Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Technology

The First Women in Tech Didn't Leave -- Men Pushed Them Out (wsj.com) 427

An anonymous reader writes: A column on the Wall Street Journal argues that sexism in the tech industry is as old as the tech industry itself. At its genesis, computer programming faced a double stigma -- it was thought of as menial labor, like factory work, and it was feminized, a kind of "women's work" that wasn't considered intellectual (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). In the U.K., women in the government's low-paid "Machine Operator Class" performed knowledge work including programming systems for everything from tax collection and social services to code-breaking and scientific research. Later, they would be pushed out of the field, as government leaders in the postwar era held a then-common belief that women shouldn't be allowed into higher-paid professions with long-term prospects because they would leave as soon as they were married. Today, in the U.S., about a quarter of computing and mathematics jobs are held by women, and that proportion has been declining over the past 20 years. A string of recent events suggest the steps currently being taken by tech firms to address these issues are inadequate.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The First Women in Tech Didn't Leave -- Men Pushed Them Out

Comments Filter:
  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @04:42PM (#55718837) Homepage
    probably are retired actually
    • Considering they are talking about post war era changes after WWII the women in question would have to be over 90.

      Where I work there is no shortage of women in tech so every time I see something like this I wonder if it's blown out of proportion or if I just happen to work in place that isn't average.

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:00PM (#55718997)

      probably are retired actually

      Honestly, quite a few women that I worked with left the field to become stay at home Mom's. Usually, the husband was the bread winner so when it came to the weighing of super expensive daycare and wages, it was purely a rational decision to optimize income/expenses of the household. That's something that doesn't get reported enough. A lot of women either don't want to go into STEM or don't want to stay in those positions for various reasons that don't have to do with discrimination.

      • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:07PM (#55719067)
        If this was the primary explanation, then every field would have the same gender disparity.
        • by zlives ( 2009072 )

          we are agreed that IT doesn't pay well enough

        • Well, except in the IT field, if you are out of the business for 4-6 years, then you can't really reenter again very easily. Your skills unless you at the top of your field when you left are out of date. Most industries aren't that brutal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Trondheim ( 2012498 )

        Honestly, quite a few women that I worked with left the field to become stay at home Mom's

        Blasphemy! Women are supposed to have successful careers sticking it to The Man, not spending their time helping raise the next generation! They're wasting their talent if they're staying home teaching their children to read, write, and be responsible individuals!

        /sarc

  • by FatCashewsLoveMe ( 5094743 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @04:45PM (#55718857) Homepage

    It was "data entry" that was women's work, not programming.
    This was simply punching keys.

    If you can't even get that right, I might as well be reading a creimer story to try to understand women.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:04PM (#55719035) Homepage Journal

      I know because I still remember a time when there were women programmers around who started out on keypunch machines.

      Picture yourself spending all day typing COBOL programs into a keypunch machine. Back in the 60s and 70s that's pretty much tantamount to picturing yourself as a woman [google.com]. Don't you think you'd figure that programming thing out, particularly if you were a smart girl?

      Another thing you don't remember, there was a time when being able to type carried a professional stigma. Men didn't type. If you were a woman applying for a job you'd automatically be given a typing test. This was true as late as the 70s, when my wife (a physics undergrad student) was looking for summer jobs in science. She had to pass a typing test, but ended up writing Fortran programs which helped design what became the Chandra X-Ray observatory.

  • Most bean counters are so stupid. To make a big gain on the bottom line, hire only women. You can pay them less, and they do just as good a job. (Like my wife) And if they are a minority, you can pay them even less!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @04:48PM (#55718877)

    Why does it need to be repeated every few days that discrimination is the only possible reason why there could ever be more men than women in a profession and that men are collectively guilty? Curiously, it is rarely seen as a problem when women form the majority in a profession.

    • by Train0987 ( 1059246 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @04:55PM (#55718929)

      Because that's how manufactured narratives work.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I dunno, why do you feel the need to repeat it every time?

      Because TFA doesn't say that. Only you are saying that, and you should explain why you are trying to derail the debate with this false narrative.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @04:52PM (#55718905)

    Did they get pushed out? 'cause 91% female doesn't seem like that's any kind of normal distribution. So, why aren't there more male nurses? If I use the current media-logic, it must be because women are pushing them out, sexually harassing them, and basically being general pieces of shit. So, because men don't show much interest in nursing, is it because women are playing dirty?

