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girls and technology!
August 16, 2014 12:45 AM   Subscribe

WYNC's Manoush Zomorodi investigates the gender gap in tech and computer science, and finds a number of people working towards bridging that gap, from childhood to university: completely restructuring a required computer science course to make it more welcoming to female university students, celebrating women in computing history (and recognizing that computer science wasn't so male-dominated, and making children's books and toys (even dollhouses!) for kids to explore programming concepts on their own. She also noticed that the majority of female computer science students in the US had grown up overseas - possibly because computer science isn't a common subject in American high schools. This is slated to change: a new AP Computer Science subject is in the works, with efforts to get 10,000 highly-trained computer science teachers in 10,000 high schools across the US. If you want to join Mindy Kaling in supporting young girls entering computer science, tech, and coding, there's a lot

Here are some organisations and groups that are working on getting young girls into tech:

* Girls Who Code hosts summer immersion programs in robotics, web design, and mobile development for current high-school sophomores or juniors

* Stanford women teach computer science to Bay Area high school girls through Girls Teaching Girls to Code

* Black Girls Code support girls of color ages 7 to 17 interested in STEM. They've also teamed up with the Latino Startup Alliance for La TechLa, aiming to teach 1000 Latina girls tech skills

* Girls Learning Code provides workshops and camps for girls ages 6 - 16 in Toronto

* DIY Girls gets girls involved in the DIY Maker movement

* Girls Make Games hosts game design summer camps, workshops, and game jams

* Tech-Girls collects resources such as games, events, and media for girls interested in various aspects of technology

* Australian initiative Tech Girls Movement turned inspirational women in the tech industry into superheroes

* Carnegie Mellon University hosts free weekly TechNights for middle school girls

* Techbridge host after-school programs for girls in Oakland as well as resources for families and educators

* TechGirlz runs TechShopz on various tech, DIY, and coding projects for adolescent girls on Pennsylvania

* Women in Technology in Virginia organises Girls in Technology, a similar initiative to provide opportunities to girls in grades 6 to 12

* Ghana software development company Soronko Solutions does outreach work for rural Ghanian children through Tech Needs Girls

* Tech Trek is a summer science and math camp for girls entering eighth grade in the fall in California

* The Boys and Girls Clubs of America has teamed up with CA Technologies for Tech Girls Rock

* The Rochester Institute of Technology in New York just hosted a week-long STEM camp for Deaf/hard-of-hearing girls entering grades 7-9 (also called TechGirlz)

* Microsoft hosts DigiGirlz High Tech Camps and DigiGirlz Day around the world

* Google's Made w/ Code hosts various resources, projects, interviews, and events for adolescent girls who want to embrace both coding and femininity

* App Camp For Girls hosts summer camps in Portland and Seattle

* ChickTech connects high school girls with women working in the tech industry

* The United Nations' International Telecommunications Union collects research and resources for girls in ICT worldwide

* DotDiva shares positive portrayals of computing to young women through profiles and webseries episodes

* The GEMS clubs have been introducing elementary and middle school students to STEM since 1994

* The Trades and Tech Gala for Girls hosts networking dinners for girls to connect to female mentors in skilled trades and technology in New Brunswick

* Alexa Cafe brings girls ages 10-14 together to co-create products, branding, and businesses with an eye on social change

* The Girl Scouts of America offer a Digital Art badge

* The Artemis Project at Boston University is a 5-week computer science summer program for girls entering 9th grade

* Auburn University and Southern Union Stage Community College in Alabama host camps and workshops for girls in grades 4-8 through Computer Science 4 All

* Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln mentor middle and high school girls interested in information technology through GEM

* IGNITE connects school-age girls in the Seattle school district to professional women in STEM

* The National Girls Collaborative Project hosts a wide variety of programs across the US to encourage girls to consider STEM careers

The National Center for Women and Information Technology also has a ton of resources and research on the current state of research on girls & IT, encouraging young women to consider careers in IT, best practices for recruitment in companies, computing classes, and computing competitions, and best practices in informal IT education.
posted by divabat (70 comments total) 98 users marked this as a favorite

 
In Vancouver, GIRLsmarts teaches programming to grade 6 and 7 girls. It's run by the University of British Columbia and volunteers.
posted by ripley_ at 1:36 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Wait. They don't have AP Pascal anymore?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:41 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


What a lovely subject for a post. Thanks for posting this!
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:42 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


But are you doing these girls any favors? Look, I've been a programmer for more than 30 years. It's an endlessly frustrating and delightful profession. But I think I hit the "sweet spot," when geeks ruled the universe. Today, I'm not so sure that I would recommend a career in IT to any young person. ("I never had a career, only work." --- Bernard Quatermass.) It's kind of a dead-end job, because as your responsibilities grow, you are too valuable to promote.
posted by SPrintF at 1:44 AM on August 16 [8 favorites]


But are you doing these girls any favors?

I hope you realize that this is the equivalent of "but why would gays want to marry anyway?"

Programming isn't just app coding. Programming (or being familiar with it) is a part of most branches of STEM, from biology to astronomy to mathematics. Being able to code is the gateway for everything in the sciences.
posted by sukeban at 1:49 AM on August 16 [39 favorites]


Learning to code as the child is the gateway to any number of scientific and technical careers. I love my scientific career and a lot of the (woefully underrepresented) women in my field go to great lengths to encourage girls to follow in their footsteps.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 1:53 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Thing I always tell people : encourage young girls to play videogames! As a young boy in the 80s, videogames were the first thing to get me interested in computers. It was what led me to the notion that if I spent enough time on it, I could make the computer do anything I wanted it to. Kind of a godlike feeling for a young boy to have.
posted by evil otto at 2:04 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Related: LibTechWomen, "a discussion and support community for women in tech who work for libraries". On the web and twitter.
posted by Wordshore at 2:05 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Oh, let me tell you abut "learning to code." I started out programming "Lunar Lander" on a programmable calculator. I was thrilled when my first FORTRAN program produced an elegant sine-wave graph on a line printer.

I understand that coding is an itch that appeals to anyone who hears the signal in the noise and wants to take control of that universe. I've been a programmer since middle school and can't imagine doing anything else.

But it's not for everyone. Really, if you don't love information architecture or arguing about procedural vs functional programming, it's not for you. If you think IT is a stepping stone towards management, think again, that's all I'm saying.
posted by SPrintF at 2:12 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


She also noticed that the majority of female computer science students in the US had grown up overseas - possibly because computer science isn't a common subject in American high schools.

I have certainly noticed this studying then working in technology. An overall male skew, still a decent showing overall by women, but near nil American women. My first guess was that the gendering of the topic was more of an American thing.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 2:14 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Being able to code is the gateway for everything in the sciences.

