back to article Ada Lovelace Day: Meet the 6 women who gave you the 'computer'

Ada Lovelace Day, the second Tuesday of October, marks the achievements of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Women have ascended to great heights in the technology sector – Ginni Rometty is chairperson, president and chief exec of IBM, Meg Whitman and Marissa Mayer are CEOs of Hewlett- …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Despite what many claim, I don't believe that the IT industry in general is "Institutionally Sexist", it may well be male dominated, but that isn't the same thing.

    It's been my experience from working in both small and (very) large firms from the mid-80s onwards that women in IT are treated equally to their male conterparts. Those that are good do well and those that aren't don't. There may be some discriminiation or sexist attitude, but this seems to be a minority.

    While there are female "geeks", most women just aren't interested in technology - to most, it's just a tool to get the job done. And this is reflected in the world of IT.

    So it isn't surprising that women make up a minority in IT. Would the Industry benefit from more women in the field? Quite probably, but where are they to be sourced? You can't employ somone who doesn't apply for a position and to employ someone *just* because they are female and not the best qualified/able will not improve male attutudes to women in IT.

    1. Haku

      "You can't employ somone who doesn't apply for a position and to employ someone *just* because they are female and not the best qualified/able will not improve male attutudes to women in IT."

      The BBC are doing that with their comedy shows QI, Have I Got News For You & Mock The Week. Each time I a solitary token woman on those shows I wonder if they actually had a choice of female comedians to choose from or wether they just had to pick the only one available...

      Reference: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26107011

      1. dcluley

        The BBC are making an effort. The News Quiz on Radio 4 starts a new series on Friday 24 October and according to the Radio Times it has an all-women panel for once.

    2. Rikkeh

      True, a large part of the problem is that the elimination of non-typical IT professionals happens long before they even apply for the jobs (the same is true of a lot of other professions).

      It's often stated that the proportion of students studying computer science degrees who are female has fallen over the last few years. I very much doubt that this is because loads of school-aged young women do work experience at IT firms and decide it's not for them. Rather, it suggests that there are other things putting them off- in all likelihood, stereotypes.

      It suggests that the IT industry should be going into schools and tackling the stereotypes there. I say should, because if entry into the field's being restricted by anything other than ability, then the whole field suffers.

    3. Mr Lion

      I don't think it means what you think it means

      " I don't believe that the IT industry in general is "Institutionally Sexist", it may well be male dominated, but that isn't the same thing."

      The key point about Institutional Sexism (or racism, or whatever) is that it isn't a bunch of bad people doing bad things because they have not yet had their moral compasses adjusted - it's that the system is set up in such a way that it mitigates against (in this case) women making as much contribution as they otherwise might.

      Your final paragraph answers it:

      "So it isn't surprising that women make up a minority in IT. Would the Industry benefit from more women in the field? Quite probably, but where are they to be sourced? You can't employ somone who doesn't apply for a position and to employ someone *just* because they are female and not the best qualified/able will not improve male attutudes to women in IT."

      "quite probably" seems mealy mouthed but let's let that slide - the fact that women are not going into the field, aren't studying the appropriate subjects at the appropriate level, or whatever the causes are - that's the "institutional" bit - it's not male chauvinist pigs not knowing how to relate to women (although that - sadly - still happens) - but a system which has not - yet - been set up to encourage an equal contribution from all sectors of society.

      1. nijam

        Re: I don't think it means what you think it means

        Although you're right, as you describe it, the institution that is "Institutionally Sexist" isn't the IT industry itself but the education system, and quite probably society in general. Certainly it would be good to fix that, but I *still* can't employ someone who doesn't apply for a job. Employing individuals, not on merit but as tokens for whatever reason, is itself discriminatory, and worse, is deliberately so.

        PS couldn't resist slipping a "quite probably" in there, mealy-mouthed or not.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I don't think it means what you think it means

        @Mr Lion

        Not at all and "I don't think it means what you think it means"...

        That an industry is male dominated doesn't mean that the system is " set up in such a way that it mitigates against (in this case) women making as much contribution as they otherwise might.". It has been my experience that the IT industry does not discriminate against women, those who do enter the industry are treated no different from their male collegues.