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:03PM (#55719025)

    As government leaders in the postwar era held a then-common belief that women shouldn't be allowed into higher-paid professions with long-term prospects because they would leave as soon as they were married.

    Before you can claim it as merely a "then-common" belief that women might leave as soon as they were married, you FIRST need to prove it wrong.
    What data is available, and what does the data for that time period say about a majority of Women staying in and remaining committed or LEAVING professions in general after getting married?

    For all I know at that time that WAS then the norm for women to be expected to change their priorities and leave profession after having kids, AND all of that perceived stuff might have been fully justified.
    That MIGHT even be the norm today that the Man or the Woman might abandon their field following marriage+kids, and then it could be reasonably regarded to maintain a STABLE profession to seek the character and type of candidates that are most likely to be COMMITTED and not leave, for instance; single people who will sign an agreement that they won't date or marry for 10, 20 years, Etc. Etc.

    • by TheReaperD ( 937405 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:15PM (#55719147)

      Yes, because how dare you have priorities other than to serve the corporation. In tech, most of the marriage/kid arguments affecting employee turnover today are bullshit because even the males, if they are any good, move companies every 2-4 years anyway. That's no different a turnover time than someone getting married and having kids, if they decide to leave the workforce. If anything, I believe women are more likely to be committed to a single employer than their male counterparts, making any retention arguments not only bullshit but, the complete opposite of the truth.

      Note: I'm referring to modern women in tech, not the the 1950s-1980s.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Yes, because how dare you have priorities other than to serve the corporation.

        No... it's fine. You just need to understand if you DO expect to have other priorities, then you're not the kind of person for certain senior positions.

        In tech, most of the marriage/kid arguments affecting employee turnover today
        are bullshit because even the males, if they are any good, move companies every 2-4 years anyway.

        Actually, that DEPENDS on the job AND how senior the employee is. Principal engineers at a compan

      • by asylumx ( 881307 )

        If anything, I believe women are more likely to be committed to a single employer than their male counterparts

        As an aside, I wonder if this could have something to do with women making less, too. Switching jobs or employers tends to accelerate salary growth so if they aren't switching, they are probably only getting measely ~1%-3% increases each year, instead of the leaps you might get by leaving one company as a developer and joining another as an architect, for example. If women really do tend to stay

      • Note: I'm referring to modern women in tech, not the the 1950s-1980s.

        Which is the period the article's claims are about ...

    • Before you can claim it as merely a "then-common" belief that women might leave as soon as they were married, you FIRST need to prove it wrong.

      But even if they really did leave as soon as they were married it was only because men (and white men at that!) expected them to!

      (AmiMoJo is on holiday).

  • by i286NiNJA ( 2558547 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:08PM (#55719083) Journal

    1) Programming work was never considered menial even when it was relegated to women. COMPUTER work, that is being a small part of a biological Arithmetic Unit was considered menial. Indeed it was, assembly line work doing basic arithmetic, it was in every way factory work that wouldn't ruin a pretty face. Many women used to computer revolution to take their experience doing this sort of work to become programmers which were always respected.

    2) Machine operators and system operators were generally relatively low skilled workers compared to programmers. They would actually operate the computer in the days when most people couldn't use it themselves. Most of these jobs eventually were taken over by the helpdesk. Once again a deservedly menial job.

    . Today, in the U.S., about a quarter of computing and mathematics jobs are held by women, and that proportion has been declining over the past 20 years.

    Here is where the intentionally deceptive author shines through. 20 years ago was the PEAK of women in tech, when they were nearly at parity with men. Many people have taken guesses at what pushed women out 20 years ago.. My favorite explanations are that this correlated with the rise of the autistic man child nerd archetype in the collective conscious. But the best I've heard is that the dot-com bubble attracted greedy assholes to the field and women don't want to deal with that shit.

    I find this highly believable for the reason I believe BLM. It's a problem that I can relate to and accept may even be worse for the person making the claim. The part that sucks is that the sort of PHB MBA shithead that ruined everything will be the first one to demand a comprehensive code of conduct, and comprehensive training package to teach our fragile engineers and scientists not to rape.

