Professor Hal Abelson and daughter Amanda, taken for the back cover of the book they wrote together on the LOGO computer language

Women in Computing

a reaction by Philip Greenspun (published in the April 1995 issue of CACM)

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You must be taller... Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was fun to see a whole issue of Communications (Women in Computing, January 1995) with scarcely an article by a white male oppressor, but I got lost in the statistics, tables, and references. I teach some of the brightest women electrical engineering and computer science undergraduates in the world here at MIT and a two-minute conversation with any of them illuminates the problem more than your 162-page issue. The problem is money.

My third-best student last term said "I don't want to be an engineer. I'm going to medical school." "Laura" won't need to beg an administrator to put her "tenure decision on hold for child care" as described in the CACM issue. (This would be assuming she beats out 1000 other applicants for a university job.) She can work one emergency room shift per week and earn $60,000/year. That will leave Laura the other 6.5 days to care for children, indulge in computer science research, or travel.

In a Saab with the four Swedish girls.  Manhattan 1995. One of the top women graduate students in our department (EECS) just quit to work as a management consultant. "Allison" explained "I just didn't think a PhD was worth another three years." Her advisor loved her, she had support, and she knew that she could do the work. Allison also knew that she'll make five to ten times the salary than she would have if she'd stayed in a technical field.

These women are confronting the facts that your article failed to address: Intelligent people with PhDs are working as C programmers; The average engineering career lasts seven years, pays average, and doesn't justify an MIT education that costs $120,000; anyone smart enough to make it as a computer scientist can make it with less work and risk as an MD, MBA, or JD; there has been so little progress in programming environments, systems, and computer languages in the last three decades that programmers in India and other Third World countries are perfectly capable of taking over the majority of American computer science jobs.

Your January issue asks "Why are there so few women in computing?" Maybe you should do another issue asking "Why are there so many men?"


philg@mit.edu

Reader's Comments

While I don't doubt what you say is about your female students is true, I would like to know how many women you have? I'd guess very few. Does this mean they've all taken the pragmatic decision you describe before they even go to university? Alternatively, does it mean that fewer women are interested in studying engineering then men (for whatever reason)? I suspect the latter and (although I haven't seen it) I suspect that's what CACM was addressing.

As a side note, I'd resent your implication that "Intelligent people with PhDs" are too intelligent to work as programmers. As you know, gaining a PhD is not an automatic indicator of startingly intelligence. Programming is hard work, and, I believe, there are far too few sufficently intelligent and knowledgable programmer. The bulk of the work is being done by people who really aren't up to it, and this leads to all the unpleasant things we all know and hate like projects failing, low public regard for computing/engineering, etc.

Cheers!

-- Jez Higgins, January 28, 1998

Just to comment on the previous comment: I think you missed the intended point. I don't think Phil meant to imply that programming is not hard work - - Quite the opposite, really. It's such an arduous task that relatively few people choose it when there are other, higher-profile and higher- prestige alternatives available.

What he's pointing out is that C programming may require brains, but it certainly doesn't require any formal education. There are plenty of fifteen- year-old high-school students who can outcode the average Comp Sci Ph.D. This means that when someone spends seven years getting a degree, working 80 hours a week for a poverty-level stipend, and then becomes a C programmer, someone is wasting their time.

I'm now a fifth year grad student, and many of my Ph.D. student friends have become programmers, doing Web sites or databases and starting out at nearly the same salary level as a new B.S. in computer science -- but five to eight years later. My friends from college who went straight into programming have resumes full of solid computer experience by now. Whereas I have a degree that I have to apologize for: when you have a Ph.D. and you go looking for work in a building full of people holding masters degrees, bachelors degrees and high school diplomas, your managers always ask you, in so many words, "are you going to be bitter about the fact that your education is going to waste? " I had one particularly infuriating yet strangely straightforward on-campus interview with a woman who actually said "you're too heavily qualified. You'll grow bitter, working next to undergraduates with no advantage in status or pay. Go into academia." Senseless trying to explain to her that academia these days is a living hell of rejected grant proposals, and that's assuming that a university will hire you at all from among the 200 or 300 applicants.