        My point still stands, that it is male dominated simply because too few women are interested in a career in IT. It may well be that education isn't offering women the skills and training at an early enough age to ensure there are suitable female candidates later, but that is not the fault of the IT Industry.

        You seem to have a problem understanding common English. My final paragraph does not answer your statement, infact, it disproves it. The IT Industry is not "set up in such a way that it mitigates against (in this case) women making as much contribution as they otherwise might." - women in IT do just as well as men. The problem is that too few women want to make a career in IT and that has nothing to do with the industry being sexist, simply that women tend not to be interested in IT. Full Stop.

        And no, "quite probably" when taken in context is *not* mealy mouthed. And if you wanted to "let that slide", why mention it at all?

    4. Meezey

      I take it you are female and this is why you know this? Or is it just a outside view of a male?

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Despite what many claim, I don't believe that the IT industry in general is "Institutionally Sexist", it may well be male dominated, but that isn't the same thing."

      Yup. And as a polar opposite example, Nursing is almost entirely a female profession.

      Despite the protestations of ardent feminists, males and females are not the "same" or "equal" in general. It's rare that any two people are. Equal opportunity allows people to choose, not to force all work types/fields to have equal representation.

      There is more and more research demonstrating differences in the way male and female brains operate, so it's likely that in general males and females will choose different career paths to suit them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Good point

        I think that's it, equality law should be about giving the opportunity not forcing people to do what you think they should.

        Equality is about equality of value, not of characteristics. We are not all the same but we should be treated as equally valuable.

  2. Ted Treen
    Joke

    Of course not...

    "...Women comprise 49 per cent of the UK’s workforce, but make up just 17 per cent of IT professionals..."

    Of course - women can't...

    1) Wear the same T-shirt all week,

    2) Live almost totally on pizza,

    3) Grow a wispy beard**

    4) Move into & take over their Mom's basement...

    **OK, some women can, but not the majority.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: Of course not...

      I certainly see the joke, but the joke is based on the problem.

      If you say "computer programmer" to someone, that checklist is exactly the image that most people call to mind.

      Your average adolescent male has no problem with any of those things. Your average adolescent female, well... she's a lot more fussy about personal hygiene and having a social life.

      This "alpha nerd" image is what puts girls off careers in technology. My experience of mentoring/teaching at undergraduate level would suggest that it's certainly not ability (yes, the smartest 5% of your staff is more likely to be male, but so is the dumbest 5%; in the range of abilities needed to do pretty much any paying job, male and female are equally able).

      The sad thing is that, as a job, most programming roles don't fit that image at all. Okay, there are exceptions in the case of places like Github, which seem designed for some kind of weird socially-retarded man-child who never leaves the office; but these are statistical outliers, and certainly not the mode.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Of course not...

        > places like Github, which seem designed for some kind of weird socially-retarded man-child

        Listen gramps, maybe you really should get into version control and distributed repos?

        1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          Re: Of course not...

          I was talking about their offices, not their product (have been using git for years, thanks; I don't need to spend more money than my email seevice costs just for a clumsy UI on top)

  3. DJV Silver badge

    I look forward...

    ...to a time when such days are not needed due to gender discrimination becoming something completely relegated to the past. Given the sexist trolling still seen in various places (online or otherwise), I suspect it's still very much an uphill battle.

  4. Haku

    There's one very important woman missing from that list.

    My mum.

    She gave me my first few computers - ZX81, ZX Spectrum+, BBC Master Compact, Amiga 1500.

    1. fix

      Re: There's one very important woman missing from that list.

      Same here, have an upvote ;-)

    2. John G Imrie Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: There's one very important woman missing from that list.

      Mine did too, are we related ?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: There's one very important woman missing from that list.

        Sadly, she looked at it as a passing fad which would divert me from studying the necessary literary skills needed for a glorious career of a taxpayer-sponsored track-to-a-vested-pension to be be lived in large office blocks.

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    In the absence of manuals...

