An Indian Woman Engineer from Bangalore post
September 16, 2014 4:22 AM   Subscribe

 
The proportion of programmers in India who are women is at least 30 percent. In the US it's 21 percent.

And in the Netherlands, it's a very disappointing 10%. :-/

Reading the comments, it looks like some people get very defensive over things like this being pointed out. In my view, the article never states that Indian women have it better in every aspect of life, or that Indian society isn't sexist, but still, that appears to be what people read into it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:56 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


All we need to do is persuade people that programming is really low-grade, tedious drudgery, and reduce the pay. In a few years programmers will be 80% female.
posted by Segundus at 5:07 AM on September 16, 2014 [29 favorites]


FTA: “Vāde vāde jāyate tattvabodhah.” (“In continuous dialogue emerges knowing of the essence”).

This is a good way to describe Metafilter.
posted by Renoroc at 5:58 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


In a few years programmers will be 80% female.

If you really wanted this you would emphasize programming's nurturing, collaborative, and life-giving qualities, start relying more and more on non-profits and religious organizations staffed by volunteers, and make sure you had an upper level of male administrators to run things. If it worked for teaching, it will work for programming.

The article (by Vikram Chandra, the author of Sacred Games -- I wish we would develop a practice of routinely naming authors in FPPs) focuses a lot on discourse, the language we use to talk about women's work in engineering, and I think he captures something important in that. The more you talk like bros, the more you will get bros, and vice versa, particularly when you couple that with the practical questions of pay, hiring practices, working conditions, and benefits.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:08 AM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


As late as the 1960s many people perceived computer programming as a natural career choice for savvy young women. Even the trend-spotters at Cosmopolitan Magazine urged their fashionable female readership to consider careers in programming. In an article titled “The Computer Girls,” the magazine described the field as offering better job opportunities for women than many other professional careers. As computer scientist Dr. Grace Hopper told a reporter, programming was “just like planning a dinner. You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so that it’s ready when you need it…. Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming.” James Adams, the director of education for the Association for Computing Machinery, agreed: “I don’t know of any other field, outside of teaching, where there’s as much opportunity for a woman.”

Smithsonian Mag
. I know it's a previously, but I couldn't find it.
posted by rebent at 6:13 AM on September 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


All we need to do is persuade people that programming is really low-grade, tedious drudgery, and reduce the pay. In a few years programmers will be 80% female.

When computers first hit the business world, society was as yet undecided whether working with them was an engineering discipline (for men) or a clerical one (for women).

My mom's first job was as a "keypunch operator" but she went on to become a systems analyst.

On preview, rebent just beat me to it.
posted by Foosnark at 6:15 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


So, just anecdotally, the women I've seen leave IT have been weighing all of their options and choosing something else. Sure, sexism is a big problem in IT, and it did factor into these women's decisions. However, it's a problem in a lot of other professions as well. Additionally, IT in the US has a bunch of other problems that make it less of a viable, long term career. These problems include offshoring, insourcing with H-1Bs (which is an issue if you are a US citizen), ageism, and poor work-life balance (which is an issue for women because they tend to be the primary caregivers and need family friendly work places). The careers I've seen women choose instead are those which are no less difficult and probably have as much or more sexism to combat, BUT they have more long term stability. One popular choice appears to be medicine.

So, I'm wondering if the increase in India is at least partially due to the fact that it's where a lot of these jobs are being off-shored to, and therefore the career trajectories are a lot more stable and have more long term viability? As long as they also pay well, why wouldn't smart, capable women be attracted to that, sexism be damned? (That's what I was seeing in the US before the dot com bust.)

Also, all of the women I've seen leave IT were folks who were really good at and enjoyed it. The myth that this is something that women are just not innately capable of, or dislike, is just not true. Leaving was not an easy choice for them, and quite frankly, that's a loss for the industry.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:26 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another difference between the US and India is that you have no equivalent to American fraternity culture and "brogramming" in India in the way that these cultural forces have influenced Silicon Valley.
posted by jonp72 at 6:44 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think there was a post a few years ago about there being lots of women engineers in Iran. There, it is not very respectable for women to work outside the home; but they can code from home, if I remember the article well.
posted by thelonius at 6:49 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


American fraternity culture and "brogramming"

Been doing this professionally for fifteen years at a variety of companies at all levels of the food chain and personally I can attest that there is very little in the way of that mythical class of people in this business. They just don't fit the profile. Overcompensated, selfish a-holes who think their way is the the only way? You can't swing a cat without hitting one, myself included.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:50 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


The brogrammer thing is a bullshit canard, largely spread by people who don't work in the industry and furiously side-eyed by those who do.

