[TUHS] Women in computing

Jon Steinhart jon at fourwinds.com
Fri Feb 15 06:37:51 AEST 2019

Deborah Scherrer writes:
> There have been several studies.  As I remember, girls in school do 
> indeed receive as much encouragement in computers as do males.  And 
> girls do indeed have access to as many resources as males.  So the 
> studies came to no conclusions.
> My personal thought is that, in high school, it's the "nerd" factor.  If 
> I were back in high school and saw the kind of guys that are getting 
> into computers now, I would stay a thousand miles away from them and 
> that field.  But, alas, I don't think anyone has tried to research that 
> idea...
> And/or: I have a friend who was a professor of CS in Amsterdam.  She had 
> many grad students of both sexes.  She says she had to practically force 
> the women to stay in the field.   They would see the guys getting overly 
> focused on the computer details themselves, completely overlooking the 
> goals of the project.  The women would get frustrated and complain to 
> the professor.  She would have to convince them that the guys just did 
> that, and that the women should stay on track.
> I do admit, I have a husband who does that.  Personally, I have ALWAYS 
> looked at computers as a tool to accomplish something grander than just 
> being a computer.  But I am usually out-shouted.  ;-)

I think that many of us old folk on this list started out in a time when
getting a computer to be a computer was an accomplishment.  But I agree
that enough of that has been done that using computers as tools subservient
to larger goals is where the bulk of the work exists today.

There's a theory that sounds superficially plausible to me, which is that
women leave the field because they're more responsible than men.  The theory
is that women think more about whether a profession will provide them with
the security and stability necessary to support a family.  When women look
at STEM fields they see people being laid off, being forced to train their
outsourced replacements, and so on.  The American government sends out the
mixed messages of "we need people trained in STEM" along with "we don't care
about science".  Plus there are all of the pontifications about how AI is
going to replace many of the jobs.  So this theory says that it just doesn't
look like an attractive field to people who want stability and security, and
that women statistically want that more than men do.


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