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Unraveling the
Masculinization of
Technology
Audrey Eschright / Open Source Bridge 2016
Technology?
Masculinity??
This is what a software developer looks like
This is who we hire to write code
http://techcompaniesthatonlyhiremen.tumblr.com/post/48420931551/leaplab
not all men (are represented)
Given all the ways this is
reinforced, no wonder the
narrative sticks.
Those of us who don’t fit into that
dominant masculinity are taught,
over and over, 

to write ourselves out.
If you’re under the age of 30,
you have never seen
anything different.
How did we get here?
You’ve heard of Ada Lovelace, right?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:KayMcNultyAlyseSnyderSisStumpDifferentialAnalyzer.jpg
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/books/2013/02/steve_jobs_and_phone_hacking_exploding_the_phone_by_phil_lapsley_reviewed.html
https://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/ibm100/us/en/icons/trackingdiseases/
A light flashes once every five minutes; another
light flashes every 14 minutes. If they both flash
together at 1:00pm., what time will they next
flash together?
An aptitude question to screen
potential developers:
Margaret Hamilton defined software engineering
Photo: NASA
wagonhq.com
“…a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at
the ratio of men and women in groups.
And they found that if there's 17 percent women, the men in
the group think it's 50-50.
And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as
there being more women in the room than men.”
The masculinity of technology is constructed, over and over.
Through erasure, through moving goal-posts, through the
narratives we promote.
Participation time!
Who benefits from
inequality?
What’s the downside to
creating more equality?
What’s the new narrative 

we need?
What would it feel like to see true
gender diversity in our field?
What do we have to
give up to get there?
Thanks! and further reading
• The Recompiler issue 4: legacy systems (available at
shop.recompilermag.com)
• The Computer Boys Take Over by Nathan Ensmenger
• Hidden Figures by Margot Shetterly (will be out in
September 2016)
• http://thehumancomputerproject.com/women
• Contact me: audrey@lifeofaudrey.com

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Unraveling the Masculinization of Technology