Hell, with increased automation for everything from Gigafactories to delivery drones to self-driving delivery trucks, being able to code is rapidly becoming the gateway for everything outside of the service industry, period. On the very distant horizon, some basic level of scripting/programming will become the new fundamental literacy.

My high school computer science teacher in '96 didn't understand object-oriented programming at all, so I wound up writing some lesson plans and teaching my classmates for three weeks (I'd done a programming internship at a game company the previous summer). In a class of 25 there were 3 girls (none from overseas), whom I'd have ranked #s 2, 3, and 24 for the class in terms of overall ability.

I never consciously realized this until just now, but that's probably the first time I encountered the weird hybrid self-selection/peer pressure bias women face in STEM careers.
posted by Ryvar at 2:18 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


But it's not for everyone. Really, if you don't love information architecture or arguing about procedural vs functional programming, it's not for you.

Sometimes you have to plot an elliptic curve in Mathematica or modelize the population growth of the cicadas you've been studying, or do the statistics analysis and pretty figures for the paper on chemical reactions you're writing. Programming is also for that. Programming is in everything.
posted by sukeban at 2:20 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]


evil otto: As a young boy in the 80s, videogames were the first thing to get me interested in computers.

eponyberzerk!

One of the most interesting things to me about gender distribution in science/engineering is how the skew in CS isn't reflected in many other college subjects which are even more hard-core. Materials Science labs are full of young women analyzing stress fractures under electron microscopes; girls in bioengineering departments synthesize replacement body parts; female physical chemists hack complex equations of thermodynamics. Why should computer science be uniquely resistant? The key, in my thinking, is that nobody does the other stuff as a teenage hobby, so the courses are taught as though students are coming in cold and can be urged to find a good academic fit. Undergraduate CS, on the other hand, has cruised for a long time on the already-established skills of high school hobby computer programmers, and intro courses make no attempt to "seduce" freshmen to the field along a path suitable for complete beginners. I don't think Harvey Mudd College's approach would work for a big research university -- intro engineering courses are still going to be weed-outs, but they shouldn't be weeding out everyone who wasn't an obsessed teenage PC hacker -- but we can at least run CS education the same way all the other science & engineering departments do, and we'll get more reasonable gender distributions.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:21 AM on August 16 [28 favorites]


And, frankly, it seems as if you conceive programming as a lifelong vocation for a self-chosen elite. For most people, programming is a tool. Everyone can learn to code to solve their everyday itches, from tweaking a WordPress plugin to writing an excel sheet to manage the invitations to your kid's birthday party. Sheesh.
posted by sukeban at 2:32 AM on August 16 [19 favorites]


CS departments need to offer a programming service course, not meant for majors but for people in other departments, like my math department offers college algebra, and discrete math for non-majors, and stats for non-majors. The advantage of having to offer general education classes is that you need to design courses in your subject area for people who hate your subject area, and people need to be able to program a little to do any sort of white collar job, even if it's something as simple as making an Excel macro. But it seems to me that most CS departments' idea of a general education CS class is "How to use a web browser and Microsoft Office".
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:46 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]


I should add (to make my last comment even slightly on topic) that in my experience a good gen ed math experience has gotten many of my women students to say, "You know what? I should try the next math class!" and we've gotten a number of our majors and minors that way. Of course, the student body at my school is 60-40 women/men, which changes things. I know my science colleagues have the same experience. A good gen ed CS experience would have the same effect.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:53 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I do communications work for non-profit orgs, and lately as I look at the opportunities in the field for people who are great at web design, etc. I've started to regret not studying any coding in college.

I played video games as a young girl, but there was always this sense that "if you're a nerdy kid who likes reading/writing/cultural studies and other 'soft' things, then computer science isn't for you. You should study the humanities or social sciences. CS is for the nerdy serious kids who want to have very intense coding or engineering jobs."

There's this popular conception that learning to code gives you a job where you sit in front of a computer typing code all day long, and it's disconnected from anything more aesthetic. I think that perception is why a lot of young women don't pursue computer science. I wish I had known that there are so many jobs where creativity/writing/design skills overlap with computer/tech skills.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:56 AM on August 16 [15 favorites]


But are you doing these girls any favors?

Yeah, why should we encourage them to go into a field which pays more than average and gives them the opportunity to work all over the world? Save that shit for the boys.

My husband is a software engineer. He can get a visa almost anywhere in Europe because of his profession and can afford the move because of his salary history. I'm currently able to match him with my biochemistry PhD, but in the past I earned way less, in the future he will outstrip me again pretty soon, and my overall career options are limited in way his aren't (ironically, if I coded this would be less of an issue for me). He also greatly prefers working in mixed gender workplaces, finding them both more pleasant and more productive, so is all for programs like this.
posted by shelleycat at 3:05 AM on August 16 [10 favorites]


I don't think Harvey Mudd College's approach would work for a big research university

HMC is what it is because it is not a big research university.

I'm thrilled that they have been making such strides in the gender balance since I went.
posted by flaterik at 3:49 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


There's this popular conception that learning to code gives you a job where you sit in front of a computer typing code all day long, and it's disconnected from anything more aesthetic. I think that perception is why a lot of young women don't pursue computer science. I wish I had known that there are so many jobs where creativity/writing/design skills overlap with computer/tech skills.

Interesting. I account for a fair chunk of my time writing shaders in Unreal 4's material editor - which is fantastic both in terms of immediate visual feedback and really helping visualize the flow of the math.

Also teaches game graphics core concepts like the complete interchangeability of XYZ positional data, RGB color data, and UV texture coordinates.

A significant chunk of the remaining time goes to rapid prototyping gameplay in the visual scripting language which has similar advantages in short feedback cycle time and ease of visualizing algorithmic flow.

Looks like Girls Make Games is targeting a much younger crowd (and Stencyl is a totally appropriate choice given that), but with "real" game engines making such massive strides in usability these days it's a shame there isn't an intermediate-level program along similar lines, because I'd seriously consider volunteering for that.
posted by Ryvar at 4:06 AM on August 16


But it's not for everyone. Really, if you don't love information architecture or arguing about procedural vs functional programming, it's not for you.


The way things tend to be structured right now, the only kids who get to find out if information architecture is for them are the boys. It makes a LOT of sense to have targeted initiatives towards introducing girls to coding, and letting those girls who do get their itches scratched by arguing about procedural and functional programming figure out that that is a thing.

Also, I call BS on the idea that those are the only reasons people should learn how to code. If I could code, I'd be able to use a more powerful stats package (like r) to analyze data for my dissertation, instead of being at the mercy of proprietary programs like SPSS. It'd be significantly easier for me to make a website. I could actually build the app that I've been imagining for a while. And so on and so forth.

