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10 December 2009 @ 03:04 pm
Computer Programmers, and Why They're All Guys (But Didn't Used To Be)  
I hate posting links to PDFs. I really do.

Also, this draft is a bit rough, with a fair number of simple typos.

It's also extensively cited, well written, and on a topic we really, really need more examination of. If it helps, it starts with an article out of a 1967 issue of Cosmopolitan. Seriously.

If you care about computer programming, feminism and how women get pushed out of industries they're skilled at, read it now, please, as much as you can make time for.


For the record, I didn't write it. Some guy at UPenn did. I'm about halfway through reading it. It's long. Even if you only have time to read the first two or three pages, do.
Zhaneelzhaneel69 on December 11th, 2009 01:49 am (UTC)
It says Draft Copy, do not cite or circulate. So.... um... I'm confused by the irony?
Zhaneelzhaneel69 on December 11th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
Okay, read the whole thing, and would probably want to re-read it as it was semi-confusing without some of the references.

Overall, I thought the author made some interesting points, but the inconsistent timing was frustrating. He would be talking about 1970s, then back to 1940s, then to the 1960s, then to 1950s, etc. It was hard to get a clear picture of the changing scope and thought process.

I think what is missed in the article, though he did hover close to it, is the general 'problem' with women in highly demanding long hour jobs. They do go home and take time for family. I ran into it in chemistry. While no one would come out and say it straight, I did have one gentleman tell me I didn't get a job because I talked about settling down (which I thought would be a good thing) but they read as 'I'm getting preggers soon, so I'll be out of the lab for 6 months.' Given the retrospective in that article and the state of the industry today, one of the reasons why 'young and male' programmers are seen as valuable is because they don't have social commitments, aren't out seeking a marriage or babies, and won't take time off for work. It is shifting as more programmers get older and put their foot down and do have families, but women are traditionally seen as less willing to do those hours.

Also those ads were scary. =]
msde on December 11th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
Young and male workers, in my experience, do seem to be more easily duped into working soul crushing hours as an exempt employee. Visa/green card employees as well, which only helps push demographics towards young and male.

I'm sure this is sexist of me, but I am of the firm belief that on average, women are less willing to put up with stupid hours on exempt salary. It takes men longer to figure out the concept of sustainable pace, work/life balance, or at the very least billable overtime. I'm not sure whether the difference comes more from gender roles, a biological clock dictating certain life decisions, or the salary discrepancy in the sexes.

It's hardly limited to my industry. If you want to make partner at a typical company as a woman, I would expect that you either need to skip kids or have them primarily raised by someone else (i.e. househusband or nanny), as there are going to be a lot of late nights and weekends at the office. Traditional gender roles are still in place, so more men are willing to make that choice than women, which can only reinforce sexist hiring practices.

As far as the article is concerned, it doesn't seem to cite much in the past 30 years, or the earlier and broader issues of girls studying math and science. It takes generations to push out sexism in the existing old boy's club, but it also takes getting enough women interested and trained in entry level positions.

Yeah, more scary ads from the '60s.
Noahangelbob on December 11th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
it doesn't seem to cite much in the past 30 years

I think it's pretty much treating the last 30 years (so around 1989 on) as being manifestly "computers are a boys' club, with very few women working there." The PC era has pretty much been that way, and oddly the open-source/internet era seems nearly as bad. Very few open-source contributors are female, and many new small Web 2.0 shops have the same work/life balance problems you mention.
Anthonyterpsichoros on December 19th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
I haven't finished reading the article, but seeing a link to this made me go back and look at it. Page 16 says
Compared with other professional men,“programmers dislike activities involving close personal interaction. They prefer to work with things rather than people.”52 In a subsequent study, Perry and Cannon demonstrated this to be true of female programmers as well.53
Once that became a self-fulfilling prophecy (or a standard), the results in the recent article become inevitable.
Noahangelbob on December 19th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
Once that became a self-fulfilling prophecy (or a standard), the results in the recent article become inevitable

Yeah. A lot in the article seems to match this description.
i_am_dshi_am_dsh on December 11th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC)
I haven't read the whole thing. The article rings true to me.

I did work crazy-long hours in my first 2 jobs out of school - sleeping in the office and all. Out-of-town boyfriend made that make sense, sort of. Third & fourth jobs, I had a local boyfriend who didn't like my business travel and long hours. I miss business travel.

I also met some mainframe folks (especially women) at my first job (IBM) who had come in as trainees from the aptitude tests and were very well compensated - as well as looking forward to a comfortable retirement.