    It's often the female version of the men that originally drove women out in the first place. Except they get the be the toxic boss and victim at the same time. There will be no scandal if their abuses are brought to light.

    • by wyHunter ( 4241347 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @07:34PM (#55720295)
      Year back - in the 1980s actually - I had a female boss in a math department in a college. Her take on things was this: You get fewer women in tech as overall job prospects for women increased. It has always been the case that we need brains in this field, and that nobody really cares what your gender is if you have brains. But women have a lot more job opportunities than they used to have, many of which pay better than cranking code. Personally I note A LOT more young female doctors than young male doctors these days, as an example. Also, this field has declined, a lot, in the >30 years I have been in it. It used to be considered a job that required professionalism and brains - and now it's considered car mechanics with keyboards. Frankly, being a diesel mechanic pays north of 80K and it's probably more fun.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Early computer programming was considered to be secretarial work, and fairly menial. Like women would be expected to know how to type and do basic typewriter maintenance, or operate the phone system, or run the filing system, it was natural that they then started programming too.

      Back then there wasn't that much difference between operating and programming. The most advanced UI was a teletype that took abbreviated, unintuitive commands and spat back coded messages.

  • I love it when premises are dismissed out of hand without being addresses whatsoever. It's honestly my favorite. This article summary contains many such premises being dismissed without even a batting of the eye.
  • Even if men pushed them out, they still "left". Who writes this stuff?
  • time to cap OT and maybe lower 40 hours down a bit?

  • Problem? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slshdtisctrldbysjws ( 5180469 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:15PM (#55719149)

    What exactly is the problem supposed to be?
    No one wants to train and invest in people who are going to flake out. What matters is not their gender, but their behavior. The behavior was the consideration, not the gender.

    These gender war baiting articles are starting to piss me off. Slashdot is controlled by social justice warriors.

    • Nah. Slashdot is controlled by people who need clicks. And anything that ruffles some feathers and creates clicks is great. Trump, Global Warming, Gender Wars...

    • These gender war baiting articles are starting to piss me off. Slashdot is controlled by social justice warriors.

      Along with most other media sources ...

      Well, what did we think all those universities were going to graduate, given what they were teaching?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Since you asked, the issue is that assuming women will "flake out" isn't fair, and that the lack of support for mothers means that if they do get pregnant it's more likely they won't be able to return to work.

      Maybe you don't care about that, but you should at least worry about the potential for a falling population or well educated people with good jobs not having kids.

  • Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:18PM (#55719173) Journal

    they would be pushed out of the field, as government leaders in the postwar era held a then-common belief that women shouldn't be allowed into higher-paid professions with long-term prospects

    And please why that didn't happen in medicine, for example? Or in law practice, or in accounting, or in social services, veterinaries... Somehow the law faculties were less hostile to the sudden influx of females? Allow me to be skeptical of that.

    We humans are really bad at getting to grips with complex processes, and are much more comfortable with a narrative, that simplifies the process in a couple of rough brush strokes that are easily consumable. Much better if the "story" has a bad guy against which personal irritations of one's daily life can find a target. To recognize that the playing board of society is more or less fair, and that sexes gravitate to the jobs that better fit them, taking into account all kind of conditions, is probably too much to ask.

    But still! Nevertheless! To choose precisely tech among all fields, for that inane tale! I cannot think of an area where the last decades have been more dynamic, the demand for talent so pressing, the barriers of entry so low, and the competence so fierce. Does anybody really think that the under-representation of the females (never enough regretted by the males, I feel compelled to add) in this field is some sort of Machiavellian plot?

    Had Google be better served by a mixed team, would they have renounced to it for...exactly what? And then they would have their lunch eaten by Bing, that had in the meantime renounced to the loggia's precepts and admitted many women to the development team. Netscape rests in the pantheon of heroes, because they could have been saved by a timely infusion of the female of the species, but they chose to sink with honor instead of selling themselves to the enemy. And when everybody was building the next wonderful thing in Silicon Valley, venture capitalists sent promising teams packing if they could smell just a bit of perfume in the presentation, just because they were not really in the business of getting rich, but part of a global sinister conspiracy,

    Utter nonsense.

