Archive for August 31, 2015

When women were considered better programmers than men

Nathan Ensmenger has not only written a fascinating book about how computing became so male (see book link here), he also maintains a blog that updates the story.  The quote and picture below is from a recent post about a recently discovered source that describes women in computing from the 1960’s, back when women were considered better programmers than men.  The rhetoric about women being more “sensitive” reminds me of Karen Ashcraft’s plenary talk at NCWIT which I highly recommend (see link here). The story about the Miss USA winner who became a computer programmer is particularly striking.

The Bodony story is not an isolated  incident.  The book is full of stories from women, and in fact includes an entire chapter devoted to women in computing (“The Equal Sex”).   Seligsohn goes so far as to suggest that female programmers are not only equal in ability to men, but superior:

Given a complex customer problem, a female analyst/programmer will often handle the problem better than would her male colleagues with equivalent experience and ability.  Not because businessmen are more lenient or show favoritism toward the female of the species, but because the female is often more sensitive to the nuances of a problem and to the complex interpersonal relations that may be part of the problem.   In a very real sense, every computer problem with a customer is also a customer relations problem, and this is where feminine tact, insight, and intuition, combining with solid programming and analytical ability, can really pay off for the girl programmer.

via The Computer Boys Take Over | Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise.

August 31, 2015 at 7:57 am 10 comments


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