The computing profession faces a serious gender crisis. Today, fewer women enter computing than anytime in the past 25 years. This book provides an unprecedented look at the history of women and men in computing, detailing how the computing profession emerged and matured, and how the field became male coded.
Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing by Edited by Thomas J. Misa
The computing profession faces a serious gender crisis. Today, fewer women enter computing than anytime in the past 25 years. This book provides an unprecedented look at the history of women and men in computing, detailing how the computing profession emerged and matured, and how the field became male coded. Women's experiences working in offices, education, libraries, programming, and government are examined for clues on how and where women succeeded and where they struggled. It also provides a unique international dimension with studies examining the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Norway, and Greece. Scholars in history, gender/women's studies, and science and technology studies, as well as department chairs and hiring directors will find this volume illuminating.
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"This book is an excellent introduction to some of the main themes, and there are many more chapters waiting to be written." (IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 1 April 2011) This is an important book. Obviously, computing was one of the formative technologies of the late 20th century and continues to be crucial to the 21st century. At the same time, as editor Thomas Misa--Director of the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI--a center for the history of information processing at the University of Minnesota) and a 2011 member of the IEEE History Committee--points out in the first chapter, it appears to have an unfortunate unique status among technologies. Given the centrality of high technology in economy and society for the past several decades, educators, policy makers, sociologists and others for some time have been concerned with unequal participation in engineering and science careers (the so-called STEM fields) across society, with gender being a particularly important problem. Prior to the 1970s, women in the developed world were -- through a variety of factors -- excluded from many career paths. In the last three decades of the 20th century, great progress was made, but STEM areas lagged noticeably. Much research and discussion has been published on this topic, based in part on the observation that some STEM fields -- such as medicine -- have more or less achieved parity, while others -- such as mechanical engineering -- have never been able to attract significant numbers of women. One of the key data points of the discussion to try to determine causes and solutions was the fact that computing did quite well in recruiting women, while its sister discipline, electrical engineering, was one of the weakest performers. However, those who continued to pay close attention noticed something shocking. While other STEM fields continued to make greater or lesser progress from higher or lower levels of previous success, beginning in the late 1980s women's participation in computing started to drop, and it has continued to do so. Not only is the apparent exclusion of one-half of the population from a crucial industry bad for both those individuals and society and an obvious call to action, studying this intriguing turn of events should have a lot to tell us about gender and technology in general, a topic of interest both to society at large and to the academy. Therefore in 2008, CBI brought together historians working on various facets of the issue of women and computing to see if their perspectives could help generate "tools of understanding," and, ultimately, suggestions for action. This book represents the published versions of the papers presented. The contributions are uniformly strong. Although focused on the U.S.A., the volume includes case studies from the U.K., Norway and Greece, and tries where possible to transcend national boundaries--particularly important in a global field such as computing. In the penultimate chapter, Misa attempts to perceive some common thread in the various case studies. The idea he comes up with has to do with images of computing and images of gender roles. Although gender roles have developed over time, they are constantly a crucial touchstone for society. Many aspects of social behavior are gendered (the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, founder of Structuralism, thought in essence that all social behaviors were gendered). Computing was such a new phenomenon, however (other forms of engineering had longer antecedents), that at first it defied characterization. However, just as computing was becoming a larger and more critical industry, society, led by the media, came to characterize its practitioners more and more as "nerds." A "nerd," Misa argues, is a masculine construct in our society. Therefore, any improvement in the situation will wither involve a redefinition of gender or, more likely, a redefinition of what sort of person pursues a career in computing. In the final chapter, Caroline Clarke Hayes, a leading engineering educator and one of the few practitioners involved in the volume, takes up the challenge of solutions and discusses "the prospects for change." The details will not be discussed in this brief review. Suffice to say, Hayes agrees with Misa that the main culprit appears to be image, and she points in some interesting directions for further research and for action, but the task is just beginning. --reprinted with permission from the IEEE History Center Newsletter, March 2011
About Edited by Thomas J. Misa
THOMAS J. MISA is at the University of Minnesota, where he directs the Charles Babbage Institute, teaches in the graduate program for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, and is a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Table of Contents
Foreword ix Preface xiii Contributors xv PART I: TOOLS FOR UNDERSTANDING 1 1 Gender Codes 3 Defining the Problem Thomas J. Misa 2 Computer Science 25 The Incredible Shrinking Woman Caroline Clarke Hayes 3 Masculinity and the Machine Man 51 Gender in the History of Data Processing Thomas Haigh PART II: INSTITUTIONAL LIFE 73 4 A Gendered Job Carousel 75 Employment Effects of Computer Automation Corinna Schlombs 5 Meritocracy and Feminization in Confl ict 95 Computerization in the British Government Marie Hicks 6 Making Programming Masculine 115 Nathan Ensmenger 7 Gender and Computing in the Push-Button Library 143 Greg Downey PART III: MEDIA AND CULTURE 163 8 Cultural Perceptions of Computers in Norway 1980 2007 165 From "Anybody" Via "Male Experts" to "Everybody" Hilde G. Corneliussen 9 Constructing Gender and Technology in Advertising Images 187 Feminine and Masculine Computer Parts Aristotle Tympas, Hara Konsta, Theodore Lekkas, and Serkan Karas PART IV: WOMEN IN COMPUTING 211 10 The Pleasure Paradox 213 Bridging the Gap Between Popular Images of Computing and Women s Historical Experiences Janet Abbate 11 Programming Enterprise 229 Women Entrepreneurs in Software and Computer Services Jeffrey R. Yost 12 Gender Codes 251 Lessons from History Thomas J. Misa 13 Gender Codes 265 Prospects for Change Caroline Clarke Hayes Bibliography 275 Index 297
Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing by Edited by Thomas J. Misa
Edited by Thomas J. Misa
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