- 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: 7 x 0.6 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing 1st Edition
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"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 incomputer education and technology
The computing profession is facing a serious gender crisis.Women are abandoning the computing field at an alarming rate. Fewerare entering the profession than anytime in the past twenty-fiveyears, while too many are leaving the field in mid-career. With amaximum of insight and a minimum of jargon, Gender Codesexplains the complex social and cultural processes at work ingender and computing today. Edited by Thomas Misa and featuring aForeword by Linda Shafer, Chair of the IEEE Computer Society Press,this insightful collection of essays explores the persisting genderimbalance in computing and presents a clear course of action forturning things around.
Through engaging historical accounts, Gender Codes tellsthe stories of women programmers, systems analysts, managers, andIT executives who flooded this initially attractive field in the1960s and '70s. It celebrates their notable successes in allsegments of the industry. The book then examines why, while mostother science and technology fields have seen steady growth in thenumber of female participants, the computing field experienced justthe opposite.
Providing a unique international perspective, the contributorsto this unprecedented volume reveal how computing has becomemale-coded, highlighting the struggles women have faced in theoffice, the media, and in culture at large. The book assesses theexisting intervention strategies and pinpoints why they are notworking and what can—and must—be done to stall theexodus.
Gender Codes will resonate with female professionals incomputing, engineering, and the sciences; with scholars andeducators in history, gender/women's studies, and science andtechnology; with deans, department chairs, center directors, andthose in industry and government with hiring responsibilities; andwith staff and executives at foundations and funding agencies.
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"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. In particular, one of the chapters of this book gives the anecdote of secretarial work in the United States, which at the beginning of the 1900s was entirely male: acting as a secretary to a business person was a critical step in the path to becoming a successful business person. Secretarial work was the respectable apprenticeship for young men with business ambitions. Then, as an increasing supply of educated women interested in working (and willing to work for relatively modest wages, given the shortage of professions open to them) became available, a total reversal took place. Within a decade or so, almost all secretaries were female. Examples like this can embolden us in dissecting socially-constructed (and hopefully temporary!) stereotypes about who is "naturally suited" to STEM careers.
Also, a fascinating general issue that emerges from considering the gendering of computing is that as computers and computing emerged, there really was a tremendous void: no one knew what this technology would be like, what it would be useful for, what mental preparation/abilities would be useful to harness it. There was a time when even greats thought of software as a slight marginal contribution to be layered on top of the monumental achievement of the physical machine. For younger people (especially those who work near computing), it is incredible to imagine this actually-very-recent past. A time before object-oriented programming (thanks, Alan Kay!)? A time before compilers (thanks, Grace Hopper!)? Really fascinating.
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. While other STEM fields continued to make greater or lesser progress from higher or lower levels of previous success, beginning in the late 1980s women's participation in computing started to drop, and it has continued to do so. Not only is the apparent exclusion of one-half of the population from a crucial industry bad for both those individuals and society and an obvious call to action, studying this intriguing turn of events should have a lot to tell us about gender and technology in general, a topic of interest both to society at large and to the academy.
Therefore in 2008, CBI brought together historians working on various facets of the issue of women and computing to see if their perspectives could help generate "tools of understanding," and, ultimately, suggestions for action. This book represents the published versions of the papers presented. The contributions are uniformly strong. Although focused on the U.S.A., the volume includes case studies from the U.K., Norway and Greece, and tries where possible to transcend national boundaries--particularly important in a global field such as computing.
In the penultimate chapter, Misa attempts to perceive some common thread in the various case studies. The idea he comes up with has to do with images of computing and images of gender roles. Although gender roles have developed over time, they are constantly a crucial touchstone for society. Many aspects of social behavior are gendered (the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, founder of Structuralism, thought in essence that all social behaviors were gendered). Computing was such a new phenomenon, however (other forms of engineering had longer antecedents), that at first it defied characterization. However, just as computing was becoming a larger and more critical industry, society, led by the media, came to characterize its practitioners more and more as "nerds." A "nerd," Misa argues, is a masculine construct in our society. Therefore, any improvement in the situation will wither involve a redefinition of gender or, more likely, a redefinition of what sort of person pursues a career in computing.
In the final chapter, Caroline Clarke Hayes, a leading engineering educator and one of the few practitioners involved in the volume, takes up the challenge of solutions and discusses "the prospects for change." The details will not be discussed in this brief review. Suffice to say, Hayes agrees with Misa that the main culprit appears to be image, and she points in some interesting directions for further research and for action, but the task is just beginning.
--reprinted with permission from the IEEE History Center Newsletter, March 2011