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Coordinated by Mark Marino (USC), Jeremy Douglass (UCSB), Catherine Griffiths (USC), Ali Rachel Pearl (USC), and Teddy Roland (UCSB). Sponsored by the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab (USC), and the Digital Arts and Humanities Commons (UCSB).

Week 1: Gender and Programming Culture (Main thread)

Gender and Programming Culture: 2018 Critical Code Studies Workshop

By Elizabeth Losh, Judy Malloy, and Jacqueline Wernimont

Although code purports to be neutral, its binaries speak to deferrals and differences marked by the power and privilege of gender. When Ari Schlesinger asked if there could be a feminist programming language on the HASTAC blog in 2013 (this later became a central thread of CCSWG14), based on experiences with the critical code community, Reddit commenters at The Red Pill attacked her as an opponent of logic and mocked her with satirical guides to pseudocode. By the Fall of 2014 with Gamergate, what Anastasia Salter has called “toxic geek masculinity” went into overdrive with the stalking, doxxing, and swatting of aspiring feminist coders in the game industry and elsewhere. Last year the famed author of “The Google Memo” became an alt-right celebrity by asserting that women might be biologically less competent to succeed in tech-careers and thus were underrepresented (See also his recent lawsuit).

In arguing that women might be inherently worse at software engineering than their male counterparts (as members of a population rather than discrete individuals to be fair to how he qualifies his claims), author James Damore obviously ignores the fact that at one time women dominated the field of computer programming. This is well documented in the research of many scholars -- including Nathan Ensmenger, Marie Hicks, Kate Hayles, and Janet Abbate. Very often these labor histories show a pattern of devaluing the role of female pioneers and suggest that cultural exclusion may be more important factor than Damore would like to admit, which might justify Google's belated inclusion efforts. In particular, Marie Hicks’ recent book on the history of “programmed inequality” suggests that structural factors including government policy and legal frameworks, might propagate bias in technology fields.

Other triumphant historical stories like Hidden Figures suggest reasons for hope, although the film adaptation of the book left out important information described in the original text about the role of Virginia’s campaign of “massive resistance” in a federal workplace, black sororities, black male allies in the NACA/NASA workplace, and the pipeline in black churches to STEM careers. While salutary, the movie version of Hidden Figures also further plays into the notion that programmers, including black women, emerge spontaneously in isolation from their societies. Even in attempting to demonstrate their skill the movie contributed to a cultural mystification of code (think of the dense scribbled blackboards that are unexplained).

What if we examine a specific piece of code composed by a woman doing NASA contract work as a primary text? Judy Malloy suggests that in a thread on “Gendering the Apollo 11 Onboard In-Flight Software”, we start with Margaret Hamilton. Using Margaret Hamilton's work as an example, but also including the work and environments of the women at the NASA Langley Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), this thread addresses the role of women programmers in NASA space exploration technology. Primary questions are:

  • Have gender and race influenced how NASA’s women programmers were portrayed and credited in the past and in the present?
  • Can we identify examples of women programmers at other NASA facilities or contractors?
  • How have Margaret Hamilton's ideas about software engineering methods influenced the development of computing environments? How has she been credited, and has her gender resulted in under-crediting?
  • How does Hamilton’s experience compare with contemporary experiences of women collaborating in programming environments?

Malloy’s associated code critique, “COLOSSUS and LUMINARY: The Apollo 11 Guidance Computer (AGC) Code for the Command and Lunar Modules” will review the commented source code, document where Hamilton is credited, and critique comments from a humanist and/or gender perspective.

In seeking to credit pioneers in software engineering like Hamilton, FemTechNet members have encouraged engaging with the Wikipedia community to foster better practices for accounting for otherwise ignored female coders.They have also argued for the importance of people other than programmers in thinking through the history of computer science, including digital artists and animators, as well as those who attended to questions of infrastructure, like the planner who chose the locations for hubs in the national computing infrastructure, Mina Rees, who was often perceived as a secretary despite her doctoral degree and lead position at the Office of Naval Research.

In thinking through how code not only executes but simulates models that reveal the infrastructural conditions of the world, FemTechNet members Liz Losh and Jacque Wernimont have worked with lines in the programming language Processing. Using sample programs from The Nature of Code, which are available to CCSWG members on GitHub, they invite close readers of the algorithms to think about how forces, agents, and environments can be modeled They ask participants in their workshops and institutes to imagine ways that code can simultaneously simulate and represent the challenging circumstances of life lived under patriarchy with its heavy gravities, winding trajectories, and flocking obstacles.

It is in this spirit that we encourage code critiques that are constructive, respectful, generous, and collaborative as we undertake the work of the week together.

Comments

  • Thanks for getting us started on such an important topic! These three massive threads of exploration. (see the software and code threads!)

    When I read the Wired story about Margaret Hamilton, I was struck by the anecdote about how she brought her (3 or 4-year-old) daughter to work.

    As a working mother in the 1960s, Hamilton was unusual; but as a spaceship programmer, Hamilton was positively radical. Hamilton would bring her daughter Lauren by the lab on weekends and evenings. While 4-year-old Lauren slept on the floor of the office overlooking the Charles River, her mother programmed away, creating routines that would ultimately be added to the Apollo’s command module computer.

    “People used to say to me, ‘How can you leave your daughter? How can you do this?’” Hamilton remembers.

    Then, later she recounts, while the team was running a simulation, her daughter hit a switch that they had not tested before.

