Want More Women Programmers? Remove The Men.

from the breaking-the-glass dept

Like EA a few weeks ago, a British university is looking to woo more women into the programming field. Like EA, they have a new program that attracted ZERO women, but unlike EA, their first step will be to hold some all-female summer schools. As pointed out by one of our astute commenters, the lack of women may be due to a hostile environment and not due to lack of interest. A scholarship helps in the case where the main barrier to entry is economic — environmental hostility is unchanged. By creating all-female summer schools, students would be sheltered from the amount of attention (both positive and negative) that females would receive with such an extreme demographic imbalance. Then they could focus on the task at hand, learning to become great games programmers. While the demographic imbalance will still exist by the time these women reach the work world, hopefully by then the men will have learned how to behave more maturely — they should teach that at an all-male summer school.

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Comments on “Want More Women Programmers? Remove The Men.”

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dorpus says:

Personality Types

In the companies I’ve worked at, 10-40% of IT staff were women. It attracted the same cutthroat, anti-social personalities as the men. The computer field at large suffers from a lack of ethics and compassion, since it’s not emphasized in the education. The gender issue is moot, in my view.

If this comment is followed up by angry character assassinations, it would rather prove my point.

nonuser says:

Re: Personality Types

Why you no-good son of a gun!

Women are attracted to the legal and financial professions at a much greater rate than IT, it seems, and I certainly won’t agree that either of those two fields is known for being more ethical or compassionate. IT has the reputation of being a profession where the stars are frequently brainy loners, and fewer girls than boys are attracted to that image, even though it’s not really correct. Compare the movie “Sneakers” to the TV series “LA Law” for instance.

dorpus says:

Re: Re: Personality Types

I was a software engineer for ten years before I decided to change careers into medical research. I enjoy higher social status (people I meet are much more respectful than before), company of more women (70% of my class is female), more job security, and most importantly, nicer people.

VonSkippy says:

What BS

Women don’t go into Programming (or IT in general) because they won’t commit to the vast amount of time those jobs require. Most women want time off to have a baby, time off to pick their kids up from school, time off to have dinner with their kids, time off because their kid is sick, time off to volunteer to paint the sets for the school play, etc. etc. etc. Software projects often turn into 24/7 marathons racing the deadline, and bode no room or understanding for the staff (women or men) that can’t commit to getting the project done. Since they can’t compete during their “salad years”, they don’t have the track record or accomplishments to climb the corporate ladder later on. It’s not sexist, it’s just business (i.e. Internet time).

Boilerbob says:

Re: What BS

I disagree slightly. While I agree with what you are saying effects some women’s decisions, I think the type of work is a bigger deterrent. Women are socialized to work in jobs that require “people skills” eg. Nurses, Teachers, and Sales and Marketing. Men are suppose to be able to work on machines, cars, computers, buildings. Society doesn’t have a problem with a man sitting in a small room writting a computer program by himself, but most women think that’s crazy.

Noname Human says:

Re: What BS

As a woman in IT (I have a Ph.D. in computer science and work in technology consulting all day long), I must say I agree. But I also have to say that my gripe is almost always with mothers, not women. Believe it or not, there are women who are not (and don’t want to be) mothers, and resent those who are forever taking time off and making the rest of us (including mothers who don’t pull this crap) look bad.
I hate being 28, and thus perceived as “being of child-bearing age”, and having to work really hard to convince my team that no, I’m not going to get knocked up and stick them with a ton of extra work, and no, I don’t have kids and won’t need to leave early to make daycare pick-up times and soccer games. And I’m not going to. I also think that, because of this, women shouldn’t be suprised if they don’t get hired. I’m 28. I can’t blame a future employer if, due to his/her experience, they look at me and think, “Great, she’ll be around for maybe two years before the baby rabies strike and she’s out the door, never to return after taking full advantage of our maternity leave benefits and healthcare.”
Gar. Apologies for the rant.

Josie Fraser says:

Remove the men?

Suggesting that women are intimidated by the cut throat world of programming, that they need to look after their kids so don’t want to put in the hours, or that all programmers are essentially gits are all less than useful ways to address the serious problem of a segregated work place and a lack of equal opportunities. Plus, don’t these arguments all echo pat stereotypes about the sexes?

While I’m all in favour of providing women-only environments to build confidence and interest in any male-saturated area, it’s really too little too late. We need to be more systematically addressing the roots of gender socialisation throughout our education systems.

Tim (user link) says:

Re: Remove the men?