Not that everything about grad school is bad. You can work any 70 hours per week that you want. If you just want to waste time and never graduate, and you find the right adviser, you don't even have to work at all. And the people you meet are generally smart, unusual, and fun. But for me grad school is fun just like playing Tetris all night is fun. In the morning you realize that it was sort of enjoyable, but it didn't get you anywhere and it left you very very tired. So I'm going to get out of grad school as soon as I can, and promptly dismiss it as a folly of youth. I was young, and confused, and knew nothing but physics! I made a mistake! But at least I survived!

-- Michael Booth, June 13, 1998

Hi, im a student in Sacramento california, pursuing a degree in Computer Science. you, probably will ask me why i'm interested so I will tell you. I like to make computer games someday. Is it really unusual for a girl to be interested in this stuff? I'm not a brainer or anything I just like to create things in the Web and anywhere I can apply creativity. I think computer is fun, because all you do in it is you, your thoughts and nobody elses'.

Jennifer

-- jennifer estravo, October 27, 1998

If programming is open to any reasonable intelligent person with a BA, why is there a shortage of programmers?

And why say that people with CS degrees are poor? A programming job usually deals 50K or so in the Bay Area. This is vastly above the wage you'll earn with a degree in Philosophy or somesuch. What evidence is there to support Phil's statements?

I doubt that a CS degree is necessary to be a programmer. However, enough literature and code is out there that the interested programmer can educate himself, if need be. Knuth just by itself is enough to deal with almost anything encountered in real life.



-- Will Sargent, February 20, 1999

I am a young woman pursuing a B.A. in Computer Science. At this moment, I was searching the web for information about employment of Computer Programming around the nation. Reading some other reader's comments, I get a sense of negativity. I have been warned that women usually get paid less than men in this field, and that I would have to work extra hard. The person who informed me of this was, in fact, a man. He was just letting me know this "for my information". Is this true? Is it based on the assumption that women are not interested in computers? That it's too abstract for us? Because we are more interested in fashion? That was the most stupid thing I've ever heard. On behalf of myself, is it possible for a young career women these days to be intelligent, beautiful, and successful all at the same time?! --Sara L. Albert, future executive programmer

-- Sara Albert, February 22, 1999
Programming? Hard? Come on! Maybe it is if you're writing an RDBMS from scratch, but the popularity of the web has produced thousands of high-paying jobs that are open to any reasonably intelligent person with a B.A. It ain't rocket science.

If the issue is "Why don't people want to pursure PhDs?", I think the article above covers it pretty well, but there are many reasons why most women are not interested in programming. It's often an abstract, escapist world of puzzles that seem to have little relevance to reality. Factor in the fashion sense and social skills of the average male co-worker in a programming career and you can see why it isn't too appealing to women who don't really have it in their blood.

(NOTE: I have worked with some very talented female programmers. The key personality trait I noticed that they had in common was a fondness for hanging out with geeks.)

-- Perrin Harkins, March 7, 1999

I can imagine easily why there are so few women in computing-- it does not offer generally a level of social stimulation that most women are accostomed to and many say they require to be happy. There is no doubting at all that programming a computer is a largely stand-alone process (those ridiculous team meetings notwithstanding that usually don't result in actually successfully coordinating anything in a project) and people with a lower than average need for general social interaction tend to do better/be happier/remain in the job longer. No gov't-sponsored study on gender and communication issues needs to tell me that the average man, even if he calls himself an extrovert, needs less general interaction and affirmation than the average women. (Before you flame me with cries of "sexist generalization", let me rush to add a PC disclaimer saying that yes, exceptions do exist. But in my experience they are few and far between). While men are likely to feel the effects of social isolation eventually, women it seems to me feel these effects faster and they seem to carry more significance to them-- but anyone will start feeling bad if separated too long and consistently from the company of others. And computer programming most definitely encourages a stand-alone craftsman approach to problem-solving and requires peace and quiet to get things done- these things require being left alone for extended periods of time, something that in my experience women enjoy much less than men.

