We can teach women to code, but that just creates another problem: Why Computational Media is so female

May 19, 2017 at 7:00 am 3 comments

I suspect that the problem described in this Guardian article is exactly what’s happening with our Computational Media degree program.  The BS in CM at Georgia Tech is now 47% female, while the BS in CS is only 20% female.  CM may be perceived as front-end and CS as back-end.

But here’s the problem: the technology industry enforces a distinct gender hierarchy between front-end and back-end development. Women are typecast as front-end developers, while men work on the back end – where they generally earn significantly more money than their front-end counterparts. That’s not to say that women only work on the front end, or that men only work on the back end – far from it. But developers tell me that the stereotype is real.

The distinction between back and front wasn’t always so rigid. “In the earliest days, maybe for the first 10 years of the web, every developer had to be full-stack,” says Coraline Ada Ehmke, a Chicago-based developer who has worked on various parts of the technology stack since 1993. “There wasn’t specialization.”

Over time, however, web work professionalized. By the late 2000s, Ehmke says, the profession began to stratify, with developers who had computer science degrees (usually men) occupying the back-end roles, and self-taught coders and designers slotting into the front.

Source: We can teach women to code, but that just creates another problem | Technology | The Guardian

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Learning Myths And Realities From Brain Science Survey to inform the next round of Computing Curricula

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bonnie  |  May 19, 2017 at 7:20 am

    When I worked in industry, I worked on backend technologies and stayed as far from the front end as I could. Why? Because I don’t have the skills for front end work. You really need the designers and people who know about building a good user experience working at that level. In the early days, when everyone was doing everything, there were a lot of terrible frontends produced. BTW, at the company where I worked, our front end people were all guys. But you are right, that field skews towards women. I think we educators are somewhat at fault. How many conference papers and grant applications start out with the idea that by adding digital media courses or specializations, we will attract more women? We are also guilty of stereotyping.

    Reply
  • 2. Beth Quinn  |  May 19, 2017 at 10:31 am

    This is a common pattern across professions. Distinctions get made between types of jobs, they get gendered, and those that are gendered female get paid less, regardless of skill needed or educational requirements. This is what keeps the pay gap in place. The only way to stop this it to fight the pervasive narrative that women are like this, men are like that. While there may be gender differences at a population level, you cannot use this fact to make decisions about individuals (the ecological fallacy). We cannot use the argument that “women bring something special to computing” as a justification for our diversity work. It supports this pernicious stratification of the field.

    Reply
  • […] powerful blog post from Monica Byrne with an important point. I blogged a while back that teaching women computer science doesn’t change how the industry might treat them.  Monica is saying something similar, but with a sharper point. I know I’ve heard from CS […]

    Reply

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