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Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing


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Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing

Thomas J. Misa (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-470-59719-4 July 2010 Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Pr 328 Pages

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A fresh, constructive examination of the gender imbalance in computer education and technology

The computing profession is facing a serious gender crisis. Women are abandoning the computing field at an alarming rate. Fewer are entering the profession than anytime in the past twenty-five years, while too many are leaving the field in mid-career. With a maximum of insight and a minimum of jargon, Gender Codes explains the complex social and cultural processes at work in gender and computing today. Edited by Thomas Misa and featuring a Foreword by Linda Shafer, Chair of the IEEE Computer Society Press, this insightful collection of essays explores the persisting gender imbalance in computing and presents a clear course of action for turning things around.

Through engaging historical accounts, Gender Codes tells the stories of women programmers, systems analysts, managers, and IT executives who flooded this initially attractive field in the 1960s and '70s. It celebrates their notable successes in all segments of the industry. The book then examines why, while most other science and technology fields have seen steady growth in the number of female participants, the computing field experienced just the opposite.

Providing a unique international perspective, the contributors to this unprecedented volume reveal how computing has become male-coded, highlighting the struggles women have faced in the office, the media, and in culture at large. The book assesses the existing intervention strategies and pinpoints why they are not working and what can—and must—be done to stall the exodus.

Gender Codes will resonate with female professionals in computing, engineering, and the sciences; with scholars and educators in history, gender/women's studies, and science and technology; with deans, department chairs, center directors, and those in industry and government with hiring responsibilities; and with staff and executives at foundations and funding agencies.

Foreword ix

Preface xiii

Contributors xv


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


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


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


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

"This is a very valuable book in dispelling many of the myths about women and computing . . . For anyone interested in understanding why women are not attracted to the computing profession, including teachers and IT managers, this book is highly recommended. It provides an in-depth understanding of how and why
we are where we are." (Sex Roles, 2011)

"Gender Codes is an important book . . . this is a task in which the IEEE History Center can play a role, and we think our readers can and should as well-they can begin with reading this seminal book" (Bibliography, 1 March 2011)

"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)

"Summing up: Recommended [for] all levels/libraries." (CHOICE, January 2011)