Additionally, most women have been raised not to see themselves as mathematicians or engineers, and like the average BA in History (my undergrad degree was this, in fact, requiring 2 years in grad school in IS and industry certification to get "re-tooled" so I can now be a programmer for living), may not realize how many opportunities for lucrative employment that a degree or even some interest in programming exist out there today. Going into college ignorant of the job market was a mistake I paid for by having to re-attend school and pursue a lot of re-self-education. Most people going into college have no inkling of what the job market looks like, and colleges like it that way so they can pocket higher profits on teaching lots of students about less-practical subjects since paying a prof. in History is cheaper than paying a prof. in engineering. By the time they come out, they have learned little of practical value, the college has their money (and their parents' too!) and they still have to figure out how to get a job. So it's my belief that despite what colleges say, the last thing they want is more of anyone, male or female, pursuing degrees in engineering fields. What they really, really want is full-fare-paying customers (why do you think there are so many foreign students in America? They are full fare-paying and don't whine when they don't get tuition waivers like us Yankees do!) who are happy to take classes from underpaid p/t non-tenured profs who have ridiculous workloads and who pay through the nose for the honor of it. That's what colleges really want, and don't you forget it! So any delusions anyone out there may have about colleges wanting to see more of anyone in engineering fields should now be dis-delusioned by my convincing diatribe.

Well, enough ranting. Damn, that felt good!

-- Matt Campbell, April 9, 1999

Ok! I entered college for the first time in January of this year. In the fall I start the first semester of my intended four year degree in science!!! Now I'm terrified I have made the wrong choice. I'm afraid I will have to agree with the gentlemen about programming not being for most women, I know I couldn't take the isolation for very long. I was planning an engineering degree in environmental science. As if that isn't bad enough, I will by close to 50 when I graduate! Every article and statement I read tells me I am wasting my time, I'm doomed before I ever begin. Please tell me there is hope!! :>{ Nancy C.

-- Nancy Chivers, May 7, 1999
Although there are comparatively few women in my original field of study (mechanical engineering) I've always assumed that women should be encouraged to pursue technical or scientific careers if they show real interest. My two sisters have graduate degrees in applied math, computer science, and operations research, my sister-in-law has a PhD in molecular biology, and they all seem to be able to make a decent living in their chosen fields despite the supposed double-whammy of being women and visible minorities, so maybe I belong in an outlying region of the bell curve and don't realize the "Big Picture." Then again, their education did not cost quite as much as it would have if they had gone to MIT...

-- Victor Panlilio, May 26, 1999
Regarding the previous comment, if you want to do well and succeed financially in the programming field, my advice to you would be to get out of college and start working now. I scraped by in High School, and because of this I felt I shouldn't go to college quite yet. I have to say it was the best decision I made.

Most of the people I work with range from having no credits to a couple credits shy of a BS in some un-related field (physics is a popular one), all of them earn upwards of $50K, which is low for our area.

The other interesting thing is our instinctive distrust of those who have CS degrees of one form or another. We don't give people who got a formal education nearly as much respect as we give those who did it themselves with a broken down computer and a copy of FreeBSD. It's my belief that a typical CS education warps your idea of how to program in a real work environment, and the CS grads I've met, and after whom I've cleaned up, further cement this notion.

This is not an uncommon attitude, and everywhere I've interviewed or worked people seem to think the same thing. So heed my advice: get out of college now, the education is worthless compared to a couple or three months on your own.

-- Brian Cully, June 10, 1999

Although the big picture is, "women are a disadvantaged minority", the big picture is, as usual, composed of many little pictures. One of the little pictures is, intelligent, credentialed women in technical fields are in short supply relative to the demand for them in image-conscious large corporations.

Women, along with other minorities are offered jobs along the way to the PhD which are not offered to their male counterparts. While women may not be graduating with PhD's in CS from MIT, there are plenty of them in middle management at, say, Hewlett Packard.

