Women & Computing

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Proposal
Short Form
Beginner

Excerpt

Before there were even computers to program women were making exiciting advances in computing. In the 1800s Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer program. She died before the computer was completed, but when her program was eventually ran it Just Worked™! The gender imbalance in computing is a problem. We all know software engineers are shaping the future. Women need to be part of the discussion.

Description

Before there were even computers to program women were making exiciting advances in computing. In the 1800s Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer program. She died before the computer was completed, but when her program was eventually ran it Just Worked™! In the 1950s Grace Murray Hopper wrote the very first compiler. Before Hopper everyone wrote assembly code. Assembly Code. In the 1970s Adele Goldberg and others developed the basis for GUIs. Apple eventually used many of these ideas and their implementation as the basis for their Macintosh desktop.

Women where able to accomplish these things despite the many obstacles they face in the world of computing. The 1960s-80s saw a dramatic rise in the number of women in computing, but their responsibilities were limited and there was no avenue to advancement. Men wrote programs on paper. Women keypunchers transcribed program to machine readable punch cards. Men ran the machines that processed the punch cards.

Since the mid 1980s computing has been hemorrhaging women. This can be linked to the maturation of computer science departments, the emergence of the stereotypical male geek in popular culture, and the rise of gendered gaming. Open source communities have fewer women than enterprise communities, which can be linked to the culture, dynamics, and values of these communities. For one thing openness means that a minority of difficult members can disproportionately affect the tone and dynamics of interactions.

The gender imbalance in computing is a problem. We all know software engineers are shaping the future. Women need to be part of the discussion. The future is for all of us. Communities like Rails Girls, Rails Bridge, Girl Develop It, and others have taken this problem head on. It turns out when you invite women specifically a lot of them show up. What are you waiting for? Start inviting them.

Speaking experience

This is co-presented talk. We first gave this talk at Ruby on Ales and will be giving it at Scottish Ruby Conf and Nordic Ruby Conf.

https://speakerdeck.com/jlsuttles/the-history-of-women-in-computing

Speaker