    One day, Lauren was playing with the MIT command module simulator’s display-and-keyboard unit, nicknamed the DSKY (dis-key). As she toyed with the keyboard, an error message popped up. Lauren had crashed the simulator by somehow launching a prelaunch program called P01 while the simulator was in midflight. There was no reason an astronaut would ever do this, but nonetheless, Hamilton wanted to add code to prevent the crash. That idea was overruled by NASA. “We had been told many times that astronauts would not make any mistakes,” she says. “They were trained to be perfect.” So instead, Hamilton created a program note—an add-on to the program’s documentation that would be available to NASA engineers and the astronauts: “Do not select P01 during flight,” it said. Hamilton wanted to add error-checking code to the Apollo system that would prevent this from messing up the systems. But that seemed excessive to her higher-ups. “Everyone said, ‘That would never happen,’” Hamilton remembers.

    But it did. Right around Christmas 1968—five days into the historic Apollo 8 flight, which brought astronauts to the moon for the first-ever manned orbit—the astronaut Jim Lovell inadvertently selected P01 during flight.... Thanks to Hamilton—and Lauren—the Apollo astronauts came home.

    According to the article, Lauren's childish curiosity, the mere fact that her daughter was at work and let her play with the equipment, led Hamilton to be prepared for the error that actually happened on Apollo 8 (and probably Apollo 11 as well). Hamilton has a gift for dealing with these errors, and it could be said that error prevention has become central to her life's work as she developed the Development Before the Fact paradigm, 001Axes, and Universal Systems Language.

    I wonder what you all make of this story? Does it provide a feminist intervention into technological history? Or does it reinforce stereotypes by emphasizing the role of this child over the contributions of her mother? I realize these aren't the only alternatives.

    As a parent who has often brought my own children to work, it certainly makes me smile to read about the inadvertent result of bringing your child to work. But at the same time, though I know of Newton's apple and Bell's exclamation, I can't off-hand think of stories of innovation by ment that revolve around parenting. Again, that in itself could underscore the radical nature of this tale.

  • edited January 16

    I think the question of "contribution" is key here, b/c I could go either way with your reading Mark. On the one hand, of course, talking about this as a feminist intervention stereotypes women and undermines their individual contributions. On the other hand, it's important also to question how we conceive of a "contribution" to computing history — particularly when that history is so thoroughly collaborative. What does it mean to question a system that has traditionally rewarded men for achievement and obscured how women or other people enabled that achievement.

    I think of, for instance, Ashley Reeds recent article on William and Catherine Blake and Maker Culture (apologies for the paywall). It's clear that Catherine Blake contributed not only the coloring for many of William Blake's illuminated books and (according to William Hayley) over 2000 impressions of Blake's prints, but also untold hours of care work. As Reed argues, this kind of care work "in the digital humanities requires us to bring up uncomfortable questions of affect — questions that generally do not get discussed in academic publications because to mention them is to risk being labeled 'unprofessional'" (38). Of course, these standards of professionalism are, themselves, masculinist and exclusionary of the work women often do - even in professional settings.

    So, what do you do with that child and those hours? IMHO, we need more a more capacious understanding of work and contribution, but I don't know if that is feminist, anti-capitalist, or deserving of some other appellation.

  • @markcmarino I very much like the story about how Hamilton's daughter's play with the DSKY became important in its testing.

    you write:

    "I wonder what you all make of this story? Does it provide a feminist intervention into technological history? Or does it reinforce stereotypes by emphasizing the role of this child over the contributions of her mother? I realize these aren't the only alternatives."

    As a parent who has worked with his children to create electronic literature for kids, your voice is important here.

    And as parents of all genders, including LGBTQ, begin to talk about including their children in their professional life (in one way or another; it isn't always appropriate), I am hoping that our definitions of "professional" will change. But at the same time, as you note, one seldom reads about men in terms of their children, so there are still issues when we present women programmers in terms of their parenting.

    My story is that when my son was young, much of my work involved spreading large pieces of ricepaper across a long table and creating small pen and ink and paint-based narratives encompassed within one picture frame. This was difficult because the work was fragile, and if I made a mistake, the mistake had to be included. Work that cannot be interrupted is not conducive to good parenting, so I needed to approach my work in another way. And thus I began writing and drawing on catalog cards. Once I did this, slowly my artist's life converged with my technical information life. And everything came together!

  • @rogerwhitson writes:

    So, what do you do with that child and those hours? IMHO, we need more a more capacious understanding of work and contribution...

    Yes!

  • edited January 17

    @rogerwhitson said:

    So, what do you do with that child and those hours? IMHO, we need more a more capacious understanding of work and contribution....

    It's interesting to pursue this sense of credit as we discuss the possible erasure or eclipse of Hamilton's work. One of the most commented on (by outsiders reading the code) sections of code is the Burn Baby Burn Master Ignition code where you can find the lines:

    Apollo-11/Luminary099/BURN_BABY_BURN--MASTER_IGNITION_ROUTINE.agc
    Page 731:

    # THE MASTER IGNITION ROUTINE WAS CONCEIVED AND EXECUTED, AND (NOTA BENE) IS MAINTAINED BY ADLER AND EYLES.
    #
    #          HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE
    

    By contrast, the Executive file says:
    Apollo-11/Comanche055/EXECUTIVE.agc
    Page 1208 (Is this 1207 or 1208):

        #   Assemble revision 055 of AGC program Comanche by NASA
        #   2021113-051.  10:28 APR. 1, 1969
    

    Now, I'm not sure if that comment was added later, but Peter Adler and Don Eyles did take credit for their code, even though they followed it with the apologetic motto of the British chivalric order of the Garter:

    "May he be shamed who thinks badly of it"

    So, some self-effacement with self-promotion, as developers take some credit for their code. It's interesting in light of @ebuswell's comment about how collaborative the authoring of this software seems to have been.