This doesn't change the fact that the software engineering world is deeply, disappointingly sexist in a lot of structural ways, and it's incumbent on everyone who works in tech to actively fight that.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:06 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, a talented Indian software engineer once told me that intelligence is genetic and that's is why there'll never be many low-caste software engineers. I'd be curious to know whether that attitude is common in India; are most of those successful female software engineers Brahmin, giving India its own divide to worry about?
posted by clawsoon at 7:12 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


are most of those successful female software engineers Brahmin

In my experience, no. It's not a usually something that is discussed (and I'm white) but most of the engineers I know here in the US are not Brahman but from a variety of other castes (weavers, mechants, etc). It seems that going to engineering school is a way to escape doing whatever is the "expected" occupation.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:20 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Fiercekitten, is that in the US or India? I could see the two being vastly different, since members of lower (but not necessarily Scheduled) castes likely have far greater access to education and opportunities in the States.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:30 AM on September 16, 2014


> This doesn't change the fact that the software engineering world is deeply, disappointingly sexist in a lot of structural ways, and it's incumbent on everyone who works in tech to actively fight that.

Yes, but let's not assume it's so deep as to be intractable.

I don't know what's going on in my group but we are about 50/50 M/F and a small majority of the managers are women (though the director is male). This is a highly technical software and algorithms team with a lot of Ph.D.s The whole company isn't like this (it's 80/20 M/F in "tech" 70/30 overall), but when your growing as fast as we are, you just can't afford to skip qualified candidates due to sex.
posted by morganw at 7:59 AM on September 16, 2014


American fraternity culture and "brogramming"

Been doing this professionally for fifteen years at a variety of companies at all levels of the food chain and personally I can attest that there is very little in the way of that mythical class of people in this business.


I'm not in programming, but I do know women programmers in the Silicon Valley area and they are insistent that this type of culture does exist. I have no idea about the extent, but I've heard enough anecdotally from several different people that I'm not going to deny its existence.
posted by jonp72 at 8:31 AM on September 16, 2014


Brogramming is a new subculture that's evolved over the last decade or soon, with the coming of Web 2.0 and mobile app development, among other technologies that's enabled a new class of software devs in the wake of the last dot-com bust. There's plenty of other, older, sexist subcultures in Silicon Valley as well. A veritable taxonomy of sexisms.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:12 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Silicon Valley is not representative of IT as a whole in the United States. It's just an obnoxiously-visible part of it.

Source: I work at Microsoft. We sell billions of dollars of stuff, almost none of it to "brogrammers".
posted by Slothrup at 9:22 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, "brogrammers" is not something I have encountered so much in the regular sort of business world (Alpha Engineers, IT Dictators, Uncooperative Shitstains - yes), but there really is a thing that is very special to startup culture. Mark Cuban might have been the original model.

Startup culture is very, very different from older-school business, even technology business.

But. Every company I've worked for - in a boring industry, but software-related - has aspired to a sort of midwestern startup ethos. Beers stocked in the office fridge on Friday afternoons, karaoke machine in the conference room, poker nights, paintball teambuilding. The guys all bring their bikes on Thursdays and go ride the coast highway at 4:00. Football on the big TV in the conference room. Work Hard Play Hard...but mostly if you're a white guy. Women need extraordinary child care to play along, Muslims and Hindus stand around awkwardly while The Boys get drunk and grill food they can't eat in the parking lot.

And all that "aggressive" shit is just privilege protecting itself, so that the women and the brown people don't take away anything that's supposed to belong to rich white guys. Same as it ever was, it just goes bigger in SV than it does just about anywhere else.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:42 AM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm not in programming, but I do know women programmers in the Silicon Valley area and they are insistent that this type of culture does exist

Pretty much everywhere else is not Silicon Valley. SV startup culture has gender issues that are a completely different strain and makeup than the IT gender issues in the rest of the US. And really, lots of SV's gender issues are not constrained to the IT department - for example, the brohaha at Tinder happened between the Director of Marketing and the CEO and has more in common with "The Hills" than "Hackers".