    I seem to remember manuals filling shelves rarely helped in programming. Mostly there for thermal mass.

  6. 45RPM Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I have an idea that women have been visionary in many fields (including computing) partly because of sexism*. Because women were largely ignored and mostly not encouraged by the male dominated establishment, there were no giants on whose shoulders they could stand. On the other hand, there was little dogma and established opinion to hold them back - they thought freely and radically because they had no choice. It was learn it yourself, do it yourself, or don’t do it at all.

    I am very thankful for the likes of Ada Lovelace, Beatrice Shilling, Florence Nightingale - women who did their own thing, regardless of whether or not they were ‘allowed’ to, and without whom the world would be an immeasurably poorer place.

    *which isn’t to argue that sexism is a good thing, to be encouraged. Sexism is vile and should be consigned to the bin of history - and we’ll find the silver from the lining of this dark cloud elsewhere.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Never sure about this "role model" idea.

      So I can do programming because Turing was a man?

      Except he was a posh southerner and gay - so really only 25% the same - and I hadn't heard of him until I was at university.

      It's like claiming I am somehow politically empowered because Cameron is a man.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        @Yet Another Anonymous coward

        No, no, you miss my point - and, in any case, it doesn't really apply in these slightly more enlightened times when an education is available to all without any particular battle. Anyone these days can get access to a degree in software engineering (whether they can get a job afterward is another kettle of fish entirely, sadly).

        My point is that in the past, when an education of any kind was really only the preserve of men (as in some less enlightened countries today), women had to fight for their skills, they may even have had to teach themselves.

        Today everyone (in the West, at least) can stand on the shoulders of giants. You. Me. Everyone. Where that kind of education for all is not available then the disenfranchised have to make their own giants from scratch. And, just sometimes, their giants end up being a little bit taller. A little bit better.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          I meant more generally, the educational idea that there aren't women in programming because there are no women in programming for them to aspire to - and so promoting the activities of an 18th century women will somehow "enable" them.

          1. 45RPM Silver badge

            Oh, I see what you mean. I think that that is probably a separate issue. I have friends who are both female and programmers - but they’re in the minority. My wife, an engineer, would probably say that it’s down to cultural conditioning - and that it will take a long time for the problem to be fixed. I can’t help wondering if it isn’t just that they’ve got more interesting things to be cracking on with…

        2. Long John Brass Silver badge

          Utter rubbish

          > Anyone these days can get access to a degree in software engineering

          It was never ever about gender. It has always been about money

          If you were a well off 18th century type, you got an education, otherwise not so much. If you were male you got to go to work (Yay weren't they lucky)

          The systemic male oppression you speak of never really existed. It was rich vs poor and still is.

  7. Sureo

    Will having a female CEO make Oracle a kinder, gentler company?

    1. sandman

      NO!

      …and NO again.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Did Margaret Thatcher herald a kinder, gentler phase in British politics?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Yes, even if Pink Floyed whined about it like Che-Tee-wearing 99 percenters.

  8. Roadcrew
    Linux

    Strange, isn't it?

    Pre-teens of both genders seem(ed) about equally happy to 'play' with computing in my experience.

    I used to do 'Tech' stuff for UK middle schools for years - rock up with bean cans, string, oscilloscope & microphone, electric guitar, swanee whistles, synthesiser, Video Genie computer & TV, etc.

    Around age 9 or 10 everybody took part, pretty much.

    My own daughters were soldering stuff before primary school - and were encouraged to code on their kit-built ZX-81s.

    OK it was in Sinclair BASIC, but it's getting the coding ice broken, or throwing a starting double.

    That's what I thought, anyway.

    But they had other interests which prevailed, which was grand.

    On the way there were some fun visits to 'Technology Centres' with them as little kids, though....

    Computer demonstrator: "Now, kiddies, any questions about the big com-pu-ter?"

    Tiny little daughter raises hand: "How often do you back up your files?"

    <stunned>

    ;)

  9. localzuk

    Education

    When you compare the number of people graduating from university with applicable degrees, you find that the make-up of the industry itself is actually better than the make-up of STEM graduates! When I was at uni, I could count the number of women on my Computing degree on one hand, out of about 300 of us. On top of that, the majority of those women were international students and not from UK schools.