  • Purportedly, Hamilton was working in a comparatively cooperative development team. I wonder how that manifests in the code itself. And more broadly, I'd like to ask:

    How do the gender dynamics of development teams, be they inequitable, cooperative, or oppressive, manifest in other code examples you've worked on or are aware of?

  • Credit. Credit is interesting, but for me it's not the most interesting part of the story. I'm particularly interested in the error introduced by Lauren and others' reactions to it. Presumably part of the logic that went into dismissing the error and Hamilton's insistence that it be built into the training/code is that it was a child's mistake. Something so silly that no professional (adult, white, male) astronaut would make. The history obviously played out very differently than what those higher up the command chain presumed.

    I've been in the room when my own baby/toddler was considered a nuisance. I've seen the looks that get exchanged; I suspect many have. I'm struck by the ways in which this anecdote suggests that having difference (here age/education mostly) can help illuminate issues that might otherwise go undetected. In this story the bug (Lauren) became the feature but so often we sanitize development and production assuming that all we can get from outside perspectives, from literally screwing around, is problems.

    So for me, this story is about control rather than credit or contribution. The things we can learn when control is ceded.

  • @JacqueWernimont said:
    Credit. Credit is interesting, but for me it's not the most interesting part of the story. I'm particularly interested in the error introduced by Lauren and others' reactions to it. Presumably part of the logic that went into dismissing the error and Hamilton's insistence that it be built into the training/code is that it was a child's mistake. Something so silly that no professional (adult, white, male) astronaut would make. The history obviously played out very differently than what those higher up the command chain presumed.

    I've been in the room when my own baby/toddler was considered a nuisance. I've seen the looks that get exchanged; I suspect many have. I'm struck by the ways in which this anecdote suggests that having difference (here age/education mostly) can help illuminate issues that might otherwise go undetected. In this story the bug (Lauren) became the feature but so often we sanitize development and production assuming that all we can get from outside perspectives, from literally screwing around, is problems.

    I'm sitting here nodding my head fervently on this comment. I suspect (probably because I read it somewhere) that this is a case where Hamilton wasn't being listened to already (given her life's focus on error reduction) and Lauren's QA found the bug (and let's have more toddler's doing QA!). But at the same time, I realize that Lauren is now being written into this narrative in a particular way. This tale is being written into the story of Apollo 11. I was just ambivalent as to whether that promotes or detracts from Hamilton's legacy, whether underscoring this win for a working mom whose kid stumbles upon a discovery helps or hurts Hamilton's esteem as an influential computer scientist (since that's one of the themes of this thread). As I've said, I regard the story in a positive light because I can relate to it (in part). I've brought my "disruptive" kids to work, too, and their disruptions have had positive effects, though perhaps not saving astronaut lives positive.

    But ultimately, the question is probably moot because the legacy of her contribution is more affected by the way she dedicates her life's work to error prevention and literally writes her work on Apollo 11 into the documentation of those later projects. I'm just not sure how pervasive knowledge of her work is at this point.

  • “The process of technological developments is like building a cathedral. Over the course of several hundred years, new people come along and each lays down a block on top of the old foundations, each saying, 'I built a cathedral.' Next month another block is placed atop the previous one. Then comes along an historian who asks, 'Well, who built the cathedral?' Peter added some stones here, and Paul added a few more. If you are not careful you can con yourself into believing that you did the most important part. But the reality is that each contribution has to follow onto previous work. Everything is tied to everything else.”
    Paul Baran in Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon, Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998. pp. 79-80

    I like Baran's point, which he made about the Internet. Some may not like his analogy, but it is good to keep in mind the gist of what he is saying.

    However, women programmers who worked on ARPANET included Suzanne Sluizer (USC), an author of the Mail Transport Protocol; Nancy Neigus (BBN), who wrote or co-wrote many RFCs for FTP; and Ginny Strazisar (BBN), who wrote the 1st gateway software for TCP/IP.

    Has anyone here heard of them?

    Part of what we are looking at in this forum on gender and programming is how that can be changed. Thanks @lizlosh @JacqueWernimont FemTechNet and all who have participated in this forum so far! Including, of course, the men who set it up: @markcmarino and @jeremydouglass

  • ...and speaking of credit and labor, I just want to also mention that the men and women doing the labor of organizing this CCSWG include Catherine Griffiths (USC), Ali Rachel Pearl (USC), and Teddy Roland (UCSB).

  • edited January 18

    I'm interested in credit and labor b/c of capitalism, but I can also see it in terms of control.

    As @JacqueWernimont says above and as @JudyMalloy reinforces with the notion of the Cathedral, the question of what happens and for what reason can be extremely complicated - particularly when you are talking about technology.

    As Jacque says:

    presumably part of the logic that went into dismissing the error and Hamilton's insistence that it be built into the training/code is that it was a child's mistake. Something so silly that no professional (adult, white, male) astronaut would make. The history obviously played out very differently than what those higher up the command chain presumed.

    I'm thinking about all of this in terms of Control as a social mechanism (via Deleuze, Galloway, Franklin). To what degree do we limit what technology can do by delimiting its functions into the beurocratic logics of control? To what degree is control a gendered understanding of what technology can do? And are there ways to understand technological functionality (including the "error" produced by the mistake) as an alternative way to conceptualize computing?

