Why women are the natural computer programmers

“It’s just like planning a dinner party”.

When computers were first introduced, they were thought of as something for women (the secretaries and phone operators) to work with. So folks spent time generating hypotheses about why women would be so naturally well suited to them. More here.

(Thanks, S!)

7 thoughts on “Why women are the natural computer programmers

  1. Thanks for this. The work by Lenore Blum of Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science department on this topic is fascinating. It’s practical, too. Your post makes me think: . . . and effective!

    In case those interested in this post might be interested in their work, here is a link to a brief article: “The Evolving Culture of Computing: Similarity is the Difference” by Lenore Blum and Carol Frieze. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/frontiers/v026/26.1blum.html

    There is a website about their work, with news items, info about what they do, how they do it, etc. & lots of links, here: http://women.cs.cmu.edu/

    Thanks again for posting this — the retro clips bring a smile but also warn of the possibility of regression.

  2. Amusingly, the thought of planning a dinner party is stressful and horrifying to me. It is reassuring to think it is as calmingly logical as programming a computer!

  3. Sadie Plant’s _Zeroes and Ones_ is a great book on women and computing, accessible to humanities audiences. Lots of good stuff in there on Ada Lovelace, writer of the first computer program.

  4. Early on it was thought that computer programmers would basically be just secretaries in charge of turning an idea from the boss into a typo free form. Basically, computer programmers would be women for the same reason the “computers” (humans who did calculations) during WWII were women–a stereotype that women were better at detail work and meticulousness. Then it turned out that computer programming involved refining ideas through execution, not just implementing existing ideas. Along the way, programming culture was captured by engineers and made really masculine and insular. As a result the rate of women in Computer Science departments actually declined after a peak in the late 80s. Oh well.

  5. It’s an excellent, but short article on involvement of women in computer programming with an old news clips.

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