants. Based on a series of preference questions, these tests sought to identify job applicants who were the ideal programming “type.” According to test developers, successful programmers had most of the same personality traits as other white-collar professionals. The important distinction, however, was that programmers displayed “disinterest in people” and that they disliked “activities involving close personal interaction.” It is these personality profiles, says Ensmenger, that originated our modern stereotype of the anti-social computer geek. ... Although the stereotype of the anti-social programmer was created in the 1960s, it is now self-perpetuating. Employers seek to hire new recruits who fit the existing mold. Young people self-select into careers where they believe they will fit in—for example, women currently comprise 18% of computer science undergraduate majors, down from 37% in 1985.

    The gender disparity in programming is not the result of slight differences between men and women or subtle unconscious biases. It is the result of overt discrimination going back decades to the origin of the profession. And it will take overt action to correct the disparity.

    • I have to say that I was both socially awkward and interested in computers long before I ever thought about a career, or social stereotypes. I think it is just true that slightly autistic/whatever people have an affinity for logic and programming.

    • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:47PM (#36913510)
      Boo hoo. I'd feel a lot worse about this if it wasn't being overtly done in the opposite direction in other industries. Who is complaining about the over representation of women and the active discrimination against men and masculinity in the health services industry eh? I once applied for a job at a hospital, and even though it was an IT support position they still ran me through a personality test. Apparently I failed it because I valued truth over compassion and was more inclined toward introspection than socialization. Clearly that invalidated my adequacy as candidate. Most ironically, while the test said something to the effect that the questions should be answered as honestly as possible, when the interviewer saw that I had 'failed' their test for suitability in their monolith, she asked if I wanted to change things. I said straight up that the test said it wanted the most honest answers possible, so if I changed anything I would either have been lying before or lying now, and what purpose would either serve? They didn't even value their own nonsense. They just want people to fit in or get out.

      So yeah, I'll be more sympathetic when I see people trying to change unjust systems in both directions. Until then it's just sexist hypocrisy.
      • So yeah, I'll be more sympathetic when I see people trying to change unjust systems in both directions. Until then it's just sexist hypocrisy.

        Frankly your opinion is silly. You're basically saying that everyone has to do everything and everything has to be perfect or there's no point in trying.

        That's just a crock.

        I, like most people on this site exist in the wider computer industry. This is the area we care about and are active in. We are more familiar with the injustices present and some of us want do some

    • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:49PM (#36913540)

      So they selected anti-social people who at the same time were highly social in joining fraternal organizations? Sounds perfectly and utterly non-contradictory.

    • "[T]he tests were widely compromised and their answers were available for study through all-male networks such as college fraternities and Elks lodges"

      Well unless the tests where knowingly leaked by someone in charge just to all male groups then that is not discrimination just apparent evidence that men cheat better.
      Which actually could be a good skill in programming where taking some open source code and inserting in your program can speed up development time.
      and for sys admins, well pirating can be a usef

      • I have to agree, this seems to show the exact opposite of women being driven out. What does being biased towards a personality type have to do with genders? Unless there tends to be less females with that personality type as males, the same with leaked tests unless there's some huge reason why only men would cheat, why is it less likely that the test also went to some sororities, unless of course there weren't enough women interested in it to arrange such a thing. Personality discrimination I am seeing, Gen
      • by Grond ( 15515 )

        could be a good skill in programming where taking some open source code and inserting in your program can speed up development time...for sys admins, well pirating can be a useful skill I suppose.

        Properly using open source code isn't cheating. Cheating would be using GPL'd code without releasing the source to the derivative work. If the company was caught it could seriously harm the company (imagine if Microsoft was found using GPL'd code inside Windows or Office). And a pirate sysadmin sounds great until the BSA extracts licenses from the company at roughly 3 times the market rate. So no, cheating is not a good skill for a programmer.

        stats showing a large number of graduates and low employment in their field would be proper evidence that this discrimination is happening.

        Why would women spend 4 years studying CS if they knew the em

    • Wowwie! I'd better go join the local Elk Lodge so I can study those answers!
    • by binarybum ( 468664 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @07:11PM (#36915070) Homepage

      Yep, you're on to us. We wanted to keep it a total secret etched in the tablets of our elk lodges, but we totally prefer the fat, anti-social, greasy fingered, soda sipping dweeb mold rather than simply trying to look for the most qualified individual for the job. It's completely overt - we are even willing to give up our capitalistic ideals and endure dents in our bottom line to maintain this fraternal tradition.

      It's probably okay that you know this now though - we are not frightened of loosing our stronghold. We know that you are incapable of taking overt action because we have evidence that is equally as strong as what you have presented, that you are all spending your time having topless pillow-fights in your sororities.

      This all makes total sense if you don't think about it and just assume that a significant majority of people in high places are just filled with hate to the point where they are willing to sacrifice financial and technological gains to consciously perpetuate an arbitrary standard.