    I mean, I know we think of failure as an inevitable part of projects, like those in DH. But I wonder what would open up if we started thinking about failure in terms of a mechanism or a physicality interacting with technological systems.

  • edited January 18

    On the question of other women working in programming in space exploration, the book Mothers and Daughter's of Invention has a few:

    • Alla G. Masevich, created world's first satellite tracking system
    • Alva Matthews "was involved in Telstar" (717)
    • Marjorie Rhodes Townsend co -inventor of a digital telemetry system. Worked on SAS-A (aka Uhuru) and SAS-B satellites.
    • Mildred Mitchell, "head bionicist at the Air Force Avionics Laboratory, specializes in creating or adapting electronic devices to perform human functions, especially during space travel.... Specific inventions of hers are an artificial muscle, a nail-bender, and artificial biological clocks." (719)
    • Also Yvonne Brill whose "work on satellite propulsion systems may involve computers" (717).
  • We should keep posting on this thread, but I've also started this Google Doc that we can share with the world for crowdsourcing our roll of women programmers who have contributed to space exploration.

  • While not directly related to the source code itself, I think it's also important to note the role of weaving and textiles in the developmental history of the Apollo project (and programming in general). In "Moon Machines", they talk about how entire programs for Apollo had to be sent to textile factories to be literally woven into rope core memory, and women were the ones doing that weaving work. They called it the "little old lady method" (which is problematic in itself and reduces the important work that these women were doing). Weaving is such a historically "female" activity, yet was instrumental in the successes of the Apollo project and is not recognized in the same way.

    Here's a small clip from the series:

    I remember coming across some other sources that document this, but I'm having trouble uncovering them again.

  • I have a question about gender and programming culture. We hear reports and read stories of toxic environments for women in programming. Since the early 80s there's been a wide disparity in gender representation in this field, and no doubt there are lots of reasons.

    Hamilton seemed to work in a comparatively harmonious and collaborative environment. What conditions fostered that? And again, are there signs of that in the code?

    Which isn't to say that it was completely equitable and also not to say that there was equity on other aspects, such as racially. Again do we signs of that inequity in the code and documentation?

    Here I'm thinking about the broader topic of this thread.

  • @markcmarino asks:

    Hamilton seemed to work in a comparatively harmonious and collaborative environment. What conditions fostered that? And again, are there signs of that in the code?

    A short answer to begin with:

    The code as a whole -- that they created it, and it worked -- is a primary response to your question. As we are discussing elsewhere in CCSWG18, subtexts in the comments may point to a certain amount of discord, However, the whole speaks for itself! The more we look at, the more apparent is its symmetry as a code object.

    MIT IL was working on a once-in-a-lifetime contract. Hamilton and her colleagues created a software engineering environment that allowed engineers to look at the process in engineering terms. In Margaret's words in an interview with Medium

    "In the case of the Apollo project my colleagues (mostly male) and I were friends and we worked side by side to solve challenging problems and meet critical deadlines. We concentrated on our work more than whether one was male or female."

    However, the Time Story (Rothman, 2015) qualifies this.

    "Hamilton says that she was so wrapped up in her work that she didn’t notice the gender problems of the time until Mad Men came around and seemed a little too familiar."

  • One of the best accounts I have read of men and women engineers working together relatively harmoniously is Todd Neff's narrative of the NASA-funded Deep Impact Project. Neff's book looks at the whole, But, focusing on the women, here is what I wrote in my notebook for Arriving Simultaneously :

    "Arriving Simultaneously draws on my own much earlier experience in working with information technology at Ball Aerospace (then BBRC) in the late 1960's. But it is a pleasure to note that 25 years later the number of women at Ball Aerospace and JPL who worked in core positions on the Deep Impact Mission (launched in 2005) is inspirational.

    They included Systems Engineering Lead Amy Walsh, a 2006 Women In Aerospace Award Winner for her work on Deep Impact (Ball); Senior Engineer, Lorna Hess-Frey, Flyby Structures & Mechanisms Lead, Deep Impact (Ball); Michelle Goldman, Project Engineer in Systems Testing, Deep Impact (Ball); and Jennifer Rocca, Launch Activity Lead, Deep Impact (JPL). Astronomer Karen J. Meech at the University of Hawaii was the Coordinator of Earth-Based Observations. Other women who worked on Deep Impact were Systems Design Engineer Sheryl Atterberg (Ball); Software Stress Tester Kavita Kaur (JPL); and Leticia Montanez, Testbed Manager, Deep Impact (JPL). Much of this history (of course also focusing on the work of the male engineers), is well documented in Todd Neff's From Jars to the Stars: How Ball came to build a comet-hunting machine. (Denver, CO: Earthview Media, 2010) Because of its detailed documentation of the development of an amazing array of systems, this book is of value to anyone interested in innovation --- including new media artists".

  • I agree with @rogerwhitson's emphasis on how history erases women’s “contribution”. The main thread and the subsequent discussions are enlightening for me because I can relate to these pervading prejudices against women’s role in tech-world. I have seen in my community (Bangladesh) how girls are often forced by their parents to study medicine or pharmacy than software engineering or IT-related fields. There is a strong cultural belief in the fact that female brain is less suitable for these subjects (I can see “The Google Memo” echoes the same belief). Such ideology is not only influencing the choice of discipline, but also limiting the job opportunities for women in tech-industry, resulting in further exclusion of women from IT sectors. Even though there are a number of successful female programmers in the country, they are hardly cited as examples.
    I wonder how far the feminist intervention in critical code studies takes into consideration this persistent exclusion of women in tech-world outside US context?

