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GENDER CODES

Introduction



This is intended as a companion to Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing, edited by Thomas J. Misa, former director of the Charles Babbage Institute. Providing a unique international perspective, the contributors to this volume reveal how computing has become male-coded, highlighting the struggles women have faced in the office, the media, and in culture at large. The book assesses the existing intervention strategies and pinpoints why they are not working and what can- and must- be done to stall the exodus. The contributors have categorized their works into four categories.

Tools for Understanding: The first section encompasses the first three chapters of the book. Thomas Misa offers a clear articulation of the problems with gender in computing today. Following that is a look at the data for women in computing, which shows exactly how the participation of women has changed over time. Lastly is a look at the history of women in data processing, meant to provide a foundation of knowledge to drawn on for the rest of the book.

Institutional Life: The next four chapters look at the factors that have pushed women out of the field of data processing, by examining a variety of occupations over time. First is a look at the effects that computer automation has had on womens' employment in general in the U.S. Next we look to the computerization of the British government to see if patterns emerge across nationalities. After this come insights into the gender dynamics of the programming profession and how they have changed over time. The section concludes by looking at the role that gender played during the computerization of the library, to show the pattern of effects extends into professions that have long been female-dominated.

Media and Culture: This section looks at factors that keep women from entering the field of computing in the first place. A look at cultural perceptions of computers is given through examination of journalism centered on computers. Computer advertisements are then examined to show the types of public images of computers available to women. Both of these chapters look outside of the U.S., first to Norway and then to Greece, to show that computing's issues with gender are a worldwide concern.

Women in Computing: The final section aims at providing a first step towards framing solutions to the issues outlines in previous sections. In order to combat the negative perception of computing, these chapters offer views of women in the history of computing that focus on positive aspects of their experience. The first chapter of this section highlights the aspects of computing that brought the most pleasure to women. The next offers an in-depth look at three women who took alternative paths to get into computer programming and wound up starting their own companies. Finally, the last two chapters offer first a recap of the lessons presented throughout the book, and then some possible policy solutions to move forward.

Digital Exhibit arranged by A.J. Gerick