I have been reading recently that women are abandoning computer science, and that percentage of women in our profession is not just low, but getting lower. I'm not sure actually that the situation here is as bad as in North America, but it's certainly true that software engineering and computer science are not very popular among women. Why? To be honest, I don't have the answer.
Here is what comes to mind:
- Geek-ness is viewed in the society as the opposite of being attractive; this is much more important for young women, than for men. For a guy - a nice high-tech salary will provide the attraction instead.
- Sitting in a cube by the computer all day and doing one thing, coding, is probably not very attractive for most people, but for women especially, since most of us are better at performing a variety of tasks and interacting with people - I mean there has to be an explanation why "secretary" or "teacher" are such typical women professions.
- Hi-tech jobs are very demanding, too demanding. For most women family life is at least as important as professional life, and usually family comes first. But there just aren't many positions you can find after getting computer science degree that allow you easily balance work and family life.
- Hi-tech is for young people - look around, how many programmers you know are over 45? Why? For the same reason you don't see many women - it's hard to compete with the smart kids when you are pregnant, or haven't slept for a week, or worried about some family matter.
- But can't we just switch roles with the husband? well, go back to first bullet, double standards of the society certainly don't make it easier on us or our partners.
- People we are surrounded with (nerdy young men mostly) are pretty anti-social creatures in the first place, even more so with species of the other sex, even more so with the ones that don't fit social stereotype.
- Now suppose you survived all the obstacles, because you passionately love science and engineering. Did you watch the knack? There's a grain of truth there... society became less tolerant of weirdness, and people who 100 years ago may have been referred to as crazy geniuses nowadays live "normal life" on prescribed medications. And for a girl it's even stranger to be a crazy genius then for a boy.
- Male domination in the field - yes, it's chicken and egg problem. The field will change only if there will be enough women in it to drive the change from within and help other women. So I will devote the rest of the post to the ones who made it.
Admiral Grace Hopper
The inventor of COBOL and debugging.
Professor Barbara Liskov
The one from the substitution principle. I chose her among several prominent computer scientist women because she was the first female computer science Ph.D in the US.
SVP Jayshree Ullal
I originally thought to put the Google princess here, but having personally met Jayshree (she was my manager's manager's manager at one point) and impressed by her personality and professionalism (she is so clever, and yet such nice and humble person), I decided she's a better candidate to represent successful women in computer industry.
Alice, Dilbert's workaholic colleague
What did she achieve exactly? Surviving in the office should not be underestimated! So I am going to honor another ex-colleague, although we never met, for providing inspiration for a character I can identify with :-)
Keep coding girls!