For some reason, I always worry when I hear about `systematically addressing the roots of gender socialisation’. Half the time I think that sort of thing must be balanced by renormalizing one’s expectations instead: there’s *nothing wrong* with IT not being 50-50 blokes:birds. If that’s the way people’s inclinations lean, let it be.

Besides, you’d get a whole raft of complaints if schools taught little girlies to swear effectively at computers. 😉

just an engineer says:

I like the idea ...

An all-female summer school class is a good idea, it might give promising women the extra confidence they need to excel in the field. They should also include a class in interpersonal relations, because programmers DO have among them a high proportion of people with no social skills, and that includes the women. The women are going to need them, while the men can get away with not having any.

As a female programmer I found that I had to be very careful around my male colleagues. I had to be very careful of their egos, because I was almost always better at what I was doing than they were, and they would have been very upset had I shoved that in their faces, intentionally or unintentionally.

I think part of the problem, as a female in the software workplace, is that only a small percentage of programmers are really very good, male or female. There are relatively few female programmers, period. Therefore, most engineers see relatively few female programmers who are very good at what they do. In fact, there are so few female programmers out there that a very good female programmer is completely unexpected, and in and of itself upsets the balance in some people’s minds.

True story:

I was the lead engineer on a small team. My (all male) staff had learned to respect me, as well as my superiors and our clients. I was used to being treated as a human being, not a “female programmer”.

We had to collaborate with a group of engineers half way across the country on this particular project. We were in a phone conference, and had just finished talking about some preliminary issues. At that point the other group dismissed their female programmers, actually saying that they were going to be getting into the complicated parts now, and so they would let the ladies get back to their work. They actually said good bye to me over the phone as well, assuming that despite being lead (presumably for my “social skills”, I suppose) that I was not going to be doing any of the “real programming”. My boss, and my colleagues quickly protested that there was no way *I* was going to be leaving, but obviously they didn’t really get the message.

When I was flown out there to oversee integration of our part of the software with theirs, their first words were “I’m surprised they sent you, we really expected them to send someone else”. As I performed my duties, and did what I was sent there to do, the men kept giving me strange looks, an odd half smile sort of look, as though they were looking at some kind of circus animal perform. I got surprised comments like “wow, you completed that quickly” or “they listened to you when you told them what to do” (after a call back to my team) …

I realize I’ve ranted. That’s the end of it.

a php programmer says:

Re: I like the idea ...

that is not the case for php (web) programmers. or maybe not.
But I can tell you that male programmers just love to have a female programmer in the team. Especially php programmers – as women are very rare scripting in this language at a proffesional level.

The team leader of my department is a women, and I the ex-team leader promoted her to that position.

However as a programmer I know the riscs when it comes to prejudice from the employer and stuff and as a programmer I promoted mostly the women knowing that they deserve better, not to mention that they are better in programming, sometimes.

When it comes to other programming languages such as Delphi, Java.. women may not be so lucky.
But the thing is, a developer is trained to achieve progress, and some women prove to be better at a job interview, some of them do not.

as a PHP developer I’m proud to say that every team I’ve worked with loved to have a women programmer in the team, and we were/are making a great team.

TellCode says:

Re: I like the idea ...

“As a female programmer I found that I had to be very careful around my male colleagues. I had to be very careful of their egos, because I was almost always better at what I was doing than they were, and they would have been very upset had I shoved that in their faces, intentionally or unintentionally.”

How did you do this? When I attempt to work around his ego, he gets worse. I can’t get a word in edge-wise, he treats me like a subordinate who doesn’t have a brain. He tells me what to name variables and files, but won’t answer questions about complicated coding.

When I go for a frontal assualt, he throws tantrums like a little kid. Seriously… he throws stuff, slams things down, slams doors, etc.

What would you do in this situation? I love my job, hate my co-worker, and I’m ready to quit.

hmmm says:

what bs?

not sure i’ve heard one good argument yet on this comment list.

getting mad at women who want to be mothers is akin to black people faulting other black people who are in jail for the discrimination they experience every day. how about we channel that energy into more useful options, like men staying at home and fair working conditions for everyone? considering the imbalance of parental responsibilities, i find it somewhat surprising that more women aren’t in web/programming jobs…they can be remote, the hours can be flexible, etc.