  • edited January 20

    According to the article, Lauren's childish curiosity, the mere fact that her daughter was at work and let her play with the equipment, led Hamilton to be prepared for the error that actually happened on Apollo 8 (and probably Apollo 11 as well)....I wonder what you all make of this story? Does it provide a feminist intervention into technological history? Or does it reinforce stereotypes by emphasizing the role of this child over the contributions of her mother?

    I'm intrigued by Mark's idea that parental vigilance might make someone a better software engineer in order to protect the safety of a child by thoroughly testing all "edge cases" in any environment. Taking this point to its natural conclusion, women who tend to be primary caretakers for children, should then have a (gendered, socialized) advantage over men in computer programming, or at least in QA testing.

    Perhaps another point that plays into this line of argument would be to note that Hamilton's particular contribution to the source code was an implementation of six axioms for prioritizing what tasks the computer should do, given limited resources and computational capacity -- that is, in the event of an emergency, to prioritize safe landing over the function of the radar. As the first "software engineer" in this role at NASA, who is often credited with coming up with the term "software engineer", Hamilton is also often credited with creating asynchronous programming -- in this case, a sort of "juggling" and prioritization of threads of command execution that, one might argue, is practiced by working mothers who have to juggle a "second shift."

    Indeed, given how Hamilton was working, notably, on nights and weekends, with Lauren sleeping on the floor, according to the Wired article that Mark cited, Hamilton was literally working a second shift at NASA, at the same time as (a third shift) being a mother. Her job would have been demanding for any man or woman, regardless of whether or not there was a partner making contributions of care labor.

    I think we have to be careful when defining contributions in software in the same way that we might speak of contributions of wage workers and their wives in a Marxist sense. While it can certainly should be acknowledged that women have been instrumental to all kinds of "men's work" throughout history, when providing household and care labor, I think it is still important to distinguish the specific contributions of women in software engineering from other kinds of work that women have done, especially if part of the goal of this feminist critique/praxis is to honor women's technical competency and make the workplace a more fair and hospital place for women. We would be regressing by tilting at windmills in a general manner instead of marking a specific and important target.

    I also agree with Mark that we should be careful when we assign gendered value to characteristics like vigilance or multitasking, that we don't reinforce stereotypes or constrictive gender roles in the process.

    Margaret Hamilton remarked in an [interview with the Computer History Museum] () that she thinks the workplace is now less hospital for women software engineers than back in her days at NASA.

    What has taken place during the last few decades to create a culture so dominated by a kind of "geeky (white) male" stereotype? Who are these men, and how do they compare with other men in terms of their conformity to gendered stereotypes? I would argue that before Silicon Valley became "cool" and programmers became "brogrammers," there was a certain emasculating stigma in mass media placed on nerds, who were less "manly" than their fellow jocks.

    Indeed, programming has been the haven for misfits and a disproportionate number of people who fall in the aspie spectrum, for whom programming was one of the few jobs they could do, which did not require as much socialization that was often portrayed as difficult or awkward for them (for a range of reasons that are very gendered by nature). While Asperger Syndrome and other forms of autism presents more symptomatically (causes more disorder) for men than in women, in many ways, there is a feminist/crip disability justice lens on programming that we may be missing when we fail to differentiate early men in programming from the more mainstream millenial Ivy League brogrammers who dominate Silicon Valley today. In what ways did programming provide an escape from a certain kind of masculinity, while centering other forms of marginality beyond gender?

    Furthermore, how do notions of "geekiness" measure in feminine conceptions of beauty? And how do women who opt for the "soft power" of beauty have to face a tradeoff: between the immediately felt benefits/privileges of conforming to mainstream feminine ideals, versus the potential soft power "handicap" of geekiness? Rather than characterizing lower female participation in programming as only a form of gender oppression, can we also recognize the choices that certain women make when choosing one type of power (mainstream beauty) over another? Especially when (as Naomi Wolf has written) beauty standards are also a kind of oppression, yet one that confers tangible economic and experiential privileges that can't be denied, especially when taking class and race into consideration -- a la Beyonce-feminism and black sex worker feminism?

    How does linking computer programming with "geek culture" affect women in a different way than men, given the greater reliance that young woman have had on beauty for survival, validation, and power? And more on point, how did Margaret Hamilton and other women in similar engineering roles navigate the gendered conceptions of her day, both as choices and as constraints?

  • @a11ykat , I love the way you are exploring more complex constructs and questions of gender.

    And thank you @JudyMalloy for that reference on NASA's teams.

    I have been trying to reflect on this idea of genders impacts on software development, and I came across a wonderful passage in Anne Balsamo's essay, "Gendering in the Technological Imagination," arguing for the need for inclusive and diverse teams. In this essay, Balsamo seeks a way for "considering the creative role of gender in the exercise of the technological imagination" that "avoids falling into biologically essentialist claims that women will naturally design technologies different than men" (24).

