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Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing [Paperback]

by Thomas J. Misa
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 13, 2010 0470597194 978-0470597194 1
The computing profession faces a serious gender crisis. Today, fewer women enter computing than anytime in the past 25 years. This book provides an unprecedented look at the history of women and men in computing, detailing how the computing profession emerged and matured, and how the field became male coded. Women's experiences working in offices, education, libraries, programming, and government are examined for clues on how and where women succeeded—and where they struggled. It also provides a unique international dimension with studies examining the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Norway, and Greece. Scholars in history, gender/women's studies, and science and technology studies, as well as department chairs and hiring directors will find this volume illuminating.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is a very valuable book in dispelling many of the myths about women and computing . . . For anyone interested in understanding why women are not attracted to the computing profession, including teachers and IT managers, this book is highly recommended. It provides an in-depth understanding of how and why
we are where we are." (Sex Roles, 2011)

"Gender Codes is an important book . . . this is a task in which the IEEE History Center can play a role, and we think our readers can and should as well-they can begin with reading this seminal book" (Bibliography, 1 March 2011)

"This book is an excellent introduction to some of the main themes, and there are many more chapters waiting to be written." (IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 1 April 2011)

"Summing up: Recommended [for] all levels/libraries." (CHOICE, January 2011)

From the Back Cover

A fresh, constructive examination of the gender imbalance in computer education and technology

The computing profession is facing a serious gender crisis. Women are abandoning the computing field at an alarming rate. Fewer are entering the profession than anytime in the past twenty-five years, while too many are leaving the field in mid-career. With a maximum of insight and a minimum of jargon, Gender Codes explains the complex social and cultural processes at work in gender and computing today. Edited by Thomas Misa and featuring a Foreword by Linda Shafer, Chair of the IEEE Computer Society Press, this insightful collection of essays explores the persisting gender imbalance in computing and presents a clear course of action for turning things around.

Through engaging historical accounts, Gender Codes tells the stories of women programmers, systems analysts, managers, and IT executives who flooded this initially attractive field in the 1960s and '70s. It celebrates their notable successes in all segments of the industry. The book then examines why, while most other science and technology fields have seen steady growth in the number of female participants, the computing field experienced just the opposite.

Providing a unique international perspective, the contributors to this unprecedented volume reveal how computing has become male-coded, highlighting the struggles women have faced in the office, the media, and in culture at large. The book assesses the existing intervention strategies and pinpoints why they are not working and what can—and must—be done to stall the exodus.

Gender Codes will resonate with female professionals in computing, engineering, and the sciences; with scholars and educators in history, gender/women's studies, and science and technology; with deans, department chairs, center directors, and those in industry and government with hiring responsibilities; and with staff and executives at foundations and funding agencies.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Pr; 1 edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470597194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470597194
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 6.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #790,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas J. Misa is Engineering Research Associates Land Grant Chair in History of Technology in the Program for History of Science and Technology and professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as director of the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota. He has written or edited nine books, including Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing and Leonardo to the Internet: Technology and Culture from the Renaissance to the Present.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of "Gender Codes" March 31, 2011
By Dr.G
Format:Paperback
This is an important book. Obviously, computing was one of the formative technologies of the late 20th century and continues to be crucial to the 21st century. At the same time, as editor Thomas Misa--Director of the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI--a center for the history of information processing at the University of Minnesota) and a 2011 member of the IEEE History Committee--points out in the first chapter, it appears to have an unfortunate unique status among technologies.
Given the centrality of high technology in economy and society for the past several decades, educators, policy makers, sociologists and others for some time have been concerned with unequal participation in engineering and science careers (the so-called STEM fields) across society, with gender being a particularly important problem. Prior to the 1970s, women in the developed world were -- through a variety of factors -- excluded from many career paths. In the last three decades of the 20th century, great progress was made, but STEM areas lagged noticeably. Much research and discussion has been published on this topic, based in part on the observation that some STEM fields -- such as medicine -- have more or less achieved parity, while others -- such as mechanical engineering -- have never been able to attract significant numbers of women. One of the key data points of the discussion to try to determine causes and solutions was the fact that computing did quite well in recruiting women, while its sister discipline, electrical engineering, was one of the weakest performers.
However, those who continued to pay close attention noticed something shocking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly-interesting and interdisciplinary history. December 16, 2013
Format:Paperback
I wrote a review of this book for the American Women in Mathematics Newsletter. Here is the first paragraph of that review:

"The statistics in this book are stunning. To start: in 1984, an astronomical 37% of computer science majors were women (the rate
has now dropped to around 15%, and shows signs of further decline). Though I consider myself informed on gender issues in STEM, this mid-80s enrollment (and employment) boom in cs was one of many surprises I encountered while reading Gender Codes. The volume brings together 14 contributors who span a wide academic range; engineers, historians of science, anthropologists, and media-studies experts investigate the under-documented history of women in computing. What happened to bring so many women into computer science, they ask, and what could now be driving the decline in enrollments and industrial employment? The answers will be of interest not just to computer scientists."

This book contains a huge amount of historical information that many who are interested in these topics are totally unaware of. As a woman who studied Math/Algorithms/Applied Math etc and currently works as a postdoctoral researcher in the field, I found the resources in this interdisciplinary set of contributions really useful.

For example, in STEM we have the strange background of societal stereotypes about mens/womens ability, but there have always been professions that are considered strongly as men's work vs women's work, and there are historical examples where this notion of the right fit (gender-wise) for a profession has turned on a dime.
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