Once they do have these jobs, though, they face the same problems and prejudices smart women always have in dealing with men who have difficulty associating brains and breasts in the same package.

-- Brian Gulino, November 29, 1999

I disagree with the vast majority of what's been said on this topic, on this page and others, but I'll confine myself to one specific issue:

"I'm afraid I will have to agree with the gentlemen about programming not being for most women, I know I couldn't take the isolation for very long."

It's true that most programming is a solitary activity, but it doesn't have to be. Do a web search for "Extreme Programming" and in particular for "pair programming". It's not a style that would suit me - I'm highly introverted - but a lot of extraverts would like it.

Also remember that a CS degree doesn't commit you to spending your working life writing code. Let's say you want to go into management, for example. Well, if you're able to use your brain you'll have an advantage on most of your competition. And a degree course in any area of science or engineering is a proven, time-honored way of developing the faculty of clear, rational thought.

If computing doesn't interest you, don't choose CS for your degree; studying material that bores you is a miserable way to spend your time. But if it does, go for it and don't let anything deter you.

-- Russell Wallace, June 19, 2000

I really shouldn't bother to get into the fray here because I am sure any women with any experience in engineering would laugh at some of the comments provided. But nonetheless I felt it necessary to offer a different slant. ROLE MODELS play an important part in transcending our identities. If women don't identify with engineers and computer scientists... why would they want to become one? Without women role models in engineering and science, women will continue to choose women-friendly occupations. And the day that men are as comfortable doing secretarial jobs is the day that women will be as comfortable doing computer science and engineering jobs. If I want to learn about women in science and engineering, it's not in the standard textbook and it's certainly not chronicaled in the MIT "T" stop history. (Although I would like to mention as an aside that the MIT "T" stop does credit important milestones to men for the development of instrumentation to treat women for hysteria - search Salon.com for those who don't' know what this is...) Anyway, for all those women contemplating a career in science and engineering, I would refer you to the women's history project at http://www.nwhp.org/ Learning about women's history is truly a mind altering jaunt. And in response to those who are being discouraged from science and engineering. I am just so thankful that I stuck to my career choice despite constant non-support and discouragement. We can make excuses that women's character is not adaptable or that there are better opportunities but there are subtle signs along the way that women will pick up on, passive agression, which will discourage women from entering these fields. Unfortunately for them they are missing out on a lot of fun. I say screw that attitude! This is an absolutely exciting time to be in this field.

-- Lili Griffin, August 24, 2000
Think back to your childhood

I am 20, and have had a computer since I was 6. I liked to play games and stuff on it, snake and zork were both cool. I liked the fact that I would tell it to do something, and then it would do it.

I knew I was hooked when I first popped the lid on my xt... It's like a car in there!!! All of these devices hooked up together, wires all over the place, waiting to be cleaned up, and space for new horizons. I wanted (and still crave) to add every peripheral device, write batch files for any task I might ever undertake. It was cool.

These are observations I made as a child (below).

Now, think about your activities when you were a kid. When boys are young, they play with toy cars, or play computer games. They will run off into the backyard and get their hands dirty doing everything they're not supposed to do. Boys are rule breakers.

Girls, on the other hand, tend to help mum in the kitchen, play with their barbies (much nicer than my G.I. Joe strike unit figurines), and create roleplay games such as school, or house, or shop. We'll use shop as an example.

Two girls playing shops. One would be the "clerk", the other would be the "customer". The "customer" walks in, and the "clerk" points to "products" that the "customer" might like. A purchase is made, fake money exchanged for goods. Now, enter the boy. He walks in and wants to know what he can be. The girls tell him he can be another customer, the boy accepts that. He then goes to his room and finds his favorite weapon (mine was always the plastic M16 with the barrell snapped off, in combination with my Rambo Combat Knife) and returns to the "store". He runs in, tells them to 'stick it up!' empties the register and grabs a few "snacks", and hits the road.