But, as Solon and Thanks pointed out, it's been culturally implicit that I was the wrong sort of smart to do coding, and as this post and Elementary Penguin point out, the resources to learn how to code have either been behind barriers, or targeted at very different people from me.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:36 AM on August 16 [13 favorites]


Also, if you're feeling a little on the old side for these initiatives but want to learn, Girl Develop It is a great organization filling that gap by targeting women with courses on various types of coding. And it's practically cross-country!
posted by ChuraChura at 4:42 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


This is a bit self-promotional, but I recently wrapped up a multi-year rebrand, with a Web site redesign, for STARS Computing Corps. They are an organization that focuses on women, underrepresented minorities and the differently-abled and how they might be better integrated into technology fields. It began with professors at my university, but it has now spread to over 50 partner universities in the US. They have programs at varying levels from middle school to college. It's a neat organization and I was happy to play a small part in what they do!
posted by Slothrop at 6:08 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Solon and Thanks: I played video games as a young girl, but there was always this sense that "if you're a nerdy kid who likes reading/writing/cultural studies and other 'soft' things, then computer science isn't for you. You should study the humanities or social sciences. CS is for the nerdy serious kids who want to have very intense coding or engineering jobs."

There's this popular conception that learning to code gives you a job where you sit in front of a computer typing code all day long, and it's disconnected from anything more aesthetic. I think that perception is why a lot of young women don't pursue computer science. I wish I had known that there are so many jobs where creativity/writing/design skills overlap with computer/tech skills.


Replace video games with making all sorts of fangirly websites and blogging like a demon before "blogging" was even a word, and you have exactly my story (self link, obv). Indeed it was seeing all those opportunities for non-profits, as well as always being called on as the Resident Geek amongst my arts peers and being told that if I brush up on my Javascript I can get ALL THE JOBS, that's motivating me to get back into web dev and really dive into coding since I faded out of QBasic and Pascal about 20 years ago.

Noticing that gap between the arts and tech worlds led me to asking this question on Ask Metafilter, which had a wealth of resources. I do wish more people realise that you don't have to be exclusively science/math/engineering-minded to want to explore programming and computer science. Google picked up on this with Made w/ Code, and while it can feel a little bit like reinforcing stereotypes of femininity, I think they are on the right track with showing that being artsy or girly or interested in culture doesn't have to contradict being interested in code.

There are so many applications for code in the arts. Artists and arts organisations need to promote themselves, build community, share resources - someone's got to code and maintain those websites. All those movies and videos and music and books and ebooks: takes technology and code to get most of them edited, produced, distributed. Game design is very arts-based - the visuals, the story, the music. There's even now some very sophisticated software made especially for video performance, such as Rouge, created by a visual and performance artist.

And yet we're scaring all these people away by making coding and technology some sort of unattainable left-brain-only thing, people thinking "oh I'm just not a techy person" when really they could be if given the chance to do so. Attitudes like yours, SPrintF, are why I still have to cringe whenever my artist peers keep saying "we are analogue mediums in a digital world!" and why I want to whack every mobile monetizer who switch off when they can't understand why a performance artist would want to volunteer at a games conference over the head.
posted by divabat at 6:13 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


But it's not for everyone.

You don't intend this, I'm sure, but when you talk about a field that's badly skewed male and say "it's not for everyone", what you're really saying is "it isn't for women."

A somewhat more sanguine take on the situation comes from Care Huston - "The Pipeline Argument Is Bullshit and "Another Rant About The Pipeline" - who correctly notes that 40% of women leave the field within 10 years because of the toxic cultures and people involved, and that "pipeline" arguments are a clever way of pretending we don't need to talk about that.
posted by mhoye at 6:29 AM on August 16 [23 favorites]


But it's not for everyone. Really, if you don't love information architecture or arguing about procedural vs functional programming, it's not for you.

That's probably true for a hardcore silicone valley engineering job or coding at a research lab. But I'm working on the applied fringe of STEM in natural resources, and I work with a bunch of people who have been able to add just enough coding to their repertoire to be able do more interesting things in, say, GIS or in habitat or hydraulic modeling. These aren't the people designing the underlying software or who even know what "information architecture" means, just technical people for whom a bit of very basic coding opens huge doors for getting practical work done. But that's the difference between being a low-level GIS user who can make a few maps, and someone who gets paid to do complex and interesting watershed analyses, for example.

So the barriers to women at the front end (e.g. the CS department where I went to grad school was famously hostile to women at that time) make it less likely that a woman will have those skills in her toolkit and hence less likely to be handed the more interesting (and more prestigious and better paid) work.

My point is that this is an issue well outside of what we think of as traditional software engineering, and lowering those barriers to entry, including picking up a level of casual skills that can be applied across many fields (exactly what churachura describes above), will help women in all sorts of applied and technical roles.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:33 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Cate Huston, pardon me. Stupid phone.

But to borrow another argument of Huston's that I could not agree with more: if you, in your job as an engineer, discovered that 40% of your data or crude oil or widgets or whatever was unaccountably falling out of some process you owned and your proposed solution was to (1) deliberately not investigate where and why stuff was being lost, and (2) shove more stuff into the front end instead then you'd rightly get laughed out of your job.
posted by mhoye at 6:38 AM on August 16 [13 favorites]


So I'm a lady in STEM who has a liberal arts background (and by "Lady in STEM" I mean, I design and cut custom PCBs), and to me a major issue this (and this is piggybacking off of Divabat a little bit) is that Programming, like a lot of math/sciences is seen as this weird thing where you have to be innately good at it which does everyone a huge disservice (not to mention flies in the face of how learning works).

So what happens is like early in one's math career if you hit any stumbling block it's really easy and sort of encouraged to just stumble by because it's really not seen as important as a skill as literacy. So then you don't take the hard math and you might wind up like me, and fall in love with Electrical Engineering second semester of my senior year of college but with no real options.

And I think a major way of fixing this is making basic things more accessible at different levels- math needs to be seen as an important skill and "I'm just not good at math" shouldn't be nearly as acceptable an excuse as it is. Because a lot of people write off STEM because it's seen as this thing that is only inhabited by people who are either inherently gifted or insanely devoted but that isn't all of STEM, and there is a lot there that is accessible for people on all levels. But that's totally masked by people circlejerking about how strong their feels about pure functional programming languages are, or which competing decades-old text editor they like.

