Good day everyone and welcome back to final part of a series of articles dedicated to #HourOfCode. We’ve started analyzing the issues related to women’s image in IT industry in our previous blog post. We’ve found out that women played a significant role in development of programming.
However, as programming began to be a more complex task, most of the companies started to hire and train men as computer programmers. Further, the male began to create professional associations, where they highly discouraged women to enter this field.
Discrimination, sexism and stereotypes had been emerging so fast that soon most of the employers began to conduct certain tests during job interviews. They consisted of two parts and were supposed to highlight applicants’ knowledge of programming. Those tests were objective and almost closed a door for any woman to enter the programming industry.
For instance, a test consisted of two parts – mathematical puzzle-solving and “personality” profile. Important to mention, that most of the mathematical problems were freely distributed within male professional associations, when most of the women merely didn’t have access to those resources.
The “personality profile” test was even more directed towards male applicants. This test intended to identify a “perfect” programmer. According to Brenda Frink, a social and cultural historian, she explains this fact as:
According to test developers, successful programmers had most of the same personality traits as other white-collar professionals. The important distinction, however, was that programmers displayed “disinterest in people” and that they disliked “activities involving close personal interaction.” It is these personality profiles that originated our modern stereotype of the anti-social computer geek.
If you look at the chart below then you’ll see a dramatic decrease of women being in the computer science. It started around 1983 at the time when personal desktop computers became available to anyone.
Research conducted by Jane Margolis back in the 1990s revealed that:
families were much more likely to buy computers for boys than for girls – even when the girls were really interested in computers.
It was due to the fact that most of the companies hyped computers as – toys only for boys to play games on – which was a trigger to create a techie culture of “the computer boys.” Even still today it’s rare to see girls playing games as much as boys do.
Is There a Future for Women in Programming?
Today’s demand for computer science engineers is so high that many new startups and large companies experience a shortage of workforce.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT jobs will grow by 22 per cent through 2020. This statistics is presenting a good point of such a significant increase in IT jobs; such growth will create more opportunities for women to enter the IT industry. It is mainly due to shortage of workforce, as well as a pursuit of many global organizations to promote programming among youth and adult women.
For instance, Google is offering free coding lessons to women interested working in IT. Another big organization, Ada Developers Academy, provides women interested in programming with free classes and workshops. Girls Who Code, is another not to profit organization that aims to inspire, educate and equip girls with the computing skills to close the gender gap in the computer science field.
According to Girls Who Code, in 1984, 37 per cent of all computer science graduates were women. However, today this number dropped to 18 per cent with an average of 0.4 per cent of high school girls expressed interest in majoring in Computer Science.
Despite tremendous efforts of the global organizations to promote programming among women of all ages, there is still a high proportion of sexism and stereotyping to women by employers during the hiring process or at the workplace.
Jennifer Hunt in her research, states that engineering and science related occupations have the highest exit rate for women:
mostly women dissatisfied with pay and promotion opportunities. Contrary to the existing literature, I find that family–related constraints and dissatisfaction with working conditions are only secondary factors.
Taking this research into consideration bringing us to the point – that existing prejudices are clearly interfering popularization of programming among women.
Formed prejudices over the past 20-30 years have created a masculine-IT-type industry, where women are not considered as valuable team members. It seems that most organizations, which are focused on “programming” awareness among women, should push harder on implementing the idea of “The Code Girls,” which was highly promoted by Cosmopolitan in the ’60s.
Founder of DigitalWoman.com and CTO of Webgirls International, Nelly Yusupova, claims that a negative pop culture imagery and poor or no access to mentors are the key factors of why women are not attracted to programming.
Yusupova says that contemporary mass media, such as popular TV shows, social media or celebrities, portray an image of the “cool” girl that it is in no way associated with computers, programming or IT industry at all. Thus, being highly affected by mass media young women considering IT sector as only for male “computer geeks.”
We’ll open a discussion to everyone. Will we ever change the attitude towards women in programming?