One thing I like about programming, is that it involves, breaking the rules, making knew ones, changing the rules, or simply removing the rules. All of the set structures of today's world are based around rules. I am told how much money I have in my account, because the rules say so. But I can change those, if I like, to ad a zero on the end of my account balance, and I now have $10,000 instead of $1,000.

The shops game was also about rules. A person who wants something in a shop has to pay for it before it is their's to keep. That's the rule. When girls play it, the rules are more likely to play by the customer/clerk rule, those are the people you'll find in a store. But the boy, he'll always be the robber by preference. If the girls don't play by his rules, that's okay, he'll push them over and take off with whatever he can carry.

Tell that same young boy that he can add 9,000 to his bank account by hitting the '0' key, and he will hit the zero key. (He'll learn how stupid that would be when he gets older)

As the girls get older (teens) they pride themselves on their maturity as opposed to their contemporary males. They will keep out of trouble (at least not get caught as much as the boys). The boys will be getting punished by teachers, grounded by parents, and god knows what we didn't find out about.

When I pull a prank, I am creative about it, it has to be really original.

Last week, two of my girlfriends decided to play a prank on me and the boys while we were asleep. They cover Dave's panel van in toilet paper. Original... Doesn't everybody put toilet paper on things as a prank??? It's been done since the dark ages.

So, we decided to kill their gnomes. They have 8 garden gnomes that stand near the front door. We created a whole religion of Gnome, just for this prank, wrote the gnome book of revelations. The girls' favorite Gnome was Dopey, he was the leader. He also incited mass suicide amongst the gnomes, they hung themselves on the clothesline.

Ever heard of a gnome prank as sick as that???

There is the difference. Girls learn something (ie; the art of prank), and they follow it, by the book, making sure to take utmost care. Boys learn the same thing, and see how far they can push it, before it collapses.

I don't know, I could keep on going, but I am starting to annoy myself. But for some reason, rule breaking (to me) is creativity. I think that males see the creative side of programming more than females, because they are able to visualise what it is they are creating. Women (this is pc) have the ability to visualise the same creation, but their spatial skills are not able take the vision to the extremes that a man can.

So the ladies don't kill me--- Men have more advanced spatial skills than women, but they don't have the verbal capacity to express them in words.

Anyways, I hope this made sense to someone

Paul Beynon (MelbourneGeeksRool)

-- Paul Beynon, January 12, 2001

Well, at least Paul(the previous commentor) is a programmer with little visibility to the rest of the world!

It is clear that Paul and others have definite ideas about what a woman finds interesting or uninteresting. While I find it intriguing that a "scientist" would make such an unsupported comment, his message is not correct.

I know there are many men out there that cringe at this type of mentality as well. I feel very fortunate for living in a less pragmatic world than Paul.

When I encounter people like Paul, a quote from Zen Flesh Zen Bones comes to mind.

"I opened my mouth and spoke fully but it was useless to talk to pigs and fish."



-- Paul Ain't savvy but he sure is a hard worker!, May 15, 2001

Ok. Mr/Ms "noemail@noemail.com", piece of chicken s*** who insults people, but can't be traced for a retort.. Regarding your Bashing of Paul (Melbourne geeks Rool):

I think Paul has a very interresting point about the differences between men and women - you may have had a problem understanding what he was trying to convey - (and I was the chick whose gnomes got murdered - but it's OK, we caught the culprit when he came back - Dopey didn't incite anything... it was a fake-suicide. The Gnomish Liberation foundation have been called in, and the matter settled!)

Men DO visualise things more than women. (isn't it the man who usually prefers a good gander at some porn, rather than the woman who likes to feel and be? Isn't it the man who can turn a simple thought into a visual? Say the word boobs, and I bet all the men around will have an instant visual of their favourite titties!)

So, Paul is saying that a man can see the potential for creativity and fun in a career like programming, whereas in general, perhaps women are more perturbed by the "hard work" aspect of it all. A man is more willing to sacrafice a social life and turn into a geek than a woman. Perhaps it is the male who gets more excited at the potential of "taking over the world" by programming. Men are more egotistical.

