In computing’s early years, when it was considered women’s work, all six programmers of America’s first digital computer, Eniac, were womenin 1959, an unnamed British female computer programmer was given an assignment to train two men.The memos said the woman had “a good brain and a special flair” for working with computers. Nevertheless, a year later the men became her managers. Since she was a different class of government worker, she had no chance of ever rising to their pay grade.
.. At its genesis, computer programming faced a double stigma—it was thought of as menial labor, like factory work, and it was feminized, a kind of “women’s work” that wasn’t considered intellectual. Though part of the U.K. government’s low-paid “Machine Operator Class,” women performed knowledge work including programming systems for everything from tax collection and social services to code-breaking and scientific research, using punch cards on a vacuum-tube computer.
.. But replacing experienced women with male novices didn’t go as government bureaucrats planned, according to Dr. Hicks. “They were just hemorrhaging money and time to try and train and recruit this ideal young man
.. Not only were the male recruits often less qualified, they frequently left the field because they viewed it as an unmanly profession. A shortage of programmers forced the U.K. government to consolidate its computers in a handful of centers with the remaining coders. It also meant the government demanded gigantic mainframes and ignored more distributed systems of midsize and mini computers ..
.. Some women who were pushed out of government and corporations started their own companies of women programmers.
.. All six of the first programmers of America’s first digital computer, Eniac, were women.
.. One of the earliest and most-respected coding programs was at Princeton University, which didn’t admit women at the time
The Maddeningly Simple Way Tech Companies Can Employ More Women
We recently set up an interview at a major company for a senior African-American woman software engineer. After meeting with the hiring panel, she withdrew her application, telling us she felt demeaned by the all-white male group that failed to ask her any questions about her coding skills. She described how one of the men had made it clear to her that she wasn’t a cultural fit and that therefore they didn’t need to proceed with technical questions.
.. executives don’t give as much thought to are some of the simplest determinants of how successful a company will be in hiring diverse candidates.
- Will women have any input in the hiring process?
- Will the interview panels be diverse?
- Will current female employees be available to speak to candidates about their experiences?
Many times, the answer to each of these questions is no, and the resistance to make simple changes in these areas is striking.
.. I often see companies work to make themselves appealing to candidates by emphasizing perks like Ping-Pong tables, retreats and policies that let employees bring their dogs to work. Those things can be appealing to candidates of any gender. But one size doesn’t fit all:
We have to tell these companies to talk just as proudly about
- their parental-leave policies,
- child-care programs and
- breast-pumping rooms.
At the very least, they need to communicate that their workplaces have cultures where women are valued
.. I remind them that when it comes to gender, they have to play catch-up, after long histories of eroding trust by grilling women about how they’ll be able to do the job with children at home
.. Silicon Valley companies are in love with themselves and don’t understand why the love isn’t always returned by the few women to whom they extend employment offers.
.. they’re so proud of so-called boomerangs — candidates who have left a company for reasons that may or may not be related to how it treats women and, after advancing their careers elsewhere, return.
.. Last year, we worked with a company that set a goal that women would make up 50 percent of the engineers on one of its teams. They did it by holding a webinar led by female employees, with 100 female candidates who asked questions about how the organization was changing to become more inclusive to women.