I still don't have a engineering degree, but that hasn't stopped me from learning to design complicated machinery and operate the complicated machinery to build it. And I really shouldn't be the odd one here.
posted by KernalM at 6:47 AM on August 16 [15 favorites]


Programming, like a lot of math/sciences is seen as this weird thing where you have to be innately good at it which does everyone a huge disservice (not to mention flies in the face of how learning works).

This is absolutely true, and also there are very strong biases in who is seen as being innately good at programming and who is not. I like to think I am a pretty good programmer these days, but that is in large part because I fit people's expectations of what a programmer ought to look and be like (male, white, nerdy, sufficiently middle-class to have had a computer at an early age on which to dick around with QBasic) and so at the beginning of my career people were willing to extend more responsibility and trust to me than my skill level at the time necessarily merited.

It comes back to the culture of anti-credentialism in the tech world, which is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it means that you can be a high-school dropout or have studied something entirely unrelated to your work and many people don't care very much or at all, which opens the doors to many people who can't afford college, or grew up in families where you didn't go to college, or don't learn well in classrooms, or simply didn't know what they wanted to be when they were 17. I think these are good things and I don't really want to live in a world where programmers are licensed like lawyers or engineers (which is one of the reasons I dislike the phrase "software engineer"). But sometimes this becomes an excuse to apply hazy filtering criteria like "culture fit" or ideas about innate aptitude which can be even more biased and status-quo-preserving than more traditional gatekeeping institutions.
posted by enn at 7:38 AM on August 16 [17 favorites]


I wanted to do this for a long time, but kind of hit a point in my life where I just can't find the time and energy and cash necessary to make the jump. And when I was younger, a lot of factors in my life were making it abundantly clear that this sort of thing was not an appropriate career for a girl. Now, I do think that's improving, but that doesn't mean "fixed". Someone I know is going through one of those boot camps now, with a lot of help from scholarships and stuff, I think at least part because she's female. The thing about boot camps, though? 800 hours in 12 weeks is a 67 hour a week schedule. Her kid is living with his dad for the duration but it was still a struggle for her to come up with not just the tuition but the money to live on in the meantime. It's like, well, that's a great option for women who want to come into the profession later, unless you actually have bills to pay--so, what, it's mostly a great option for women who have partners or parents who can support them? How progressive.

But the thing is, much as I love the idea, I'm not sure that all these things for kids help as much if they're going to be adults in an environment where they're still going to find that the working culture is unsupportive of things like part-timers, or even just people with parenting responsibilities that mean they can't work 60+ hours a week. It seems like all you're setting people up for under that circumstance is graduating from high school, deciding that they're never going to fit in, and settling for something less desirable.
posted by Sequence at 7:57 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


But to borrow another argument of Huston's that I could not agree with more: if you, in your job as an engineer, discovered that 40% of your data or crude oil or widgets or whatever was unaccountably falling out of some process you owned and your proposed solution was to (1) deliberately not investigate where and why stuff was being lost, and (2) shove more stuff into the front end instead then you'd rightly get laughed out of your job.

Agreed. I know anecdotes do not equal data, but I've seen women bail on IT as a career in part because of the toxicity of the work environments. It is definitely a problem, but it's not the only problem the profession has. There is also outsourcing, in-sourcing with H-1Bs, ageism, and the ubiquity of poor work/life balance (which is a big problem for many women because they are often responsible for child/elder care).

And it's not like IT is the only profession that has a problem with sexism. If women are going to have to fight the good fight anyway, they might as well do it in a profession that they perceive has more long term viability (like medicine).

So, the problem is more complex than getting more women into the CS/IT career pipeline. How are organizations going to fix the issues that may drive them away once they get there?
posted by jazzbaby at 8:58 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


But the thing is, much as I love the idea, I'm not sure that all these things for kids help as much if they're going to be adults in an environment where they're still going to find that the working culture is unsupportive of things like part-timers, or even just people with parenting responsibilities that mean they can't work 60+ hours a week. It seems like all you're setting people up for under that circumstance is graduating from high school, deciding that they're never going to fit in, and settling for something less desirable.

There is this idea that the tech working environment has to be 60+ hours a week, grueling, no part timers, etc. But this is not true now, and never has been true. Plenty of folks work in tech as freelancers, contractors. Plenty of companies support flex schedules, normal 40 hour work weeks, working from home. I have people on my team, fathers and mothers mostly, that work from home one or two days a week, work hours that let them leave at 4pm to pick up kids from child care, etc. I have folks that used to be full time that now consult part-time so they can go to school. The truth is the lack of talent available encourages me to be flexible in my workplace and I want to support people working to live anyway.

The truth is that tech-related work is no different than any other office job type work. Some places are really crappy to work, inflexible, don't offer part time opportunities, etc. Some do offer all of those things. But the undeniable fact about tech and programming is that it is everywhere, it is not going away, and it is as much of a sure bet career-wise as you can make these days. To discourage women and folks who want flexibility from it because "it's just such a grueling work experience" is foolish. I agree with Cate on her comments that especially in the top-end of the tech world we are really shitty to women and we have a retention problem, but I would and do still encourage girls to study it and go into the industry, because I believe we can make it better.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:00 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


I signed up as an interested volunteer after last year's code.org media splash. A few months ago, I got an email asking whether I was interested in volunteering to co-teach an AP computer science class at a local (Portland, Oregon) high school as a part of TEALS. It's a huge commitment, but I decided I'd kick myself if I didn't do it, so I signed up, along with three other volunteers. We'll be working with one of the school's classroom teachers, who will take over teaching the class after two years if all goes well. I'm going to try to get my own kids' high school to join the program before my daughter is a sophomore. Wish us luck!
posted by dylanjames at 9:21 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I don't buy many of the Arguments in this Report:



1. Computers were hogged in many Households by the Boys only to play violent Games - which Girls don't get into.

Bullshit.

A.) What about Households that only have one Girl and no Boys - and still the Girl(s) don't get into Coding.

B.) Saying Computer Games are basically all violent is a Question of Perception, because from the very Beginning of commercial Computer Games there were Adventures and later Builder Games that always had a huge female Following. This is also true for gazillion of Platform and Puzzle Games that encourage that "elusive" creative Thinking and Problem Solving that they say appeals so much to Women ...

Plus: While Shooters and Strategy Games do appeal mostly to young Guys there - but it is simply not true that there are no Women who do not get into these Games.

C.) There is also a weird established Fantasy here: If you play Computer Games you are into Computers and therefore it's easier to get Programming. I know many Programmers who do not play any Computer Games and never did, but the real Fallacy of the Argument is that the sheer Proximity of Something will get you an Insight.

Just because BILLIONS of People spend many Hours driving a Car doesn't mean they all understand something about Car Mechanics - and being a Car Mechanic doesn't make a you a good Driver either ....