    So, what it makes me think is the failing starts far earlier than the industry or university. It starts in school.

    1. Pookietoo

      Re: Education

      For some reason I saw "Education" but in my mind it said "Eadon" - eek, scary. Maybe he's the reason girls don't want to be geeks?

  10. Anomalous Cowshed

    Without women there wouldn't be computers

    Based on the examples stated in this article, that's the same as saying "without men there wouldn't be babies". Or "Britain's space programme received a tremendous boost yesterday when NASA agreed to authorise the use of McVities biscuits at its astronaut training centre in Florida".

    I like programming, I know many men who do too, but the vast majority of the women I've ever met did not (except for one, absolutely brilliant girl who was in the year above me in school). Is that weird, or what?

    There are some talented women programmers. Just like there are some women who are really good at football. But on AVERAGE, in most cases, this is something that is more suited to men - or at least, has been until now, lovelace or no lovelace. Men tend to be better at it than women.

    Most women would rather leave such things to men and concentrate on other activities, like building careers in other kinds of jobs or looking for a mate before the biological clock runs out. They are too busy to bury themselves in a basement for days on end, wearing dirty T-shirts and eating stale pizza while testing algorithms in front of a monitor.

    1. Hollerith 1

      Re: Without women there wouldn't be computers

      Hmmm... 'men tend to be better at it'. How do you know? Just because more men do it doesn't mean they are better at it. Last time I checked, 100% of drivers in Saudi Arabia were men. Because they are better at it? I think women 'leave' IT to men because men have made it a male-preferred work zone.

      1. Anomalous Cowshed

        In reply to your response...

        Hogwash, my dear Watson.

        With apologies for the lack of political correctness, which tends to make many sensible views unfashionable these days.

        1. localzuk

          Re: In reply to your response...

          What a compelling argument you present... Wait, no, you don't at all.

          A phrase that might be relevant to you - confirmation bias.

  11. Michael Hawkes

    Tech reporting

    I couldn't help but notice the article was written by a guy (No offense, Gavin), and wondered if the numbers for women writing about technology are as bad as women working in technology. When it comes to gender disparity, is tech journalism as bad as the beat it covers? Has anyone looked at it, or is there any data on it?

    1. Hollerith 1

      Re: Tech reporting

      Sarah Bee, come back!!!!!

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Tech reporting

        It also doesn't mention a traditionally female dominated vocation as comparison.

        Nursing for example. The ratio there in the UK is 11% male/ 89% female.

        Why isn't everyone up in arms about that? It's more out of whack than IT?

        Perhaps it's because most men don't care, and neither do women (about IT)? Not saying that's the case, just providing a foil.

  12. Rocket_Rabbit

    I hope IT avoids the 'equality' problem.

    I really couldn't give a stuff if you are male, female, black, white, or anything between - you are either capable or you aren't.

    Why should I/you make exceptions for someone because they are the minority?

    I have had a female boss before and she was shit. Not because she was female, but because she was shit - simple as that. I have also had plenty of shit male bosses too :)

    So yes, celebrate Ava Lovelace because she was a mathematical genius developing a machine 100 years ahead of its time, but don't celebrate her because she represents women in Technology as it smacks of hypocrisy and somewhat belittles her achievements.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Lovelace’s contribution and status as "world's first programmer" has become subject to debate'

    I for one, dont mind. Kind of like when Lisa discovered the revered Jebediah Springfield was in fact, the evil pirate Hans Sprungfeld. Not that Ada was a pirate, but I think the idea of a remarkable lady having a positive impact on the genesis of computing is something to be cherished, and people shouldn't be over pedantic with stuff like this. Symbols are important.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      The debate was whether she actually contributed anything or was just a celebrity endorsement.

      She was very well connected in the cool consumptive poets circle, which doesn't automatically mean she was an idiot. She did have a decent private education in maths,more than a typical rich girl of the era, but that doesn't automatically mean she was a genius.

