Here’s the first page of a 1967 article in Cosmopolitan called The Computer Girls that points out the advantages of a career in programming for young women. Photos show a lovely young IBM systems engineer surrounded by appreciative white-shirt-and-tie-wearing IBM bachelors.
The accompanying blog post claims that:
“In 1987, 42% of the software developers in America were women …From 1984 to 2006, the number of women majoring in computer science dropped from 37% to 20% - just as the percentages of women were increasing steadily in all other fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, with the possible exception of physics. The reasons women left computer science are as complex and numerous as why they had entered in the first place. But the most common explanation is that the rise of personal computers led computing culture to be associated with the stereotype of the eccentric, antisocial, male “hacker.” Women found computer science less receptive professionally than it had been at its inception.”
Maybe, although there were other things going on as well. For example, the dominant language in mainframe business software in 1987 was Admiral Grace Hopper’s verbose COBOL, a language that was particularly popular with female coders (my wife was one for awhile). Since then, the software languages that are popular have evolved toward higher levels of elegance and abstraction.
It’s a little bit like classical music composers. If you pick up a book on composers, such as R.J. Stove’s concise and delightful A Student’s Guide to Music History, they often start with the medieval German nun Hildegard von Bingen, composer of lovely monophonic songs. But, as composing art music became more complex, the number of top female composers became vanishingly small.
But, here’s another factor that helped drive American women away from programming careers: H-1B. Bill Gates and other zillionaires have added even more billions to their fortunes by getting the government to let in lots of foreign programmers to do for less money the lower level programming that American women tended to be doing. Logically, feminists should therefore have been anti-Bill Gates and anti H-1B, but logic doesn’t play a big role in modern America in determining which Diversity Card trumps which. As a general Hi-Lo v. Middle rule, rich guys playing the race card against average whites are likely to win.
Exactly why was it important for the government to pitch in at the task of ruining computer programming as a fairly ordinary career for fairly ordinary Americans? Didn’t Bill Gates have enough money already? Maybe it would have happened sooner or later anyway, but why did the government have to speed it up?