Are most programmers male?

James J. Besemer jb at
Tue Aug 13 05:19:07 CEST 2002

"David Mertz, Ph.D." wrote:

> I thought for a bit about the word "excluded" before using it.  I stick
> by it.  Exclusion isn't only about a sign on the door that says "Men
> only!."  Creating infants who value the world in certain subtly gendered
> way is also a kind of exclusion that operates at a twenty or thirty year
> remove.  For that matter, innate biological differences in disposition
> are a kind of exclusion also.

Personally, I think "excluded" is subjective and carries a pejorative
connotation that is unjustified by the actual circumstances.  It connotes
active discrimination by special interests, rather than the subtle influences
you list above.

I furthermore disagree about the subtle societal influences.  I rather think
genetics and primary sex characteristics play a much bigger role than is PC
to admit these days.

You obviously disagree.  It's a free country.

> I'll disagree to a large degree on these hormonal determinants of
> behavior.  But not completely.  Let's say that there's something going
> on there, and relatively more testosterone or estrogen promote certain
> attitudes or traits over others.

Testosterone is closely associated with aggression.  This alone can explain
big differences in day to day behavior, translating in the office to "drive,"
"focus," "competitiveness," etc.  Estrogen and progesterone levels have a
profound effect on mood, though I don't know how to extrapolate to the office

Too, there are genetic and physiological differences.  Woman is the only sex
that can have babies.  Conceiving, carrying and birthing a child is a major
physiological and psychological event for the woman; I'm not sure men can
even understand it let alone experience it.  I submit that the prospect of
childbirth necessarily plays a much greater role in a woman's life than a
man's.  This alone could influence career choice in many cases.

My problem is, if you can identify this lengthy list of profound and obvious
differences, there's no need to hypothesize some subtle, secondary or
tertiary effect (though they too may be present).  And we shouldn't be at all
surprised if certain "learned" behaviors strongly correlate one way or the
other.  Even if the subtle influences make a difference, they can be overcome
only if the primary differences can.  I also think if the only influences
were so subtle and external (rather than profound and genetic) then the
stereotypes would not be so pervasive in today's population of young people,
given the strong PC bias against the stereotypes.

To be sure, these sexual differences surely should matter a lot less in an IT
office than, say, in a fire department.  But my observation is that
differences persist at some level even in an IT atmosphere.

> Men, thereafter, could
> simply not type as well as women over long hours.

I recall back in the keypunch days (and subsequent data entry), women were
widely regarded to have the unique temperament to accurately perform this
work for extended periods.  Men simply could not keep up the same speed or

I dunno.  I took a typing class as a freshman and I feel it was one of the
most useful single classes in all of high school.  I can type at very high
rates of speed.  Accuracy is....adequate.  Unfortunately my spelling is

> Likewise Besemer argues--correctly, incorrectly, or indifferently--that
> women are inherently better managers because of certain traits.

I merely RELAY second hand info for y'all to interpret as you will.

The report is largely consistent with my own experience with male and female,
programmers and 1st level managers.

However, I have long learned to be suspicious of any single 'study'.  When 20
or 30 studies show consistent results then we maybe know something.

> One
> thing that is certain is that this occupation only recently opened up
> for significant female participation.  Who really knows what we'll
> discover about the "true" requirements of programming in the next few
> decades.



James J. Besemer  503-280-0838 voice  503-280-0375 fax
mailto:jb at

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