  14. perlcat

    Gender parity == hogwash.

    First off; the concept "there aren't enough women in computing, so we must do something about it" has its foundation in the (erroneous) concept that women are somehow inferior in their ability to seek and obtain IT work, and therefore need "help" getting into it. I have tried for years to get my daughters into IT -- despite the attractions of it, they don't want to. Never mind that they are currently working for peanuts -- they just aren't attracted to the field. This in spite of the fact that I have connections that can get them into a well-compensated part of the biz.

    It isn't a lack of a desire for joining the anorak set -- the multiple "just so" explanations that a programmer has to be some pimply-faced basement-dweller seem ludicrous in this situation. They just don't want to.

    Word to the "feminists" out there -- the moment you state that legislation/external encouragement is needed in order to bring "parity" to the number of women in IT is the moment that you have stated that women as a whole* are not able to fairly compete in an equal marketplace, and are insulting the brilliant women who have proven their skills before you. An equal opportunity hire, IMO, is an Orwellian term for "incompetent, but we hired her because it looks nice", dilutes the amount of salary available for men and women with actual skills, and demeans the women in IT who are actually talented.

    * note: I would never make that statement. Some are, some aren't. It all depends upon the individual.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Gender parity == hogwash.

      @ perlcat

      Always nice to read an intelligent post concerning equality.

    2. Hollerith 1

      Re: Gender parity == hogwash.

      I don't think the Government or external forces can create cultural and social change. In fact, I think they are intrinsically unable to create gender parity, because, in the words of Audre Lorde "The master's tools will never tear down the master's house." So, as a feminist (no quote marks needed), I don't seek outside help. I accept that I have to be 70% better than the average man to get a job, because I can't just be as average as they are and have a hope in hell.

      So far, so good...

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Gender parity == hogwash.

        Society needs to accept that we'll never have gender balance in all fields/professions. If there is active discrimination that prevents women from entering a certain profession, that's one thing, and should be fixed.

        However, if it is simply a lack of interest, well, should we also try to recruit more male nurses and elementary school teachers? More female roofers and truck drivers? Some jobs by their nature won't attract a balance, even if every job site had "PC police" patrolling 24x7 to make sure there was zero discrimination of any sort at any time.

    3. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Gender parity == hogwash. @pericat

      I think the issue is more the principle espoused by Johnson with regard to a different kind of affirmative action:

      You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe you have been completely fair...

      If institutional barriers have existed then specific action can help to overcome inertia provided by social barriers. An example social barrier: a person is much more likely to succeed if they have a good mentor and mentors are much more likely to pick mentees that reminds them of themselves.

      As to where and for how long such extrinsic forces should be applied? That's where mistakes are made. But I don't see anything wrong with the principle.

      1. perlcat

        Re: Gender parity == hogwash. @ThomH

        Well, nobody said life was fair. At least the newly un-hobbled man has a chance that didn't exist before.

        The problem is how or whether to "fix" unfairness. Using governmental intervention to fix unfairness isn't a slippery slope; it's a precipice. Sure, things like affirmative action opened doors in many places for many people -- but the problem is that once outside forces start to dictate winners and losers, the system gets perverted and abused.

    4. Vic

      Re: Gender parity == hogwash.

      An equal opportunity hire, IMO, is an Orwellian term for "incompetent, but we hired her because it looks nice"

      I once worked with a girl who had been hired to increase the number of women in the team - and she had been told so.

      It left her completely undermined - if ever she tried to advance a point, she was largely ignored, on account of it being common knowledge that she was only there to make up the numbers. And that was dreadful - she was actually a pretty good engineer, and her ideas were often bang on the money.

      But her career was blighted by people who thought they needed to fudge the numbers[1].

      vic.

      [1] Strictly speaking, it is the knowledge of the reason, rather than the reason itself. But these things leak out...

      1. Marina

        Re: Gender parity == hogwash.

        I think you are onto something there, because that is a very common way for men to treat female engineers (no matter why they are hired); ignore them.