2. Removing the blabbering Eggheads from Class is helping teaching and makes Courses more attractive.


This whole Argument is another Mutant Child of the Self-Esteem Movement that has ruined so much about Education.

Removing the best Students from a Class just because they intimidate the crappy ones does NOT improve the bad Students.

It is GOOD to show the Difference between Skill Levels, but it is the Job of a Teacher to make Students catch up and level in Terms of Skills as much as possible. But it's simply the Reality that of a Meritocracy that some People are better than others.

Especially Feminism was founded on the humanitarian Principle of Equality - which is good and should never be compromised. But it is once again a logical Fallacy to say that because we declare everybody equal they therefore will be equal in every Aspect of Life and also enforce a pseudo Equality when it comes to actual Achievements.

Therefore a School or University or whatever should NEVER throw People with extremely different Skill Levels in the same Course. That is the underlying Cardinal Sin (often also by so called Affirmation Action). These Students need to be trained up to a similar Level instead of letting them being left behind by inadequate Skills.

IT - as any complex Field - relies heavily on Collaboration. Therefore such Collaboration has to be taught in Programming Classes. In Business and Production many Teams using Scrum also rely on Peer Review of Code. So Programming can be actually a very social Affairs - and not the stupid Cliché of the male Nerd unable to talk about anything.

Anyone who has ever been in a Code Review Session and knows that Collaboration is essential. So the "creative and Problem Solving" Approach is all there ... no need to introduce it ...

So Creativity and social Skills is something every Programmer needs as well as topical Competence.




3. Taking the Girls to an all female Women Computer Science Congress

Let me ask you this: Why do Women need to see that other Women do a Job, so they chose it for themselves and stick to it?

This has nothing to do with IT, but more with the Anglo-Saxon Culture of Conformity and stupid Gender Roles.

Don't blame this on IT in general or Guys.



When one of her interviewed Experts tries to explain some of Ada Lovelace's Achievements, she fades out and says she is not really interested


What a great Way to show what's wrong with Women in Tech and Teaching it than to not have the Stomach to face some "boring" Details like actual Tech Achievements by a Women.



We have to use Stories to "trick" Women into getting interested in Tech

Once again Bullshit!


First of all it's incredible patronizing to trick anyone into something. It basically treats Women like Idiots: "Hey look at the Shiny-Shiny! You will like it! Coooomoooon ...."

Second: Yes, it is good to use Storytelling and Anthropomorphization to introduce People to any Subject, but the Passion for a Profession shouldn't come from such Things.

I don't like that she mixes here Children Books with professional Training. Once again one might lead to another, but they are not the same Thing and they should also never be Gender-specific. Good Code is good Code. There is no female or male Code.


Computer Science is having a Problem in the US, but it's not a general Problem everywhere

At the End of the Report she finally looks at the global Picture - and discovers that it's mostly an US-Perception and Education Problem.

So the initial Premise of "The Way We Teach Computing Hurts Women" is utterly wrong.

It should read "How American Culture has shaped how Women think about Computer Science".


So a lot of these Initiatives listed above come from America's shitty Relationship with Science and Education. So don't project all your cultural Idiosyncrasies onto everybody and blame the wrong People for your Failures.
posted by homodigitalis at 9:25 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Forgive me for a set of incomplete thoughts on this, but...

I've been writing code since 1995 (and I swore I'd be done with it by 2014, but it's all I'm really good at professionally - and it makes me a tidy sum of income - soooo).

1. I like the expression 'Girls in Technology' better than 'Girls in STEM', because, from the data, women make sizable majorities of enrollment and degrees in a number of scientific disciplines (like Psychology, Biology, or Zoology for example) - really, the deficit isn't 'Women in Science' or 'Women in Math', it's strictly 'Women in Computer Science' and 'Women in Engineering'. And of the engineering disciplines, as the engineering approaches more 'pure technology', the number of women drops off. For instance, the percentage of women in Bioengineering (40%) or Environmental Engineering (45%) vastly outstrips the percentage of women in Mechanical Engineering (12%) or Electrical Engineering (11%). We don't have a 'Women in STEM problem', we have a 'Women in Technology problem'.

2. I acknowledge that I'm about as privileged as you can get (white, male, American, heterosexual, no disabilities, upper-middle class, college-educated, property owner) - so, feel free to discount my sentiment. But, technology is an unbelievably hostile place, PERIOD. I dropped out of engineering programs to pursue degrees in other disciplines three separate times - because the fields are full of condescending, know-it-all pricks. (I was in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science). Sure, I was bringing in high grades and doing well on all of my exams, I just generally didn't like the people in the field - and these were people who came from the same (privileged) background as me.

2a. Geeks are a lot who freely insult each others work. My work regularly gets raked over the coals by my peers. It's not that I do a poor job, but being hyper-critical is almost uniformly part of the technology culture. Were I not secure in my talents and well-respected for delivering solid work, I'd have been intimidated out the business a long time ago.

2b. There certainly *is* something to the 'hobbies and interests' bit of collegiality. I honestly don't give a shit about the latest Apple products and cellular technologies and esoteric programming languages and features of computer hardware or automobiles... But everybody else in my industry looooooves talking about these things - I am frequently left twiddling my thumbs when at a table with 2-3 of my peers. Had it not been for being good at problem-solving and liking languages, I'd have ditched a long time ago.

So, my heart goes out to any young woman (girl?) who is interested in tech, but it's a business that is really unwelcoming to a wide variety of personality and work types, and I (sadly) don't think that's about to change any time soon.
posted by The Giant Squid at 9:27 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


Regarding "are we doing girls any favors?" I agree with the sentiment that business computing is absolute drudgery, yet where there remains systemic bias against women, it must be corrected full stop. The problem of business IT computing sucking your soul away is not corrected by keeping women out, the problem is corrected by raising hell and refusing to be treated like a mushroom at work.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:33 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I left my last job because of harassment. It finally made me so ill that it just wasn't worth it. I filed a complaint with my employer and they treated me appallingly. I filed a complaint with the appropriate state board, and got a mediated settlement. It was a wretched experience. I took it that far because I want women, non-whites, handicapped people, old people, etc., to have more options. Computing jobs pay well. In a competitive atmosphere, people will behave badly to protect their own options. Women are especially likely to not fight it. Don't let them get away with it. Women have the equality that they have because they fought for it. Computing is also unwelcoming and often hostile to African-Americans, non-young people, handicapped people. "That's just how it is" = 'We're successful in keeping our turf.' Seriously, if you let this crap stand, you are part of the problem. It's everybody's job to do the right thing and end the hostile atmosphere.
posted by theora55 at 10:34 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


I meant no disrespect towards women or towards any group. I have just observed, over my many years, that programming, like writing or photography, is as much an art as it is a skill. I have never met a good programmer that wasn't passionate about the work. I just worry that, today, kids have a much harder row to hoe than I did.
posted by SPrintF at 11:23 AM on August 16


Everyone: the secret Abrasive Male Developer doesn't want you to know is that programming is not hard. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you can freely obtain everything else you need to get started (including programming languages, development environments, and reams of YouTube videos and "Hello World" tutorials).