I know where Paul is getting at. And who are you to slander him so... He was expressing an opinion, and a story about himself, not trying to prove any scientific theories. LAY OFF! Ignoramus...

-- Rita Brain, August 21, 2001

I am a woman who started out with computers at the age of 16, and took vocational courses on programming COBOL in high school in 1982. I grew with computers, writing batch files, organizing hard drives, etc. However, no one believed me on job interviews. I have taken technical classes on hardware. I know the OSI model. I can normalize databases, write programs in VB, and wrote macros, and designed spreadsheets long before it became popular, but I did these as a free service to my employer. Who, barely acknowledged, and yet continue to require this tasks performed every time a computer broke, or had problems. I decided that in order to be convincing on job interviews, and to get the job title to go along with my skills, that I needed a degree. It seemd that nobody believed I knew what I said I knew, and I got accused of lying on my resume. Now I am in college and I am taking a lot of math classes and working towards a CS degree. At first, when I went to get my degree plan signed by the department head, she (believe it or not) was reluctant and seemed to doubt me. She said, "are you good at Math...are you sure...are you sure you want to do this, because there's a lot of math." I said, "yes." I did well in math in high school. Now, I made it through Algebra (B), Trig(A), Matrix Algebra(A), Statistic(A), Calc I(B) and Calc II (A). So it seems as thought I am on my way right? WRONG! I have read many posting saying that women need to socilize and talk a lot. Not any more than men do. It doesn't come down to women vs. men, it comes down to introvert vs. extravert. Some women are introverts. However, even an introvert doesn't like rejection. What I have experienced in my math classes is that men group and talk with each other, and with the male professors, but act like women have some kind of contageous disease in the classroom. Not only that, we hear sexist language on a continual basis even from the math professors. It's one thing to be quiet and work alone, which I am usually the one who works alone in my other classes. It is quiet another to be totally excluded. I mean professor talks to male students and not to females. Helps male students, and is annoyed when females ask questions. Also, some comments are made as though women are not even in the room. For example. My stat professor said, "the poissant process can be used to explain the frequency of phone calls. There are more short phone calls the long phone calls. The long phone calls can be explained when you get a sexy woman on the phone." That is only one of several comments. Ok, I am in this class to work on my brain and to get away from men just seeing women as objects. When sitting in my math classes, I feel that I am sitting with a whole bunch of men sitting around the bar, or in the locker room. No other college classes are like this. This is not tolerated in the workplace, and it should not be tolerated in college classes either. I don't care to socilize, but stay neutral. It is a spectrum where socializing is on one end, and total rejection, humiliation, singaled out, and told that "women are dumb" is at the other end of the spectrum. What most men think women are not handling is the neutral, center, or lack of socializing. That is not so. We are at the rejecting, "oh, I can't believe she can do it." We don't mind not getting encouragement, or support and staying neutral. What is bothering us is the discouragement, the disbelief, the shock look on a mans face when we say something intelligent, and then the way they back off as though we just intimidated them. I learned that saying I am a computer science major, is a great repellent when a man won't leave me alone. It works better than saying "no". Ladies, if a guy keeps flirting with you and won't back off, say you are a computer science major and see what happens. Speak intelligently, and watch them run!