        While I once had a job where my male colleagues and managers did listen to me and take me serious, my experience is that in most companies they don't. At my current job I have often tried to suggest a change or bring up a problem, but it has no effect. A few months later, a male colleague suggests the same change or brings up the same problem, and the bosses immediately takes action.

        On a couple occasions it was the customer who found the problem, which proved kind of embarrassing, but even after I pointed out to my bosses (including old emails, etc) that I brought up the issue a long time ago they don't change their ways. I'm seen as the nag (traditional female stereotype, right?) but I would have nothing to nag about if they tried taking me serious.

        Needless to say, I'm looking for a different job...

        And if a young woman asks me how it is working as a software engineer, I'm afraid I do warn them about the gender bias in many workplaces. I don't want to lie and strand a young woman with an education she isn't able to use.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Gender parity == hogwash.

          @ Marina

          "At my current job I have often tried to suggest a change or bring up a problem, but it has no effect. A few months later, a male colleague suggests the same change or brings up the same problem, and the bosses immediately takes action."

          Sorry but you think that is because your a woman? I often find it has more to do with the relationship between the one suggesting and the listener. I say this as a guy who has been in this situation and left jobs because of it. In that situation we wasted 6 months building something not fit for purpose, 2 months trying to keep it working and then back to my original idea for the rewrite but suggested by the relation of the director (my manager who was eventually sacked for a number of good reasons after I left).

          In another job maintained the necessary e-commerce system for the online only business but they would never listen to what needed to be done until it broke. Once I got it back up and limping they still didnt want me to 'waste' time fixing it.

          If you cant handle that as an environment then I suggest a new job or getting out of software engineering (I have thought about it in the past but found a good place to work and it makes a difference) but I suspect other careers have the same problems. As for putting people off software engineering, I guess it reduces the competition but I dont think your doing them any favours.

          If you want my advice (I know you didnt ask) get out and find another place to work. They will miss you if your a competent worker but if they ask you to stay/return you tell them no. If they have no interest in you now then they will forget they need you as time goes on. And dont put kids off software engineering unless they have no interest. We have too many people who have no idea what they are doing, instead help people to become competent and capable. Then they can gain respect for their skills instead of being the idiots who bother you in the workplace.

          1. perlcat

            @ Marina

            You and I look at the same thing and see two different things. Yes, I have no doubt that your contributions are ignored, and even that they claim it is because you're female. There's a lot that goes into that sort of workplace idiocy, and drawing the conclusion that it's really, truly because of your feminine genitalia is self-defeating. It actually hands the tools to defeat your spirit to the people most likely to use them to take advantage of you.

            The same jerks that ignore your contributions are ignoring the Pakistani guy because of his skin color, the Indian guy because of his accent, and the self-educated person from a poor family because "he's not one of us", as Eleanor Roosevelt put it so well. I'd say that a business that actually respects its IT talent is a one-in-a-million thing.

            What you're really saying when you express frustration with the way things are, is that you want to live in a world without assholes. No kidding. Me, too! Some days, it's schadenfreude that gets me to go to work, other days, it's my morbid curiosity, and frequently, it's a combination of both.

            There's no reason to leave IT because you've struck asshole -- if you went elsewhere, I can assure you that you will find assholes there as well. Just study the situation, learn from it, and remember, that until you are in charge, you have to abide by the idiosyncrasies of the people that are. Also remember, that being "in charge" doesn't mean "management" -- team members are often even stupider.

  15. David Lester

    And there I was, expecting a quick mention of the crytanalysts at Bletchley Park.

    A rather nice photo of Joan Clarke is in the article:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2346828/Film-WW2-codebreaker-Alan-Turing-attacked-biographer-exaggerating-love-affair-woman-gay-says-Keira-Knightley-glamorous.html

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dont forget what made all those computers usable

    Personally I think it would be remiss to mention the 6 women who gave us the computer but the one who made them usable by making networking resilient, my personal tech heroine Radia Perlman

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The concern of STEM and women is itself sexist

    The major gender problem in the UK at the moment is the collapse in the educational performance of men. In almost every subject girls do substatially better than boys and far more girls go to university than boys. In science as a whole more women than men take degrees. Only in the physical sciences and mathematics is there a majority of men at university. Most degrees are becoming women dominated including medicince, vetinary science, law and other degrees associated with high income and prestige. This is against a background in which historically male achievement was greater than women and there was and is a concerted effort to help girls educationally and a domination of the teaching profession by women. What is striking is now that the situation has reversed there are still lots of projects and programmes to help girls but essentially none for boys.