I'm a girl who somehow managed not to be scared off by my university's abysmal 1st year CS courses, and I graduated with a degree in CS. But still I would say that most of my skills are self-taught. My professors weren't much help at all, nor did they give us much practical experience.

If you want to learn coding at any age, pick a problem you are passionate about solving, and get started! It will take dedication and lots of practice, but it's totally possible if you set your mind to it.
posted by mantecol at 11:32 AM on August 16 [8 favorites]


Women should be involved in all the things that we know they aren't involved for reasons that are never clear, but have NOTHING do with allowing women to pursue the things they are actually interested in, but rather to server the purposes of some kind of vague politics du jour.

Sigh.
posted by gsh at 12:35 PM on August 16


Everyone: the secret Abrasive Male Developer doesn't want you to know is that programming is not hard.

To expound on this a bit: even after years in the industry, I consistently find that the hardest part of any programming project is overcoming the deep-seated belief that I am not going to be able to do it, especially if I encounter any bumps in the road up front. It gets you coming and going, because if you give off the impression that you are not capable, you are less likely to be entrusted with important projects and positions. Which further robs you of practice and credibility.

Universities might like to pretend that they have a secret sauce to bestow upon their CS majors, but it's not really true in the open source age we have just stepped into. Not least of all because software is evolving so rapidly that anything you learn in university is likely obsolete by the time you graduate. If there is one thing I'd like to change, it's not university CS programs, but our collective beliefs that:

a) Boys are inherently better at IT-related tasks than girls.
b) Those who go around loudly proclaiming their skills are necessarily better than those who evaluate themselves more cautiously. Likely all you're hearing is a reflection of our collective beliefs about who should be good at what.
posted by mantecol at 12:40 PM on August 16


re:homodigitalis I think you are really missing the larger point that the system in the US is broken, and something needs to change in order to fix it. Remaining with the status quo is just as much a decision as trying something new.

Computer Science is having a Problem in the US, but it's not a general Problem everywhere

I don't understand why a region US content provider can't focus on US problems. The fact that it's not a problem in other places gives direction to a followup piece. I'd be interested in a foreign perspective on what specifically could be implemented to make the ratios of men to women more equal.

1. Computers were hogged in many Households by the Boys only to play violent Games - which Girls don't get into.

I agree that violent games are a red herring. But as a woman who grew up in an all-girls household, I can attest to the fact that video games were treated as decidedly not for girls. The fact that I didn't have brothers just meant that they weren't in the house at all. I think video games aren't the only way to get into programming, but understanding the mechanisms (and especially modding and running complicated "cheats" provides the story telling and incentive to learn the basics in a way that isn't incentivized for girls.

2. Removing the blabbering Eggheads from Class is helping teaching and makes Courses more attractive.

As a woman who errs more on the blathering-egghead side, I actually think that's a good idea. It can be an issue of putting people with different abilities together, but there is also the type who wants to argue half-understood material with the teacher, to the detriment of their learning process, and other students.

3. Taking the Girls to an all female Women Computer Science Congress
Anyone who has ever been in a Code Review Session and knows that Collaboration is essential. So the "creative and Problem Solving" Approach is all there ... no need to introduce it
I think this is an important point, but it is also important to know that collaboration is harder when people assume you are bad at your job. This Slate article gives a really interesting perspective on what it is like to be assumed to be competent or not.

Don't blame this on IT in general or Guys.
I don't think that there is some monstrous cabal of "Guys" that has created this attitude, but I do think it is a real problem in the North American perception of programming.

We have to use Stories to "trick" Women into getting interested in Tech

First of all it's incredible patronizing to trick anyone into something. It basically treats Women like Idiots: "Hey look at the Shiny-Shiny! You will like it! Coooomoooon ...."

Okay, your characterization is incredibly patronizing. People will never be interested in anything unless it has relevance in their life. You can't become interested in solving the unsolved mysteries of computer science until you know what those are. Programming has a million applications for every day use, so why not get excited about coding for fashion design or interactive story telling or whatever happens to be your passion? It's no more ridiculous than using programming to get unlimited ammo for a first-person-shooter.

Also, I assume your first language is German, and your English is impeccable, but it's not customary to capitalize all nouns in English and I can't help but read your post like you are YELLING every OTHER word. I'd err on the side of over-lowercasing
posted by fermezporte at 12:43 PM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Isn't too valuable to promote a good position, SPrintF? Just take another job elsewhere for way more money. Ideally, we'll kill off all companies with any significant management and administrative population anyways, meaning nobody gets "promoted" anymore.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:20 PM on August 16


I have never met a good programmer that wasn't passionate about the work.
“Passion” is how software developers voluntarily lower their own status. It’s a harmful idea that needs to go. Michael O. Church:
What most of us don’t realize is that this culture of mandatory “passion” lowers our social status, because it encourages us to work unreasonably hard and irrespective of conditions. The fastest way to lose social status is to show acceptance of low social status. For example, programmers often make the mistake of overworking when understaffed, and this is a terrible idea. … Executives, a more savvy sort, lose passion when denied the advancement or consideration they feel they deserve. They’re not obnoxious about this attitude, but they don’t try to cover it up, either. They’re not going to give a real effort to a project or company that acts against their own interests or lowers their own social status. They won’t negotiate against themselves by being “passionate”, either. They want to be seen as supremely competent, but not sacrificial.
How the Other Half Works: an Adventure in the Low Status of Software Engineers
posted by migurski at 1:39 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


I took the old AP Computer Science class (aka Pascal programming) back in the mid-1990s. I was one of three girls in the class. I also consistently had the highest grade in the class and got a 5 on the AP test. The only other 2 guys to even pass the AP test got 3s. They both went on to get degrees in computer science, and I'm a biologist.

I really really liked programming and that class, but my enjoyment and skill were not supported and encouraged in any way. It was pretty clear that everybody in the room thought it was totally wrong that I was good at this stuff, and I went from always raising my hand during class discussions to just sitting and coding during class discussions.