-- Pico Aves, December 3, 2003
Women visualize also. Remember! a lot of women are interior decoraters, artists, and designers. We live in the visual world most of the time. We know how to spatialy balance things. We are concerned with shapes. In art, the main thing to learn is to take a 3-dimensional landscape and put it on a 2-dimensional canvas, but learn tricks to still make it look 3-d. We deal with dimensions more than we are given credit for. We work with 2d objects such as circles and learn to creat spheres out of them. We also learn the art of makiing a triangle into a cone. This is not new to us. What men don't understand, is that we are very aware of how we cannot show off our knowledge without getting dirty looks from men. So, most of the time, we keep quiet. Do not take our silence as a lack of not knowing. We keep our knowledge to ourself, instead of wearing it on our sleeve. That does not mean it is not there. I have noticed in my math classes, most of the men will yell out answers as fast and as loud as they can. Then, they get this satisfied look on their face as thought they knew something that nobody else did. Most people think of the answer the same time as everybody else does, they just don't see the need to blurt it out to "prove" it. I used to fall for this in class, then I realized, I had thought of the answer silently, just before a few blurted it out. So, if men are content to work alone, then why are they so loud, and worried about what others think of them. Don't mistake silence for not knowing. Another thing that women do, is we are taught to let the guys think they are smarter. We learn young from our mothers to be careful about men's egos. Let them win, when you play games with them. Don't fool yourself too much and underestimate women too much. We know a lot more than we let on. And please don't stereotype. If you have an aunt or grandmother from the older generation who can't pump gas, don't generalize and say that "all women are like this." Why does a few women examples ruin it for the whole group of women. Why does a few male geniuses give off the impression that men as a whole are smarter? Did you know the first programmer was a woman. I think she should be called "the mother of programming" in text books, but she is nowhere to be seen, and few people know of her. (Lovelace)

-- Pico Aves, December 3, 2003
Speaking of visualization, women also think with pictures too. When a person says, "beach" I snapshot of the beach pops into my head instantly, with aquamarine water, white sand, and palm trees. I don't think this is special to men only. When somebody mentions the table of the elements, the chart appears in my head, with most of the elements in the right place. There are a few along the bottom I don't remember. You know how in the sci-fi movies, when a holographic map pops up. The table of the elements pop up for me. And, in addition to learning how to do integrals and derivatives from scratch and learning the concepts behind them, I also accidentally have a "snap shot" of the chart from the back of the book in my head. I have been trying not to memorize stuff, but it just goes in without my permission. I focus on the concepts. Why is it so hard for men to believe that we actually understand it. I have gotten comments like, "but you don't really understand it, you just learned a formula and how to plug." ARGGGG!!! quit saying that. Women do get the deeper meaning.

-- Pico Aves, December 3, 2003
I noticed in a lot of postings by men, they continue to speak for women. Why doesn't somebody do a survey, and just ASK women how they feel, instead of TELLING us how we feel. Sure, there are women who are not interested in computers but there are also a lot of men not interested in computers/math either. Sometimes I can't believe my ears when I hear men say, "it's easy for men and hard for women." I have heard many men talk about how hard the math and java classes are when speakiing "in general" thinking they are amongst men or referring to men. But then, when the subject comes up of men vs. women, the same men then turn around and contradict themselves and pretend it's not hard for them, but just hard for women. (It sounds like this when no gender is involved, and I hear male students in the hallway talking like this everyday.) Man1: "those upper level classes are hard" Man2: "oh yeah, I had to take calculus 3 times." Man1: "That's why technical fields get paid more, because they are harder." Man2: "I had to take physics twice. Hey, you haven't taken it yet, do you want all the copies of my tests from professor so-n-so." Man1: "Yeah, sure!..and you haven't taken probability, do you want copies of my test? for professor so-n-so?" Man2: "yeah, these classes are hard, so we gotta find any advantage we can." Man1: "Another thing is to sign up for a class, do it for a month, then drop it, then you won't get an F, but learn almost half the subject. Then take it later and everyone will think you are the smartest person in the room 'cause you already know the stuff. It even fools the professors. They think you took extra math in high school or something, or just naturally know it." * (Later, when gender is added) * Man1: "math is easy for men, but hard for women." Man2: "it just comes natural to us." Man1: "It's just second nature." Man2: "Women don't have the mathematical mind, like we do." Man1: "They want to socialize and share too much." Man2: "Yeah, group learning..ha ha..." Man1: "hey, what about those test copies you were going to share with me?....oh here comes a woman now...shhh." Man1: "Yeah, thanks dude for test copies. Networking has advantages, but lose their effect if everone gets in on it. We need some people at the bottom of the curve, so we'll be sure to pass. Women are easy targets, don't share with them at all but keep it to ourselves....hee hee.....here comes a woman now....shhhhh." * Do you see the contradictions in logic here ?????? I hear this everyday....everyday!!!!! Men network and share and don't consider it socializing or group learning. They think its hard, until you mention women, then suddenly they think it's easy for them, and hard for the women. I am usually standing only a few feet away from these conversations and accidentally overhear them while standing in the hallway waiting for classes to start. I know a lot of men who don't know the difference between RAM and hard disk space. Yet, they let the words roll off their tongue thinking if they say the word, they get credit for knowing it. So then, I start talking to them about it and find they don't know anything, except how much their computer has, but they have no idea what it actually is. They think they are the same thing. I am shocked!!!! I have seen many men delete stuff off the hard drive to get more RAM. Not talking about disk swapping either.