“women can’t commit to long hours” argument is ridiculous, too. the number of women in IT is FAR lower than the % doctors, nurses, and lawyers. it isn’t just programmers that work long hours (in fact some i know hardly work any). and really, if employers gave a sniff about their employees, they would treat everyone like a human being (ie not a 24/7 task-rat).

desertzinnia says:

Leave them be

As a female programmer, I know for a fact women avoid or leave the field due to the “hostile environment and not due to lack of interest”. Having said that, I don’t think encouraging young women to enter such a field by segregating them in all-female activities is the answer. It would be much better to make sure they understand that, if they think male students are bad, it only gets worse after graduation. If they’re so “passionate” about programming they’re willing to take it, I think they’re nuts, but more power to them.

Jadzia says:

Re: Leave them be

I was working in a computer shop where they only other female was the office manager. It was difficult to deal with having to constantly prove myself to my male boss. It got to the point where I was to replace the office manager mostly, do light hardware and software work like reinstalling windows and memory installation instead of the programming work that I originally applied for. He didn’t actually come out and say I was less capable but it got to where I was only doing billing and inventory control and taking messages. I didn’t apply for the secretary job. It p****d me off so I left and a couple of years later I started my own computer shop and now I program whenever I please. I do whatever I want to whenever I want.

Moral of the story guys. You try to hurt our pride we just might end up as your competition. Not all of us will quit and admit defeat. I’m not going to let a man tell me or make me feel like I can’t do something tech related because I’m a woman.

With my own business doing what I want I am so much happier than I was back then.

TellCode says:

I think it's a good idea.

I had no real problems with men in my classes. It’s the “real world” where the issues are biggest.

For example: I’ve been working at a company for over a year now and my co-workers are all male. Whenever a customer (internal) asks me a question, my co-worker immediately cuts me off from answering.

When my boss (who is also my co-workers boss) asks me when I plan to have a project completed, my co-worker repeats the question to me, then demands to know how I’m going to prioritize each task.

I’m asked to leave whenever my boss and co-worker want to discuss on-going projects, even if they’re my projects.

I’m certified in BI, which involves SSAS Cubes. My co-worker scanned a couple pages in a book, built one cube, and my boss told me *I* need to learn how to build them from my male co-worker. I had to tell my co-worker how to process the cube so it would work… but I’m a girl, so I’m stupid.

Every week I have at least 5 on-going projects, numerous help tickets, and last minute changes or requests. My male co-workers are only given 1 task or project to complete at a time.

If I have a suggestion on how to complete a project more efficiently, or make it more robust, I’m scoffed at. I have to fight tooth and nail to get my ideas heard. The worst part… we use my suggestions, my code… not my co-workers. When something HAS TO BE DONE quickly and correctly, they give it to me. But I’m still treated like the secretary. Asked to take notes, etc. I enhance and maintain 10 web applications, and all BI apps, while my co-worker has ONLY worked on 1 app for the past 2.5 years.

I asked one co-worker if he knew PHP (he wanted to install app coded in php), and my other co-worker immediately spouts off “Let me tell you what PHP is.. it’s a programming language… ” blah blah blah…
I’ve been writing in PHP for several years, he knew this. I have told him this before. He believes I’m retarded.

I graduated with honors in less than 2 years, I’ve recieved merit scholarships. I earned my MCTS in BI. I’m currently studying for .Net and Sharepoint cert’s that’ll I get in the next couple of months.

It doesn’t matter how many achievements I get, awards, certifications… I’m a girl, and girls are stoopid.

How do we change this? Do woman need to be more forthright in the workplace, more dominant? How do I modify my behavior to influence my co-workers and boss? I want to be treated as an equal. How do I accomplish this?

And why is it so threatening to a male that another person, who’s genitalia isn’t dangling, can actually code too?

Kt says:

As a female who is going back to school to become a programmer, these negative experience comments are scaring me. I’ve taken some courses and done decently, and have been writing some code of my own accord for work.

I know that I love coding and programming is in my blood. But I fear the possible awkward situations at work, with people who are uncomfortable with my gender. I like many things nerdy though (sci fi, video games) and I have often wished my coworkers shared the same interests. So I’m trying to stay positive and focus on things like this. Also I have a very positive attitude towards people in general, always treating them with respect, so I’m thinking this is probably more important than anything else. I’ve seen hostile work environments shift from having a few people with this attitude who set a good example. Any way, I am scared to be doing this due to possible sexism but I know it’s my calling so I’m going to take the risk.

I think it’s difficult for women to be in this field, so I just hope the men who read this realize this and have a bit of appreciation of the courage it takes to be a minority. At the same time I hope women don’t get too obsessed with gender. Some people are just jerks so don’t always see this as sexism. Of course your gender will be noticed- it’s just how things are. So I think accepting this fact may help too. Being able to joke about it probably helps even more.

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