    So what does thinking about gender add to the technological imagination? First, Balsamo notes that women do not add gender to the technological imagination, since some social construct of gender is present regardless of the innovator. Instead, using gender as one marker of difference, and hence an indicator of difference in experience, Balsamo places a high premium on the need to form diverse teams participating in collaborative environments in design:

    By modeling and improvising in a social setting, participation in collaborative acts of designing new technologies enables people to learn both practices and habits of mind from other collaborators….Diversity among design participants is generative, not because of some innate biological or ethnic quality, but because people embody different sets of assumptions. Sometimes these assumptions are shaped by background; sometimes they are shaped by domain expertise. This argument supports the call not only for the creation of multidisciplinary design teams….but also for those diverse in culture, gender, ethnicity, and class background.
    To gender the technological imagination is to acknowledge that all participants bring gendered, cultural, and class-based assumptions to the designing process. (24-25)

    The notion of "embodying different set of assumptions" does seem to speak to @a11ykat's connections between Hamilton's multi-tasking code design (prioritizing tasks) and her life juggling jobs of scientist and mother -- though I feel more comfortable saying she shaped the one (the part of the software that managed priorities) while performing the other (in her life), particularly raising a small child, which can go from landing crisis to landing crisis, in my experience. Those roles may have also helped her develop a sense that users (like astronauts or children) might press any/your buttons at any time (not to be overly glib here).

    But whether or not these lived experiences were influential in her innovations, they were simultaneous, co-extensive. And one who studied and modeled systems so thoroughly as Hamilton would understand well their interplay. And their impact has touched more than three astronauts floating through space in a precarious tin.

    Balsamo's essay can be found in _Gender in Science and Technology: Interdisciplinary Approaches. _

  • @nazuaidris asks

    I wonder how far the feminist intervention in critical code studies takes into consideration this persistent exclusion of women in tech-world outside US context?

    This is an important question!

    Martha Burkle Bonnecchi has a chapter in Women Art and Technology ("Technology Has Forgotten Them: Developing-World Women and New Information Technologies (pp. 467-487). However, her primary focus is access to technology.

    A couple of other related sources that come to mind are:
    Elisabeth Jay Friedman, Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2016.
    and Coco Fusco, The Bodies That Were Not Ours And Other Writings, Routledge, 2001

    Specifically in critical code studies, I think Micha Cárdenas addressed this to a certain extent a few years ago in CCSWG.

    If anyone in this forum knows of other resources, if it would be great to hear from you!

    @nazuaidris Thanks for bring this up. It would be of interest to hear more abut your experiences and what you are working on!

  • @markcmarino said:

    Since the early 80s there's been a wide disparity in gender representation in this field, and no doubt there are lots of reasons.

    Hamilton seemed to work in a comparatively harmonious and collaborative environment. What conditions fostered that?

    I wonder if this might not have had to do with the fact that, since the mid-1990s (roughly around the time of Netscape), it became the case (in the popular-cultural perception at least) that programmers and software developers could become rich. Could it be the case that this led to a somewhat different — a more competitive, social-Darwinist, perhaps — mindset gaining precedence, which isn't so conducive to collaboration and harmony?

  • @a11y asks

    What has taken place during the last few decades to create a culture so dominated by a kind of "geeky (white) male" stereotype? Who are these men, and how do they compare with other men in terms of their conformity to gendered stereotypes?

    This question goes to the heart of what were are looking at here as regards gender and programming cultures.

    This is an issue I've been looking at in my creative work, so rather than rephrase my words, here is my last writer's notebook entry on this subject:

    Regarding, the difference between Jenny's experience of tech industry culture in Uncle Roger and Diana's experience of tech industry culture in Arriving Simultaneously on Multiple Far-Flung Systems, I would like to emphasize that both Ball Aerospace and Xerox PARC were important, productive, and harassment-free experiences. Working for an aerospace company at the height of the space race was an unforgettable view of space technology. Furthermore, Ball gave teams and individuals the access and power to develop needed systems on their own initiative and in this way encouraged invention and innovation. Twenty years later, at a different time of my life, Xerox PARC was the most hospitable environment I have ever experienced as regards not only my own work, but also the experience of an office in PARC's legendary Computer Science Lab (CSL) with access to an unparalleled array of research and development -- and later the opportunity to work with distinguished hypertext programmer, Cathy Marshall. It is important that young woman, who want to become software engineers, are aware that in the real world, there are welcoming environments.

    ....the culture of the chip industry and the culture of the aerospace industry were different, particularly as regards how women were employed. Given, the current climate in Silicon Valley, there is much to be said about this issue, and there are contingencies with the chip industry culture and contemporary social media industry culture...

    The story relevant to today's notebook entry is the emergence of histories of women and engineers/software engineers in space exploration. As the Mercury 13 woman astronauts found out in the 1960's, there were glass ceilings. Nevertheless, the work of the African American women mathematicians/computer programmers at Langley -- and the work of the women mathematicians and computer programmers at JPL, including Chinese American Helen Ling and African American Janez Lawson -- was extraordinary.

    A question is:

    Are there differences in how women are treated in government funded institutions and in non-profits, and how they are treated in purely for-profit companies founded by young men? Why?

    @sayanb 's words on this subject are very important:

    I wonder if this might not have had to do with the fact that, since the mid-1990s (roughly around the time of Netscape), it became the case (in the popular-cultural perception at least) that programmers and software developers could become rich. Could it be the case that this led to a somewhat different — a more competitive, social-Darwinist, perhaps — mindset gaining precedence, which isn't so conducive to collaboration and harmony?

  • @flam said:
    While not directly related to the source code itself, I think it's also important to note the role of weaving and textiles in the developmental history of the Apollo project (and programming in general). In "Moon Machines", they talk about how entire programs for Apollo had to be sent to textile factories to be literally woven into rope core memory, and women were the ones doing that weaving work. They called it the "little old lady method" (which is problematic in itself and reduces the important work that these women were doing). Weaving is such a historically "female" activity, yet was instrumental in the successes of the Apollo project and is not recognized in the same way.

