A new explanation for tech’s pathetic gender diversity: The personal computer

November 15, 2014 at 8:34 am 1 comment

Barbara Ericson gets quoted in this interesting piece in Salon.com.  I think that there were multiple things that happened at once.  The PC also led to a boom in enrollment, which (Eric Robert argues) led to a raising of standards to reduce load on teachers, which had an inhibitory effect on gender and ethnic/racial diversity in computing.

NPR’s Planet Money just had a piece (quoting Jane Margolis) where they explore this angle, that having a PC became a necessity to succeed in CS classes, and the PC was a “boy’s toy.” See here for the NPR piece.

The PC, and a decade later, the Internet, changed all that. Silicon Valley became a destination not just for the engineering-minded, but also for the profit-seeking. People motivated by money are different than people motivated by science. It’s always dangerous to venture too far into the minefields of gender-based determination, but it seems at least possible that the arrival of a generation of testosterone-fueled, super aggressive men who saw computers primarily as a way to get rich ended up creating a less welcoming atmosphere for women. Silicon Valley became more sexist because it became more about money and power, and less about actually doing something interesting and useful.

via A new explanation for tech’s pathetic gender diversity: The personal computer – Salon.com.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. alfredtwo  |  November 15, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    I think that to some extent computer education has gotten a lot less social. When I was an undergrad learning computing there was one computer lab with one computer in it. Conversations were a natural consequence of people waiting to use the same device. Even when we got a timeshared computer all the terminals were in one room. Cooperation, conversation, and community were still natural developments. Today, with PCs, working in isolation is a lot easier and has become more natural, and for introverts more comfortable.

    I think that we have more opportunities for avoiding this in high schools were we don’t expect students to work outside of the school computer lab. At the same time we probably have to do something to make this happen more
    easily. It’s more than just avoiding an uncomfortable environment for girls and underserved minorities.


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