Which isn't to say that the IT industry in general doesn't have gender issues, or to minimize their effect. It's just way more muted in comparison to SV.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:02 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, "brogrammers" is not something I have encountered so much in the regular sort of business world (Alpha Engineers, IT Dictators, Uncooperative Shitstains - yes), but there really is a thing that is very special to startup culture. Mark Cuban might have been the original model.

Startup culture is very, very different from older-school business, even technology business.


I guess I understand the disjuncture between Silicon Valley and non-Silicon Valley experiences here. Although the "brogrammer" culture seems to be limited to Silicon Valley now, I still can't help wondering if it isn't a reflection of male MBA culture influencing what was formerly controlled mostly by techies.
posted by jonp72 at 10:09 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fiercekitten, is that in the US or India? I could see the two being vastly different, since members of lower (but not necessarily Scheduled) castes likely have far greater access to education and opportunities in the States.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:30 AM on September 16 [+] [!]


When it comes to higher education, there are various social/govt policies that address this. As with all programs, it has its share of issues/drawbacks/side effects, but access to engineering schools is definitely not restricted from the lower castes.
posted by asra at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although the "brogrammer" culture seems to be limited to Silicon Valley now, I still can't help wondering if it isn't a reflection of male MBA culture influencing what was formerly controlled mostly by techies.

Male MBA culture is one aspect of the current startup bubble. That, crossed with very youthful- and thus, often juvenile- attitudes among just-graduated startup types, conspicuous consumption, and posturing, creates the brogrammer culture. Maybe other startup hubs in Austin, New York, and Boston have similar wannabe alphas.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:54 AM on September 16, 2014


How is a brogrammer different than, say, a former frat boy that works in banking, sales, law, etc.? Is it just a reaction against the societal stereotyping of programmers as geeky and socially inept?
posted by gyc at 12:24 PM on September 16, 2014


I don't think it's really all that different from the stereotype of Wall Street i-bankers or Hollywood aspiring agents, just with its own Bay Area spin. I don't think it's a reaction so much as how the current technological and economic environment in SV has led to startup culture being more accessible, and attractive for males of all types to dive in and try to score some sweet sweet VC funding. And so you have guys beyond the usual geeky/socially inept types studying CS and then becoming hackers. And meanwhile the gender ratio is still abysmal, if not worsened.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2014


It seemed to me like the same general type of hyperprivileged white guy going into the career where the money is perceived to be, at that particular time in their life when they make that choice.
posted by fleacircus at 1:55 PM on September 16, 2014


Apocryphon: "Brogramming is a new subculture that's evolved over the last decade or soon, with the coming of Web 2.0 and mobile app development, among other technologies that's enabled a new class of software devs in the wake of the last dot-com bust. There's plenty of other, older, sexist subcultures in Silicon Valley as well. A veritable taxonomy of sexisms."

Yeah, tech has been sexist for quite a while, but as far as I can tell the brogrammer meme itself is quite recent. The weird thing, actually, is that I think the term originated as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the stereotype of the typical programmer being the exact opposite of a fraternity bro. A riff on the age-old jocks vs. nerds dichotomy. I was active on Quora circa 2011 when this question took off, and my read at the time was that the whole thing was an joke among the SV tech set about how un-broish they were. It was a way to mock and distinguish themselves from meathead fratboy culture. Google search trends doesn't show any interest for the word "brogrammer" before the Quora question, and the earliest media reference appears to be this Businessweek article based on the Quora thread, so I believe the Quora might be near ground zero for the term's rise. Businessweek however, completely missed the joke and referred to "brogrammers" as if they were real and widespread. At the time of the article I think fraternity culture was still fairly marginal in tech, but then I read the latest SV journalism or hear about the founders of Snapchat and it appears things have changed...

Now that the money in the startup world is luring frat-types who previously would've gotten MBAs or gone into finance, it appears the parody has become reality, and the term "brogrammer" has the curious distinction of predating (and partially helping to create) the absurd culture it describes.
posted by Wemmick at 2:46 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]




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