  • Ladies who entered data on punch cards or stitched core ROMs were not programmers, although they were participating in something important that deserves recognition. On the other hand, ENIAC programming was fairly high skill, requiring understanding of mathematics to wire the function tables. Still, it's misleading to say that men were not interested in computer science back then. Hardware design of ENIAC was done by (mostly?) men. Now hardware design is not a major source of CS employment, so similar men a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @05:29PM (#55719291)

    Why don't /. editors respect women's choices?

    Claim:

    The First Women in Tech Didn't Leave -- Men Pushed Them Out

    Passing reference to reality:

    women [...] leave as soon as they [get] married [or became pregnant].

    You see, if you just ignore all the misandry (as well as heterophobia, anti-white racism, anti-conservatism, anti-Christianity, and anti-other-traditional-aspects-of-the-west) and read between the lines, you'll see the truth. These social justice cretins have to mention reality, however briefly, in order to have a shred of truth in their anti-west drivel.

    Women are free to work in whatever field they want. If not a lot of them want to work in tech, then fine. That's THEIR choice and I respect it. Why don't SJWs respect it?

  • We're still mainly driven by instincts hardwired into our primitive primate brains, which is why we treat each other so poorly. Coin flip whether we survive as a species long enough to evolve out of acting like animals, or whether endless war and endless predation of our own species kills us off.
  • Another day, another article encouraging woman to enter tech in the hopes of driving down already depressed wages. For the record I made sure my daughter got into medicine. And I tell anyone who'll listen, man I'm woman, to stay out of tech. Math is fine, but Math != Tech.
  • Women do tend to bail on their job once they decide on having children.

    Now the SJW swamp donkey (feminists) types may not, but no one wants to hire someone who is a lawsuit waiting to happen and that smells strongly of cats.
  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @06:43PM (#55719913)

    Just out of curiosity, what do slashdotters think about men being forced to work with women?

    It would seem, judging by things like history books, and the biggest news stories of 2017, that a lot of men don't like working with women. So why are we forcing them to? Is there something wrong with a group, even a large group of men wanting a life where they don't work with women?

    Maybe they simply aren't comfortable around girls? Maybe they want to go home to their wives having not spent all day with other women? Maybe they feel overpowered by women in the work place, or maybe they feel like every comment they make to or around women to be a liability in a way very different than comments with male colleagues?

    The point is that it doesn't matter what the reason. Why are we forcing men to work with women? What's wrong with the very simple: this is a men-only workplace?

    I understand that twenty years ago, that would have meant women couldn't be hired. But these days, there are plenty of female-run companies, and plenty of what-would-have-been-called-progressive companies who enjoy women in the workplace.

    So is it time to drop the affirmative action of requiring men to accept women in the workplace?

    Today, going forward, what would happen if we were to start allowing companies to limit their workforce to men-only, purely because their workforce desires such?

  • by Eldragon ( 163969 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @06:54PM (#55719989)

    She wants to go into Family Medicine, and has no aptitude for computers. But I've firmly told her "No! You've internalized the patriarchy in thinking you don't want be a programmer! Now listen to your father and spend your life chained to a terminal like I have!" /s

  • You can't even talk about that.

    I though equality was more about getting equal than getting even.

    • It's actually about neither. From what I can tell, it's about getting stuff for free.

      Quite seriously. If you want equality, you will have no bigger ally than me. If you want preferential treatment, you won't find a bigger enemy. Because then you're pretty much the kind of asshole you accuse me to be: Someone who thinks that they should get something for free just because they have the "right" gender, race, sexual preference or place of birth.

  • There was gender discrimination in the past?

    Next thing you'll tell us that we thought black people can be owned, right? Or trying to ease us slowly into it and didn't want to drop that bombshell yet? Hope I didn't spoil your surprise.

  • A string of recent events suggest the steps currently being taken by tech firms to address these issues are inadequate.

    Not a possible conclusion when dealing with wicked-problem systems theory. Not even a possible provisional conclusion.

    Possible conclusion: We have yet to see compelling evidence that recent steps taken by tech firms amount to a hill of beans. But that conclusion would be true of 99% of everything, 99% of all the time.