    This is such a fantastic connection! I have been thinking a lot recently about how feminist making could help us approach coding in different ways, inspired by Kristina Taylor's post on Code Like a Girl: https://code.likeagirl.io/code-like-a-weaver-64e699d9a022

    In this post, she thinks through how baking, laundry, and weaving taught her how to code and affect how she approaches coding problems. What would a code reading, through the lens of weaving, look like? How could feminist making be an important lens for CCS? I think this question is even more interesting given this history!

  • @JudyMalloy said:
    Are there differences in how women are treated in government funded institutions and in non-profits, and how they are treated in purely for-profit companies founded by young men? Why?

    Great question. Are we talking about now, or then, or both? What kind of differences would we expect to see? And, how would these differences impact the overarching question at hand? With regard to #metoo, I suspect there are many ways in which these differing domains will have similarity, even if their over-arching atmospheres are different.

    I find these questions difficult, if not nearly impossible to answer, without engaging with people, their accounts and experiences, who have endured these environments.

    This difficulty encompasses the general problems I've had when trying to contribute throughout the week. The entangled, embedded, situated, and executable nature of all these threads (and their code & its contexts) have made is hard to jump in.

    Nevetheless, I find @a11ykat's question's about conception gender on a computing/tech environment to lead to a very interesting set of questions we could pursue to answer some of these questions.

    @a11ykat said:
    How does linking computer programming with "geek culture" affect women in a different way than men, given the greater reliance that young woman have had on beauty for survival, validation, and power? And more on point, how did Margaret Hamilton and other women in similar engineering roles navigate the gendered conceptions of her day, both as choices and as constraints?

    Having worked in this space and knowing many women with various coping strategies today, this is still an active front.

  • This thread has me buzzing with questions about how we define "programming culture." Is there a "programming culture" outside of the occupation of software developer? Or, is the activity of computer programming inescapably linked to programming-as-work? Is programming culture always subordinate to an industrial form like the military contractor or tech startup? Is there room for anti-utilitarian, inefficient, or counter-cultural code practices in how we imagine programming culture today?

    On one hand, these questions aren't strictly about programming. They're about work, working people, and workplaces. (I'm inclined to repeat @JudyMalloy's question about the treatment of women working in non-profit versus for-profit organizations, and to echo @AriSchlesinger's wish to hear more first-hand accounts from programming people.) But I also tend to think that programming is an unusual sort of work, particularly in its changing relationship to gender and power over time.

    I am especially intrigued by @a11ykat's questions about what we lose by collapsing all working programmers--from aerospace engineers punching FORTRAN cards to millenial brogrammers writing React apps--into a single category. If we lose many of the misfits, do we also lose their peculiar code genres and programming practices? Have some programming modalities historically opened space for counter-power within the workplace, while others have foreclosed it?

    For a crude example to think with, a recent survey of StackOverflow users (an admittedly biased sample) suggested a greater representation of women programmers in scientific, mobile, and web development than in systems administration, devops, or embedded applications. How do the participants in these various programming (sub)cultures experience gender differently? And are the social and phenomenological differences reflected in the code they write and how they write it?

  • edited February 3

    In response to my question:

    "Are there differences in how women are treated in government funded institutions and in non-profits, and how they are treated in purely for-profit companies founded by young men? Why?"

    in addition to pointing out the need to look at different time periods and other factors, @AriSchlesinger says

    "I find these questions difficult, if not nearly impossible to answer, without engaging with people, their accounts and experiences, who have endured these environments."

    Yes.

    and @driscoll says

    " ... I also tend to think that programming is an unusual sort of work, particularly in its changing relationship to gender and power over time."

    Yes, and it is important that young women who want to become programmers and/or software engineers have information on hospitable environments -- both past and present. One of the reasons for looking at gender in programming environments in CCSWG18 is to see where we are in this respect.

    A few books that document working environments for women programmers are:

    Cox, Donna, Ellen Sandor, and Janine Fron. New Media Futures: The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2018.
    A focus is on academic environments. "...the centrality of teaching, and the role of the women themselves in creating innovative teaching environments weave in and out of the narratives" (my words in a Foreword).

    Holt, Nathalia. Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars. NY; Boston; London: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
    How women mathematicians and programmers at JPL (the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) -- including Asian Americans and at least one black woman -- emerged from the culture of the 50s to become core to NASA-funded projects.

    Neff, Todd. From Jars to the Stars: How Ball Came to Build a Comet-Hunting Machine. Denver, CO: Earthview Media, 2010.
    Of particular interest is the way women and men worked together on the NASA-funded Deep Impact Program (in the first decade of the 21st century).

    Shetterly, Margot Lee. Hidden Figures - The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. NY: William Morrow, 2016. How black women emerged from a segregated environment to become mathematicians and programmers who were core to space exploration programs at NASA Langley.

    This is by no means a complete list. That women scholars, critics, artists, and practitioners who work with technology have written extensively is obvious in the resource list for Woman, Art and Technology.

    But, we need more. More books, more theses, more DH projects, etc. Of particular importance as regards this thread, we need more resources on gender and computing environments.

    onward....