      Signed CEOs everywhere

  • Cause and effect (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:23PM (#36913208) Homepage Journal

    I don't think it has anything to do with a rising interest in IT. its that women need jobs these days too, due to the economy, so i bet you will find ALL industries are increasing their woman count. Especially 'clean' jobs since most women ( or men really ) don't want to go out and dig ditches for a living.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Exactly what I was going to say. I'm sure there's a correlation between tough economic conditions and the migration of women to traditionally non-feminine fields. Perhaps it's strong enough that it could even be used as an indicator of some sort - the GGI for Girl Geek Index.
  • If nothing else, one thing this article reaffirms is that Marissa Mayer is easy to look at.
    • That got me to RTFA. Rawr.

      I suppose the fact that we are attracted to attractive women makes us sexist, objectifying pigs, too.
  • I think it was supposed to read "Girls Go Greek"
  • I just like the related link Submission: Girls Go Geek Again! [slashdot.org]
  • by Jorl17 ( 1716772 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @04:56PM (#36913638)
    Why is it that America always represents the world? The World is so different from America.
  • Unfortunately, misogyny is rampant in all "geek" fields (as it is in the rest of society). Just see the "Perform Like A Porn Star" talk at Ruby Con 2009, or even "ElevatorGate" in 2011.

    (Btw, here in $European_Country, the percentage is still something like 10% female/90% male.)

  • by Cutting_Crew ( 708624 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @05:05PM (#36913742)
    Even though this was a small sample, as Joel mentioned lets look at the numbers:

    Made it to resume review: Female - 75.68%, Male - 72.05%
    Made it to the coding stage: Female - 28.38%, Male - 26.49%
    Made it to phone interview: Female - 0.054%, Male - 0.099%
    In person interview: Female - 0.041%, Male - 0.0565%
    Received an offer: Female - 0.041%, Male - 0.0194%
    Official Hire: Female - 0.014%, Male - Male - 0.013%

    Even though this was a small sample, is there anything we can derive from this? The last stat to me doesn't matter as much, even though the numbers were for all intensive purposes the same percentage, even though there were 8 times more male applicants.

    If we were to break down the stages the women had better percentages up to the phone interview. Does this show or should this show that the males did better at the coding assignment? If we can agree that that is what happened then the whole "boys play with computers more, tinker, etc etc" might have 'some' truth to it. Before the phone interview the females led by nearly 2%. By the time the phone interview came around, the males had gained that 2% but additional ground on top of the that.

    However 100% of those females that made it to the in person interview made it to the offer stage while the men lost the ground that they gained during the coding stage. Does this mean perhaps that the males had poorer social skills to cause some doubt in their ability to do the work or perhaps be a good fit? Did the women wear low tops?(i am not suggesting the Joel and his interviewers are biased regarding to this, but i am just babbling there).

    Would be interesting to see what others think or perhaps what Joel thinks of the numbers after he printed them(assuming that he wasnt keeping track as things progressed through the entire process.
  • My CIS major was almost 50% women.

  • "The first working programmers were all women: Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas and Ruth Lichterman. Also Ada Lovelace is popularly credited as history's first programmer, although her work never ran."
  • Here is the real reason people go into specific careers, especially women:
    From TFA:
    I’d say I was able to make more friends through things like the dorm than in my Computer Science classes. But that means that I can’t really talk to my friends about the stuff I do for my classes, which is frustrating.

    Women tend to value social activities and communication far more than men. Women want to be able to talk to other women about common interests.
    So if fewer women are in a field, fewer women will go i

  • What is that? [fogcreek.com]

    Google VP Marissa Mayer: " People ask me a lot what it's like to be a woman at Google. I don't think of my experience that way. I'm a geek at Google."

    what the hell is that? Now I see what they mean by Google 'perks'.

  • Grace Hopper (Score:5, Informative)

    by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @05:53PM (#36914280) Homepage

    Let's not forget Admiral Grace Hopper [wikipedia.org] who programmed, developed a successful programming language, led successful standardization efforts, managed--did just about everything you could do with computers both as a direct individual-contributor and as a high-level manager.

    She was a nerd and she did "stuff that mattered."

    • But she had a PhD in mathematics from Yale; not your average person, male or female. She did more than develop successful programming language, she conceived of the compiler in an era of jump-wire programming, that's programming as we know it. And moreover the intention of the design of her language was to have something of which an intelligent non-programmer could follow the explanation as a simple quasi-english. And though we mock the successor, COBOL, of her language (which she also help design), reme
  • by rhook ( 943951 ) on Thursday July 28, 2011 @07:11PM (#36915060)

    "In 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women. And 34% of the systems analysts in America were women."

    So 58% of developers were men and 64% of systems analysts were men. Looks like men dominated the field then too.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!