-- Pico Aves, December 10, 2003
Well the fact is that women who actually do enjoy programming are a minority. Men's and women's brains are different, and women who enjoy coding probably have something seriously wrong with them. Just like men who enjoy sewing or knitting or something like that have something wrong with them. My university has many more female students than male students, yet in all of my computer science classes, there are about ten guys for every girl. And of the girls, the vast majority are Asian, so I guess white girls especially don't like programming.

I don't think this is a problem. So what if there aren't many women in computing? If they don't like programming, then that's their choice, so let's leave them alone. No need to make a big deal out of this.

-- Marko _, December 16, 2003

Very interesting blog ;) I am a woman who is currently enrolled part time in Computer Science in Canada (west coast) and working as a "web developer". I think that it is easier to understand the situation if you look at characteristics of a "good" programmer -- not simply at the numbers of male vs. female comp sci students.

I know plenty of male students who just don't get it... Good programmers are few and far between -- it's a certain anal, detail oriented, perfectionist attitude that is needed. Plus, the ability to deliver (not just talk about it but DO it) and to think on your feet! And to add to all the above -- creative. Not necessarily *artistic* but creative as in creative solutions, problem solving etc etc.

I worked as a Java developer for 2 years (with only a post-bac diploma pre-.com explosion) -- only girl, only employee < 25. I agree with the previous post that how no one will *believe* that you know what you know without a degree. It's just more competitive out there. Plus, I have found that you have to work twice as hard for anyone to notice you amongst the "guys". Sorry, but that's my experience... being young doesn't help either.

The best way to encourage girls towards computers? Be a positive role model, do twice the work of the guys and hope that it makes things better in the future.

PS: I started out in Music completely unaware of computers. Pianists make really good coders ;)

-- Jodi Blair, February 6, 2004

PPS: Speaking of positive role models -- my grandmother used to "program" with punch cards and computers the size of a romm or something. It made me not so afraid to test the technical waters because I knew a woman personally who could do that. I hope that I have that kind of influence on a young person. Having no sisters, I have been sucessful with my brothers (1 in bach of comp sci, 1 mulling it over between comp sci and engineering) ;)



-- Jodi Blair, February 6, 2004

This subject has now become personal to me, since I am a gorgeous middle aged single mother who is finishing up my B.S. in Computer Science right now. I just don't fit in with the established image of a computer geek. Yea, its true, I was always a geek at heart; I have also had to work hard these past few years to learn the math, programming fundamentals and languages from the ground up. I was never encouraged like my male counterparts in high school math, physics or chemistry. I did excel in everything else, especially English. I have found that all women who are curious about technology and computers should forge through the "boys club atmosphere" and ignore their immaturity. When I recently took a Software Engineering course with 45 registered students (only 5 were female), I was the only woman in management for this mock software company. It was the worst case of sexist behavior that I have ever experienced from the boys club (all white male)! They are free to talk porn, send ascii porn ims, have desktops with pics of nude women, etc on and on. I could care less because sexuality doesn't offend me, but women in this atmosphere is invasive to the standard crowd. Its sad because although my professors are brilliant, I learn much more from my peers. I have to practically force some social skills into my department in this predominately white male or asian (male/female) dominated industry. *tip* Learn Kling-on as an ice-breaking language. j

-- Jamie Greer, April 13, 2007
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