Are most programmers male?

David Mertz, Ph.D. mertz at gnosis.cx
Sun Aug 11 19:21:42 CEST 2002


"James J. Besemer" <jb at cascade-sys.com> wrote previously:
|I think it's totally wrong to conclude that women are 'excluded'

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.

Which of these things is what's going on is up for debate (in real life,
of course, such factors mix in various proportions).

|Now that I've been married for over 20 years and raised children...

Hmmm... I just get more naive every year I age :-).

|Men and women (in general) differ in a great many ways.  If you only
|consider the significantly different concentrations of testosterone and
|estrogen, you naturally would expect significantly different behavior
|patterns along 'traditional' lines....

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.

The thing is, programming isn't so unambiguous an activity as one might
suppose.  I agree that the best weight-lifter are--and will continue to
be--men.  It's pretty straightforward what goes into lifting big
barbells, and there's a lot of innate basis here.  Even there, no one in
1975 had any idea just how far women can go as weight-lifters and
body-builders... it would appear absurd to most everyone in 1975 that
women *could* look (and lift) the way that the class of female
body-builders routinely do nowadays.

But something with similar ambiguity to programming is -typing-.  For
the first two decades after the popularization of typewriters, MEN were
thought to be far better suited to the activity, and "typist" was
essentially an exclusively male profession.  Of course, back then,
typists were considered professionals, and were paid rather well.
Witness the downward wage pressure of capitalist "innovation", and firms
discovered that much lower-paid women could be employed as typists.  By
the 1940s, not only was typist an exclusively female occupation, but it
was also considered "unskilled", and even a type of work that was
biologically better suited to female abilities.  Men, thereafter, could
simply not type as well as women over long hours.

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

Yours, David...

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