Editor's Notes

  1. My goal today is that we’ll learn how to talk about the dominant masculinity of the tech industry, and primarily software development, in a historical, contextual way, and that we’ll gain insights into why things are like this. We’re not here to make anyone feel bad about their gender! and this is a complex topic: unfortunately I’m not going to be able to talk about trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming experiences directly.
  2. When we say technology is coded masculine, or that it has masculinity, what we mean is that it is described and valued as work that men do. Women who do this work are made invisible, and their femininity is not transferred to their work or skills. We hire code ninjas and rockstars, not code divas or princesses.
  3. Let’s have a look at this dominant narrative.
  4. the guys write the guy-code while drinking Jolt and eating Twix, or something
  5. Over the last decade, % of women receiving CS degrees has been under 20% via https://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/ncwit_women-in-it_2016-full-report_final-web06012016.pdf
  6. “the percentage of computing occupations held by women has been declining since 1991, when it reached a high of 36 percent” (this includes developers, DBAs, researchers, system administrators) — https://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/ncwit_women-in-it_2016-full-report_final-web06012016.pdf
  7. and who do we market computers to? also men.
  8. what’s worse, a single flavor of masculinity is reinforced, one where the men are white, straight, cis, able-bodied, and young
  9. This is really important—how can we imagine what we’ve never seen or experienced? — http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-women-stopped-coding
  10. This is the question we’re going to try to answer.
  11. Yes? Actually, we’re going to skip ahead a little.
  12. Modern computing grows directly from the need for ballistics calculations during WWII. At this time, “computer” was a job description: women who performed sets of calculations for this work. These women were young, from recent college graduates to even high school students. They were hired for their math abilities, and often viewed as interchangeable. Men who might have taken these jobs were occupied in other parts of the war effort. The work wasn’t seen as intellectual so much as repetitive and focused. The men who designed and created the machines these calculations were performed on received most of the credit for the results.
  13. In 1946, six women were recruited to work on the ENIAC, the first general-purpose computing machine to be built—designed for calculating ballistics tables. There was no programming manual to tell them how to do this. They had to learn the system and create programs for it—not with a written programming language, but cables and switches! At the time, they were not publicly credited for this work.
  14. Post-war, this computing work developed into a technology industry, primarily focused on data processing. Women continued to be hired as operators and coders of computing systems, work that was consistently categorized as clerical and feminine. A more formalized division formed between this and “programming”, i.e. program design, in the job titles and roles assigned, along gendered lines. Women’s roles as coders included the debugging and trouble-shooting of computer systems—in doing so, they revealed that computer programming and coding was a much harder and more complicated task than the men who designed the systems had anticipated.
  15. Women continued to be encouraged to join the computing industry into the 1960s. This is a Cosmopolitan article from 1967 encouraging young women to consider applying for programming jobs to meet a growing need for labor.
  16. From Your Career in Computer Programming, also 1967, reviewed here: http://thecomputerboys.com/?p=717
  17. The roles and narrative shifted over the next decade, though. Two things happened: an expanded need for computer programmers focused on a masculinized set of beliefs about who was skilled and qualified to do the work the rise of a second narrative about the rebellious, creative computer hacker
  18. The growth of the computing industry created a need for companies to expand their programming workforce rapidly. There weren’t enough existing programmers to cover the amount of work companies could line up, so new ones would need to be trained, and they struggled to figure out how to identify and train new programmers quickly. —image from Business Week, 1966.
  19. In order to address this shortage, companies turned to various kinds of screening methods, especially aptitude and personality tests. They had no particular evidence that this was an effective way to select potential developers—the main motivation was that many new people would need to be trained in programming skills, and they needed a way to filter candidates.
  20. Rather than increasing gender equality by widening the search for candidates, the use of these tests tended to reinforce certain biases: the idea that being a programmer required formal mathematics training, and that it was most suited toward anti-social masculine personalities. Women were less likely to screen successfully. Also, emphasizing these sorts of traits played into the power struggles that occurred when existing business systems in an organization were computerized. Image via The Computer Boys Take Over (Proceedings of the Fourth Annual SIGCPR Conference on Computer Personnel Research, ACM, 1966).
  21. The growing mythology around computer hackers grew out of groups and activities like phone “phreaking”, the Tech Model Train Club at MIT, and the Homebrew Computer Club in California. These emphasized a slightly different kind of masculinity than the corporate screening tests: one that involved creativity, cleverness, and rule-breaking. Photo: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in their Homebrew Computer Club days.
  22. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the computing world expanded to include personal computers and game consoles. The marketing efforts for these systems became heavily focused on market segmentation—specifically promoting them as desirable and suitable for boys. More reading on why this approach makes sense to marketers: http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/12/2/5143856/no-girls-allowed
  23. This segmentation is also reinforced in the other direction, by making sure that computers “for girls” have visible gender markers.
  24. As a young woman, the way I learned to resist these pressures was through the idea of “girl power!” and direct counter-argument: “anything you can do, I can do better.” I’ve come to find that approach unsatisfying, and instead I want to work on the idea of re-normalizing gender diversity in tech, and addressing the structural impacts of these biases.
  25. Stepping back a little, we have this field, programming, that was created and defined by women…
  26. …and yet, this is what technology companies look like today.
  27. We hold invisible biases against even seeing that this inequality exists (remember that percentage of women receiving CS degrees? it’s about 18%) — http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=197390707
  28. The effects of these biases and marginalization trickle down, from women in general, to women of color, to older workers, to those with disabilities, and so on. The photo is of Christine Darden, who worked at Langley Research Center from 1967-2007. http://thehumancomputerproject.com/women/christine-darden
  29. It’s great to be part of the majority! You’re respected, you fit in—and because your skills are seen as important, complex, and in short-supply, you’re paid very well. Do companies benefit from it too? (perhaps homogenous teams are easier to manage)
  30. Pay rates go down, and so does prestige: once women start doing a job, “It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/upshot/as-women-take-over-a-male-dominated-field-the-pay-drops.html
  31. Starting points: Technology is created by people of all genders It’s as feminine as masculine as enby Gender diversity > gender neutrality There’s nothing wrong or off-balance about a technical team that has no men
  32. It's going to be tempting to hold onto the wealth and power that comes from being a valued elite (of course!) What will this look like and feel like for us?
  33. Thank you <3