Sunday, June 21, 2015

"CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap" looks at disparity in tech employment

Code: Debugging the Gender Gap”, directed by Robin Hauser Reynolds, examines the relative lack of women in high-tech and computer programming, historically.
It’s a no-brainer that the film (often humorously animated, like by showing the first "bug") mentions Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (link) inventor of the first compiler.  The film does not really delve into how computing culture evolved as it moved from defense to commercial mainframes, and then smaller platforms (“minis”) and finally PC’s, mobile and the Internet.

My first summer programming job was with the Navy in 1965 (David Taylor Model Basin in Carderock, MD), and I remember a Fortran class taught by “Sharon Good”.  Most of the first summer was spent in that class. My first job after the Army would be with RCA, shown in the film (in 1970).  I would wind up with the Navy again, and then Univac, and I personally found in the early 70s that Univac was ahead of the game in employing women in programming (but also in sales of keypunch machines).

At Chilton in the 1980s, the main DBA was female (and lesbian).  Throughout the remaining years, there were many female programmers (and particularly managers and executives at ReliaStar and ING/Voya), but still less than half.

But it’s true that in high school, when I graduated (in 1961) not as many girls took science and math.  Only one person in the Science Honor Society in 1961 was female.  She would get a PhD and eventually marry another member who also earned one (in Physics). 

In graduate school at KU, more of the math students were men, but the females were outstanding;  one would earn a PhD at Illinois later.

Females develop biologically earlier than men, who catch up at about age 14.  It always seemed like a paradox that the boys were expected to take the lead.

The film, and the QA afterword, made the point that many high tech positions are hard to fill without more women and minorities going into the field.

The official site is here.   The production company is listed as “Finish Line” (not Fine Line).  The film was shown at AFI Docs, in Silver Spring, before a sold out audience Saturday afternoon.

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