    It was right that when girls under performed action was taken to rebalance the system so why now the situation is reversed is it that the action taken is to make the imbalance worse.

    The only area in which girls do not do substantially better than boys is the STEM subjects. Why focus on this and not the underachievement of boys generally or the fact that male youth unemployment is much higher than female or that the salaries that young women receive is higher than male (presumeably based on better education).

    Where is there no concern about the near exclusion of male teachers from primary schools? There has besn masive changes over the last 40 years. Arguably this has a huge impact on society quite apart from the impact on male teachers themselves but goes essentially unremarked and the main focus of equality compaigners in teahcing is to increase female representation despite ~80% of early years teachers being female.

    We desperately need to encourage everyone who has the talent to be involve dinmatchematics science and engineering focussing on just the women is part of a constant message sent to boys that they don't matter and that they will probably fail at school.

  18. Deryk Barker

    In what way

    "In their footsteps came Grace Hopper."

    OK, Grace Hopper was already working on Howard Aiken's Harvard Mark I machine in 1944 when a moth flew into a relay and brought the system down. It is her logbook entry which actually had the moth taped to the page and the legend "first actual case of a bug being found". (Note, this is NOT the origin of the term "bug" nor did Hopper ever claim that.)

    Given that the ENIAC didn't work until after the end of the war, in what sense did Hopper come "in their footsteps"?

  19. Linker3000

    The two ladies in my life

    My primary test servers are ADA and GRACE

  20. P0l0nium

    Miss Shilling's Orifice ...

    Let us not forget another vital female contribution to the technical success of western civilisation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Shilling's_orifice

  21. Neoc

    Actual events

    I remember being part of a job-interview team. There were three of us from the IT side (all male) and a representative from HR (female) to make sure we weren't doing anything improper. We had finished winnowing down the written applications and were doing the actual interviews. We had set things up so that the HR person was our "user" as we wanted to see how the applicants would react when faced with clients.

    We interviewed both men and women. At the end of the interviews, the HR person turned to us with a look of disbelief on her face and said "you really don't care, do you?" We had to get her to explain to us what she meant; apparently, she was expecting us to treat the men and the women differently. We all looked at her and one of us (can't remember who) asked "were we supposed to?". We finally got through to her the fact we were more interested in whether they could do the job or not, since an incompetent person meant WE would have to take up the slack.

    Eventually, we *did* settle on a female candidate as the best of the bunch (she was the only one who started the "client" interview asking what information the client wanted on their report instead of what language they wanted it written in). We had been told this position needed to be filled in a hurry and so we went from getting the applications to final choice in less than 7 working days. And then HR sat on our recommendation for over two weeks, by which time our preferred candidate had gotten another offer.

    <sigh>

  22. Hazmoid

    Another woman that was ahead of her time in STEM was Hedy Lamarr. http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/hedy-lamarr-the-inventor/

    She patented the idea of spread spectrum or frequency hopping.

    1. perlcat

      That's not "Hedley"

      ObBlazingSaddlesJoke.

  23. The First Dave

    "ENIAC is considered the world’s first general-purpose electronic computer."

    Only by Yanks.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      A colossal blunder?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you are going to write "The reasons for this reality are hotly debated" and list some, I think it behoves you to list the obvious, Occam's razor answer: Men and women are different and enjoy doing different things.

  25. ecofeco Silver badge

    I thought I recognized that drawing!

    The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

    First saw this a few years ago. Highly recommended weirdness!

  26. Breen Whitman

    Ms Lovelace was also a pioneer in the adult movie business and was best known for her role in the film Deep Throat. She also was later prominent in the anti pornography movement.

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