    Sometimes with complex systems, there can be a brief flash of obviousness,

  • While is technology being singled out, when most of the 20th century was on board with woman mainly being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?

    This was an official plank of conservative family values, necessary for the upholding of the fine social fabric, etc. etc. yada yada. I can't recall a time in my life where I didn't believe that women ought to be able to do whatever the hell they want, to the same extent as men. I was an attentive child. I remember much about the 1970s quite well.

    However, I've nev

  • by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @08:55PM (#55720851)

    There's nothing like when a "generation removed" tries to teach a lesson to the people that lived it. It sends the wrong message to the generations that follow.

    Most women thought, and openly expressed, openly mocked, computer use as being the domain of the nerd. As someone that actively encouraged women to become more involved I can say that the predominant attitude by them was that "computers are for nerds".

    Men didn't make it too inviting, however that wasn't their responsibility. It wasn't their purview.

    Granted men did create a highly competitive environment and this was filled with intimidation because the work was intimidating. It was. If someone wasn't able to embrace that they obviously wouldn't stick around, male or female. I'm sure the atmosphere created by this was intimidating to the point of being viewed as hostile by some. This intimidation didn't keep men from pursuing their goals.

    I remember playing darts with a friend who was into computers. We were talking about Macintosh vs. DOS. I asked him how he got involved. He talked about his brother that worked for Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). He told me that he was writing drivers for some hardware component for the Macintosh. He told me his brother had taken some "obscure math" class in college and that ILM was looking for anyone that had that knowledge. This was when I lived in the heart of Silicon Valley so I had no reason to disbelieve his story.

    Back in the early tech days competition was heavy and hard. People would enter and leave in droves. They'd enter because it was a new skills market and they'd leave as they failed to achieve or they burned out. I noted back then that so many left yet I stuck it out -- I didn't seem to burn out.

    Learning technology is a very personal thing. I mean most of those that stayed with it were people that spent their nights and weekends learning everything they could. Their job didn't stop at the close of business. If you wanted to learn a new programming language -- the up and coming new one such as C or C++ or C# -- you traditionally built on your prior knowledge. It took months if not years to learn these languages adequately, and that didn't always happen by going back to school. In fact, I'd venture a say that it rarely happened that way. I can't say what occurred at the level of the executives, but I can say that it wasn't likely that anyone was going to achieve the level of executive unless they had an intense indepth of knowledge in the field.

    If you weren't into software then you were into hardware and if you weren't into hardware or software you were into support. It took years to learn to design hardware, and that most often required a degree in electrical engineering and/or math. So, if you weren't going for a degree to develop computer hardware and you weren't developing software then you were supporting infrastructure and/or the users. That took a broad understanding of multiple areas. You needed to know how the hardware basically functioned and you needed to know how software was supposed to work more than you needed to know how a specific piece of software/program worked. For instance, you needed to know the idea behind word processing versus knowing a specific word processor. You needed to be able to look at a piece of software that you'd never seen before and know why it broke -- and you did know because you knew how software was supposed to work. None of these skills came over night. You needed to thoroughly indoctrinate yourself and you needed to be around others that didn't mislead you, around people that also knew their stuff, and if you couldn't put up with the competition you were shunned. If someone was able to deal with that then whether they were a man or a woman didn't matter.

    I do remember many times where I heard a complaint that such and such wouldn't teach such and such a person. When asking about it I'd get a response that that person just didn't get it or took too much time away from what they were do

  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Tuesday December 12, 2017 @01:25AM (#55722145) Homepage Journal

    In the U.K., women in the government's low-paid "Machine Operator Class" performed knowledge work including programming systems for everything from tax collection and social services to code-breaking and scientific research. Later, they would be pushed out of the field, as government leaders in the postwar era held a then-common belief that women shouldn't be allowed into higher-paid professions with long-term prospects because they would leave as soon as they were married.

    Perhaps, but aside from a dastardly evil plan to keep women out of advanced fields like programming, maybe - just maybe - at the end of WW2, when the boys came home, the women left the workplace and returned to being the homemakers they were before the war?

    In 1945 the world was a much different place than it is today, don't Project today's motives on last century's actions.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright

Working...