I picked up C++ for fun in college, which was similar enough to Pascal to be pretty easy to learn, but after college, I ended up going more on the field biology side than the ecological modeling I thought I would be doing. In grad school, I picked up some SQL skills, mostly just to force MS Access to do what it didn't want to do. These days, I can use R and Python okay to crank out little useful things, and unlike most people I'm not flummoxed by a command line, but I really regret not having better coding skills.

I think if I had ever felt supported along the way, I could have gone a very different direction career-wise. I sometimes feel like I took the easy way out by choosing a STEM career where there were already plenty of great women working and where grad school enrollment has reached parity. I probably could have fought my way through in CS or engineering. But then I look around me, and see all the leaky pipeline things still happening even in academic biology, and I'm happy with where I ended up.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:52 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


technology is an unbelievably hostile place, PERIOD.

I wish that there was a place on the web for technology people that was as seriously moderated as Metafilter. I love tech and work with tech, but I read exactly zero tech websites because of the ambient tribalism and hostility. It's as if everything technology-related is written for people who work in fancy silicon valley start-ups and not regular people who use technology as a part of their life and work. I would love to read about programming and technology projects in a place that was actually friendly and humane.
posted by a dangerous ruin at 2:09 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


(Haven't had a chance to read all the comments yet, sorry, but) I searched for and didn't find Linda Liukas' highly, highly oversubscribed kickstarter for "Hello Ruby", which raised $380,000 of its $10,000 goal. There's a lot of interest in young girls learning to code.

I went in for the hardcover and workbook, and I'm very hopeful that something nice will come out of it. The initial illustrations looked lovely.
posted by RedOrGreen at 4:15 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Linda Liukas' highly, highly oversubscribed kickstarter for "Hello Ruby"

"I'm originally from Finland."

Like I said.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:00 PM on August 16


Programming is a valuable skill. Learning to think algorithmically and computationally should be integrated into our education. The latter two are subsets of problem solving and critical thinking.

But. Programming is going the way of woodworking, machine operating, and drafting-- a form of skilled labor valued for how cheaply they can be done by someone else. Yes, many programming jobs can pay decently, but there are other jobs that pay just as well if not better. If you want to make a full court press to encourage people to do something, it would be best if you were actually doing that person a favor vs. the alternatives.

What we need are more women entrepreneurs and science/technology leaders. It is not a problem that women are eschewing careers as staff programmers writing C# objects for enterprise software consulting houses. Ultimately, most programming is a trade, like many other well paying trades.

Women are pretty smart-- while they are eschewing careers in programming, medical school enrollment is approaching male/female parity.
posted by deanc at 5:24 PM on August 16


Harvey Kilobit: "I don't think Harvey Mudd College's approach would work for a big research university -- intro engineering courses are still going to be weed-outs, but they shouldn't be weeding out everyone who wasn't an obsessed teenage PC hacker"

At least at my RU/VH university, we don't have weedouts in the sense that courses are hard to pass. Rather we pick by GPA the top X applicants to 'pro school' , the final half of the CS curriculum.

The challenge to implementing Harvey Mudd's strategy is forcing everyone to take a CS class. We have around 22k undergrads, and there are 1429 engineering freshmen. Women are around 20 percent of engineering undergraduates: 1000, which is roughly the same size as the CS program itself. It would need to magically siphon up all the women in engineering to reach 50/50.

CS for All Engineers is doable, though a bit aggressive, and many Attempting to make CS101 a mandatory class will be just a bit harder to scale up, and Harvey Mudd doesn't offer degree options that avoid say the Calculus series. What might make sense is some targeted poaching, but I doubt the Public Health & Human Services departments would enjoy that, and I doubt you'll get many converts from the 1000 or so students of Exercise and Sport Science.

I'm actually kind of curious; Prof. Alvarado presents data showing the gender parity increasing along with the college. How did that spike in women enrolling at HMC happen, exactly? And how much of the CS gender gap was resolved by that endogenous factor vs the curriculum changes made?

Elementary Penguin: "CS departments need to offer a programming service course, not meant for majors but for people in other departments, like my math department offers ... But it seems to me that most CS departments' idea of a general education CS class is "How to use a web browser and Microsoft Office"."

I've been in CS departments that offer these. And it's often the other departments setting the syllabus. Which means Excel for the business students, Word for the humanities students, and WWW for the 'new media' programs. And plenty of departments run their own programming curriculum specific to their field. Python simulations for physicists, PLC programming for mechanical engineers, big data genomic algorithms for the cellular biologists, and Markov chain models for the statisticians. There's generally very little desire for CS departments to roll these field specific programming courses together, or to offer a prerequisite, because the real money in CS is in research not teaching.
posted by pwnguin at 5:27 PM on August 16


RedOrGreen: Linda Liukas got profiled in the podcast, so I linked to Hello Ruby in the FPP under "children's books".

I was looking into bootcamps recently and ran into a lot of the same issues Sequence brought up. They cost a zillion dollars and demand all of your time - some even explicitly say you're not meant to have part-time or freelance work! How do they expect you to pay rent or eat?! At least universities have work-study!

(As for H1-Bs: you know, women immigrants exist too. *waves*)
posted by divabat at 5:27 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


H1-B visa holders are overwhelmingly men. Also, they are not immigrants, they are guest workers, who do not have the bargaining power of naturalized citizens or green card holders.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:48 PM on August 16


I meant "immigrants" a little more generally, given that I hold student visas and am in the middle of renewing my visa so that I can work for a year. I may well be one of the H-1B people you talk about, if I decide to continue working in the US, and I'm female. I know all too well the lack of bargaining power we hold.

Though I'd imagine that the current toxic environment against women in tech (which probably contributes to the onerousness of H-1Bs) is part of why you don't see a lot more women on that visa.
posted by divabat at 5:52 PM on August 16


Yeah I took the blabbering-egghead strategy they talk about to be more about putting people with compatible experience together so they can learn at their own paces. They're not being kicked out of class.
posted by divabat at 5:55 PM on August 16


The big R1 university I attended actually put into action some of the ideas tossed around in this thread, and that was decades ago.Wisely, they scheduled the latter only during spring semester, so the hard-core teenage hackers had at least a few months of general college-student-hood before they were allowed to utterly geek out.

I don't recall this system leading to an increase in "Girls Who Code," but that was at a time that there were far fewer women engineering majors in our school in general, so I'm hesitant to draw conclusions from that.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:57 PM on August 16


But. Programming is going the way of woodworking, machine operating, and drafting-- a form of skilled labor valued for how cheaply they can be done by someone else.

