RE: Educational brainstorming

Donna Woodka (
Thu, 14 May 1998 08:56:07 -0700 (PDT)

On Thu, 7 May 1998, Robert McIntosh wrote:

> As far as women programmers, I taught programming for many years and
> always had a difficult time attracting women to my classes. I
> attributed this, at least in part, to the fact that women are socialized
> to value relationship over all else. Programming is generally an
> isolated activity. Just you and this box.

Not if you're doing it right. You need to get customer input up front for
your requirements and planning a user interface, you need to work with
other programmers and do design reviews, code walkthroughs, etc. and then
work with Q/A staff and customers to make sure things work as expected. If
programming is done as an isolated activity, it's probably being done
incorrectly. Programming can be as "social" as any other activity, and
women can and do excel at it.

I've found projects tend to flow better with women on them, maybe because
there is more communication taking place. I think companies are doing
themselves and their customers a disservice if they are overlooking the
value of female programmers and engineers. Perhaps the "nerd" stigma would
vanish if companies would be more proactive in encouraging women in these

It's a complex issue and an
> important equity concern. Technological illiteracy is having
> increasingly dire consequences as we proceed through the information
> age.

I don't see it as technological illiteracy so much as technological
ignorance. Plenty of people can use computers, but how many know how they
work? I don't see any "dire consequences", but I think people should be
encouraged to understand their world and their tools, instead of simply
accepting them as "magic". I got into engineering and programming from a
desire to know how computers and other things work, and I see that
discouraged in girls so often. Boys tear things apart and find out what
makes them tick, while the girls are supposed to stay neat and not muss
their clothes. Boys sit down at a computer and start playing while the
girls wait for someone to tell them what to do with it because they're so
socialized to follow directions all the time. We can't have these
attitudes and have equity in a technological world. You can't "RTFM" and
create something new that doesn't already exist in the world.

Donna Woodka / "Never doubt that a small group of / thoughtful, committed citizens can
/ change the world;indeed, it's the
/ only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead

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