Gender & Computing

Of the historical research that I have done, none has attracted as much attention as the work I have done on gender and computer programming.

My first book, The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise is a labor and social history of computer work as it emerges in the mid-20th century. One of the surprising conclusions in the book (now widely accepted, but at the time novel) is that computer work was initially gendered female --- meaning not only were many of the earliest computer programmers women, but computer programming was *expected* to be women's work.

Over the course of the 1960s, however, a remarkable sex-change occured in computer work, as programming was "made masculine." I detail this process in "Making Programming Masculine," in Tom Misa, ed. Gender Codes (Wiley, 2010)[PDF]

With the emergence of computer science as a high-status academic discipline, stereotypes about the computer "hacker" emerge in popular culture, and help make computing an increasingly foreign and unfriendly environment for women in computing. This is the subject of my article "Beards, Sandals, and Other Signs of Rugged Individualism: Culture & Identity within the Computing Professions." Osiris 30:1 (2015), pp. 38--65.[PDF]

I often speak and teach on issues related to gender and technology, and as part of a graduate seminar that I taught on gender created an on-line syllabus for the course, along with an extensive bibliography that is available via Github. Feel free to clone or fork. I would like this to be maintained and extended to serve as a useful resource for other scholars and students working in this field.

In addition, you might find useful this list of women and gender non-conforming people writing about technology.

Since my research in this area receives so much attention in the popular media, I have posted about it before. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the following earlier entries:

More Tech & Gender (6/6/2018)

Tech, Gender, and the Environment (12/14/2017)

Contextualizing the Google Manifesto (8/12/2017)

The History of Women in Engineering (1/31/2017)

History of Computer Dating (7/23/2016)

Fact Check: Tech Has Never Been Just a Man’s World (2/15/2016)

Debugging the Gender Gap (7/5/2015)

Historicizing Masculinities Colloquium (5/5/2015)

The History of Women in Programming (2/8/2015)

The Cult of Masculinity in Computing (10/14/2014)

I also write about these topics on the blog associated with my book The Computer Boys Take Over.

Clive Thompson, The Secret History of Women in Coding, New York Times, February 13, 2019

Diane Gherson, How bias pushed the ‘Computer Girls’ out of tech, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 10, 2017

Matt Kessler, The Environmental Cost of Internet Porn, The Atlantic, December 13, 2017

Claire Cain Miller, Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd, New York Times, August 12, 2017

Olivia Waxman, Women in Tech and the History Behind That Controversial Google Diversity Memo, Time Magazine, August 8, 2017

Sarah Jeong and Rachel Becker, Science Doesn’t Explain Tech’s Diversity Problem — History Does, The Verge, August 16, 2017

Oliver Voß, Die Tech-Branche und ihr Sexismusproblem, Der Tagespiel, August 8, 2017

Rodrigo Ghedin, Google acerta ao demitir engenheiro acusado de misoginia, Nova Economia, September 8, 2017

National Geographic: Original Sin

Code: Debugging the Gender Gap

Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WWII

Backstory, Binary Coeds: The Secret History of Women in Programming, February 6, 2015

Radio Österreich, "Women Pioneers in Informatics", December 2012