I mean, I can only speak for myself, but I'm trying to get the basics of HTML and CSS down because more and more of the humanities-ish jobs I'm looking at are requiring some familiarity with coding (whether it's something simple like Wordpress templates or more specialized databases.) And these aren't upper level positions, either. I really wish I had been able to take basic CS electives in college, but the CS track was pretty much for CS majors only. I'm really looking forward to exploring some of the options listed here.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:20 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


My personal observation is that there is an additional factor in the gender gap that is rarely discussed. There is a type of young male that gets interested in programming early on: smart and inquisitive but incredibly bad with people and having very few friends or social outlets. Why this type of isolation seems to afflict young awkward males more often than females is a subject for another discussion, I'm sure. But eventually, many of these smart but isolated boys stumble their way into technology as a means of self-actualization.

I'm not suggesting that society should find some way of strictly cutting off social contact for bright, young, geeky females... but if you did, I bet you'd see a noticeable uptick in girls interested in programming.
posted by the jam at 12:05 AM on August 17


Couldn't we also try to get programming to just be a normal, accepted skill that many people are interested in for different reasons, and incorporate it into all kinds of media/disciplines? I mean, the typical programmer stereotype just seems harmful in the long run, both for encouraging people to learn more coding skills and for people who feel trapped/excluded by it.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:27 AM on August 17 [5 favorites]


also I am doing the basic HTML skills thing on Code Academy right now and it turns out obsessively typing on being a healthy and normal contributer to Metafilter has taught me a great deal about closing my tags, fancy things to do to words, and the proper use of the < img > tag so maybe we all just need to encourage the youths to join us
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:55 AM on August 17


I'm not suggesting that society should find some way of strictly cutting off social contact for bright, young, geeky females... but if you did, I bet you'd see a noticeable uptick in girls interested in programming.

Eh, I was that girl, and as I mentioned earlier computers were my method of self-actualisation. That doesn't make the misogyny in the tech world (whether as creator or consumer) any less apparent. The problem isn't that girls aren't interested - it's that they're not even given much of a chance to consider if they're interested, let alone follow through with it, because the misogyny is overwhelming.
posted by divabat at 1:52 AM on August 17 [3 favorites]


I'm a software tester and also happen to be female. When I started out in QA nine years ago, testers didn't have to know how to code to get a job. That's changing rapidly.

Suffice it to say that I've learned how to code, at least to build simple programs in test. Do I think a good tester NEEDS to know how to code? It doesn't hurt. You start learning what's possible to accomplish with code, what good error handling is (definitely a tester's domain), and you develop some empathy for the programmers whose code you test because you learn how easy it is for bugs to creep in.

However, I do think you can be a truly great manual black-box tester without knowing how to write a single line of code. That perspective can be invaluable for finding critical bugs. Jobs for those folks in the States are becoming really scarce, sadly.

Most importantly: What are my job alternatives right now at my current income level? Next to none. So I'm glad I learned how to code - to help preserve my non-coding job.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:08 AM on August 17


My personal observation is that there is an additional factor in the gender gap that is rarely discussed. There is a type of young male that gets interested in programming early on: smart and inquisitive but incredibly bad with people and having very few friends or social outlets. Why this type of isolation seems to afflict young awkward males more often than females is a subject for another discussion, I'm sure. But eventually, many of these smart but isolated boys stumble their way into technology as a means of self-actualization.

I'm not suggesting that society should find some way of strictly cutting off social contact for bright, young, geeky females... but if you did, I bet you'd see a noticeable uptick in girls interested in programming.


I was a horribly socially isolated girl. In junior high school, BBSes were my only real social outlet, and I stayed home sick whenever I could to avoid both the tormentors and just the shame of hiding in the library or the computer lab at lunch because I didn't have any friends to eat with.

I think society just ignores young awkward girls because we don't fit the myth that girls are all genetically determined to be social and bad with math and computers.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:25 AM on August 17 [9 favorites]


Here's some resources for women learning how to code.
posted by divabat at 7:03 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


(the same page also has other resources for helping women and girls to code)
posted by divabat at 7:16 AM on August 17


A number of people have mentioned above how expensive the bootcamps tend to be, so I wanted to make sure that there's a link to Hacker School here, which is completely free and actively feminist. (previous Metafilter discussion of Hacker School).
posted by hydropsyche at 7:54 AM on August 17 [2 favorites]


Just note that Hacker School requires that you have some programming knowledge and experience already.
posted by divabat at 5:30 PM on August 17


On Friday afternoon, I left my work as a Linux sysadmin a little earlier than I should have, because I was tired of hearing my colleagues in my exclusively male office making rape jokes. I didn't want to start my all-too-short weekend with rape jokes, so I just got up and walked out.

As far as I'm aware, this isn't an uncommon thing in the tech sector - it might be a little worse where I work than in your average workplace because it's an intersection of two traditionally male fields (tech and journalism) but I think tech workplaces are particularly unwelcoming places generally, whether you're female or male - if you don't fit a particular dudebro personality type, you will find it very hard indeed to gel with the culture.

Even when it's not rape jokes or unsavoury comments about queer people or generally sexist office chat that I thought got left behind in 19-fucking-80, the atmosphere is competitive and unwelcoming. In my office, there are people who stride around literally shouting at people if they perceive them to be wrong on some technical matter, there is a loudspeaker that goes "RED ALERT!" once every two minutes regardless of whether there is any tech problem going on (to keep us on our toes), an expectation that you'll forget your work/life balance, be available 24/7 to respond to things and a lot of pressure if you aren't and it is a very macho, masculine, hyper-competitive place to be. I'm deeply uncomfortable here and looking to get out, and I'm not even (biologically, anyway) female. (I am not on the gender binary, and I do consider myself queer, so I have to hide a lot of myself to be here.)

So all that considered, I think the question above - why would girls consider a career in tech when this is the prevailing atmosphere in a lot of tech workplaces? - is a legitimate one. The question isn't "how do we encourage girls to get into tech?" but "how do we make the tech sector more welcome to people of all genders and personality types, rather than one very narrow one, so valuable people consider it as a career option?". I'm sure some people thrive on this sort of environment, but not me, and not most people I know.
posted by winterhill at 2:09 AM on August 18 [6 favorites]


There's a difference, though, between "girls should reconsider getting into coding because the tech industry can be pretty misogynistic" and "girls should reconsider getting into coding because only The Truest Most Passionate Coders Who Say Ni should get into tech".
posted by divabat at 6:27 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


There's also Greenlight for Girls and Digital Muse for people wanting to inspire girls in STEM in Belgium!
posted by hanachronism at 11:17 AM on August 21


* Girls Who Code hosts summer immersion programs in robotics, web design, and mobile development for current high-school sophomores or juniors

Incredible game called Tampon Run designed by teenage girls at camp
posted by homunculus at 12:26 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


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