Are most programmers male?

Terry Hancock hancock at
Sun Aug 18 03:36:18 CEST 2002

From: aahz at (Aahz)
> In article <ajlag4$1cnj14$1 at>,
> James Kew <james.kew at> wrote:
> >"Bo M. Maryniuck" <b.maryniuk at> wrote in message
> >news:mailman.1029229291.3186.python-list at
> >>
> >>Only some punky moms,
> >>who absolutely does not care about own babyes still are programmers.

Surely that post was a joke or a troll?  :-)  I find it difficult
to believe anyone this side of the 19th century would *actually*
think that. This is the "their brains overheat" argument that
Terry Pratchett repeatedly parodies in the Discworld novels.

> James Kew <james.kew at> responded:
> >Oh please: there's a counter-example to that in my own small
> >office. Saying that to Patricia, who is a very good C programmer, a
> >very good mother to two young kids, and a softly-spoken Christian,
> >would get you a well-deserved punch in the mouth.

:-D Kind of a contradiction there, don't you think? 

> >Sterotyping women as illogical baby-factories hardly encourages them to
> >enter computing. Our loss.

Assuming that they listen, which I hope they don't.  Most of
the professional women I've worked with had developed insulation
against this kind of thing.  Most of the female professionals
I know are a lot more emotionally stable than their male
counterparts, simply because they have to be (selection effect).

> Yup.  Some of my earliest memories are of the gentle whirring of punch
> card machines, from while my mother was working.

Nice image.

I came across this organization recently, which I found somewhat

Membership as listed is apparently about 90%+ female
(acknowledging the comment by Eni that names aren't always
a good estimator), so it isn't just a name. There's also
quite a few members listed. It's apparently a
chapter-based organization, which is kind of cool.

Admittedly, they aren't strictly programmers, just Linux
fans, but among other things, they teach classes in C and
Python, which brings this thread at least partially back
to being on topic.

Also, I'd like to mention that I started programming
with Python (rather than some other language like C),
largely because at the time I was primarily responsible
for child care in our house at the time (my wife was
full-time employed at the time).  Now the situation has
reversed once again, but I still program at home a lot. I
found that, compared to other languages, Python was
relatively much easier to "pick up the threads" on
when frequently interrupted.

Both C and Perl require a lot of long-term concentration
for me.  I had previously considered this to be a property
of all programming, and that's somewhat true. But Python
was a lot easier than other languages I tried -- I could
actually get work done with the kind of every-five-minute
interruptions you get with two very active preschoolers
in the house.

Women expect to get put in this situation much more
than men, and it is one reason they often don't
choose something like programming as a profession. If you
expect such a situation in your own life (whether you're
male or female),  but still want to program, I would
like to offer a personal recommendation of Python for
that purpose.

I suspect the reason is because Python is both a compact
and powerful high-level language (which it shares with
Perl and others), and a very explicit and readable one --
this makes it faster to catch-up when you look back at
the screen. The gain is not in minutes, but in seconds --
10 or 20 seconds at a time. however, if it's repeated
many, many times, it starts to matter.

In C, I always had the experience of being interrupted
again before I had managed to recover state from the
previous event.  Like reading the same darned paragraph
over and over again because someone's trying to talk
to you while you read.  It was very frustrating,
especially since I used to be good at it, and now
found myself incapable.  I suspect this is the real
cause of the "after the baby" problem. And I don't
think it matters what gender you are -- just whether
or not you accept the responsibility.


Terry Hancock
hancock at       
Anansi Spaceworks         
P.O. Box 60583                     
Pasadena, CA 91116-6583

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