  • As regards gender and programming cultures, it is also important to look at how women have created hospitable environments on the Internet. There are several chapters that address this in Judy Malloy, ed., Social Media Archeology and Poetics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016

    Madeline Gonzalez Allen
    “Community Networking, an Evolution”
    The author relates how she followed a vision for community networking and how, as the Internet was becoming a public medium, she felt a calling to do all that she could so that everyone – regardless of their educational background, income level, employment status, ethnicity, gender or any other “classification” – could have the same opportunity to learn about and shape and benefit from this emerging technology. The paper details how she worked with people from communities across Colorado (e.g., Telluride, Boulder, Southern Ute Tribe) to develop innovative community applications of the then-nascent Internet technology, how participants shared what they learned with people from other communities, and how she eventually co-led the creation of an international Association for Community Networking.

    J.R. Carpenter
    “TrAce Online Writing Centre, Nottingham Trent University, UK"
    Documents the trAce Online Writing Centre, founded in 1995 by Sue Thomas at Nottingham Trent University, UK.

    Steven Durland
    "Defining The Image As Place, A Conversation with Kit Galloway, Sherrie Rabinowitz & Gene Youngblood"
    documents Sherrie Rabinowitz' role in creating the Electronic Cafe

    Stacy Horn
    “Echo”
    An early Internet developer takes a personal look back at the 1990 start-up of one of the early social networks, Echo. Horn discusses the challenges she faced building an online community at a time when if people had even heard of the Internet, they thought it was something to do with computers and only of interest to socially challenged geeks. She talks about coming up with ways to deal with all the problems that continue to plague the Internet today: trolls, harassment, bullying, basically all the evils of society. Horn also covers how she got women online when the Internet was 90% male, or large institutions, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, when talk on the net was mostly tech.

    Judy Malloy
    "Arts Wire: The Non-Profit Arts Online"
    Beginning in 1992, Arts Wire, a program of the New York Foundation for the Arts, was a social media platform and Internet presence provider for the arts and artists. This chapter documents Anne Focke's lead role in the creation initial leadership of Arts Wire

  • edited January 21

    Reflecting on @a11ykat comments on the role of the geek and the Geek myth, I came across a chapter in Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher's Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing, whether they report that "While the stereotype of the computer science student as someone myopically focused on computing is rejected by any male and female students, women report more distress and are more affected by the perceived difference than their peers" (69).

    Showing how this stereotype leads to self-selection/self-exclusion, one undergrad woman says, "that's their hobby, it's their work, it's their goal. I'm not like that at alI don't dream in code like they do."

    For some reason, this also has me thinking of Episode 1, Season 4 of Black Mirror, a kind of revenge fantasy (liberation story) on a geek who plays out revenge fantasies through code. (Any thoughts on this? -- not to derail us.)

    I suspect this gender stereotype cuts both ways, but the net impact of the stereotype on the gender make-up of computer programming may be the biggest casualty.

  • I did not hear the name of the Rashma Saujani the founder of Girls Who Code and the Creator of the national movement to close the gender gap in tech. She wrote a book last year titled Girls Who Code Learn to Code and Change the World published in 2017 by Penguin. In this book, she narrated how she started coding and teaching coding to girls in high school in the city of New York, in order to fight against sexism in the technology.
    It was there I learned of the great women programmers such as:

    1. Frances Bilas Spence (1922—2013)
    2. Jean Jennings Bartik (1924—2011)
    3. Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer (1922—2008)
    4. Kathleen “Kay” McNulty Mauchly Antonelli (1921—2006)
    5. Frances Elizabeth “Betty” Holberton (1917—2001)
    6. Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum (1924—1986)
  • @a11ykat asks:

    How does linking computer programming with "geek culture" affect women in a different way than men, given the greater reliance that young woman have had on beauty for survival, validation, and power?

    For all of us, once in a while some informal shero worship is needed in the female geek world. Helen Ling is heroic as she sits at her desk at JPL working on calculations for the Mariner 2 project. Katherine Johnson is heroic when at John Glen's request she verifies computer calculations for the 1962 Friendship 7 orbital flight. Margaret Hamilton is heroic when she directs the programming for the AGC.

    And once in a while, I like seeing these photos.
    from Margaret Hamilton, Computer Scientist & Systems Engineer | MAKERS Profile
    And I identified the photo on the left as from high school, but it may be a college photo.

  • The discussion and comments above are quite interesting. However, one thing I notice is the tendency to separate Catherine Hamilton's race from her gender. She was not just a working woman at NASA; she was a Black working woman at a time when Black women were relegated to domestic work. Race cannot be separate from gender, even though intellectually we like to divide the pie that way. One of the images I am struck by at the end of Hidden Figures is the white supervisor bringing in a crew of white girls to learn programming the computer from the black women who were doing it, taught by their black coworker. And I wondered if the programmers today at NASA are as integrated as that first group, or if once the white women learned it, the black women found themselves without a job? So as we interrogate this question of gender and coding--the racial dimensions of gender cannot be set aside. They are constituted together. And that is where intersectionality must be considered in these discussions. What happens when multiple systems of oppression intersect?

  • edited February 3

    Thanks, @imcclaurin for your important questions.

    I think you mean Katherine Johnson, whom I usually do identify as black.
    I apologize for not doing so in this post.

    Here is picture of young Katherine!

  • Mea culpea; yes, you are correct. I put in the wrong name. My comments about needing to intersect race and gender still stand.

  • To conclude this response on young women engineers who came to promenance, Chinese American, Helen Ling grew up in war-torn China, so I haven't yet found a picture (ok to use) of Helen as a young women, although @markcmarino might like to know that she went to Notre Dame.

    Here is a video of
    Burmese American Mimi Aung, Project Manager Mars Helicopter at JPL

    Source: the JPL women pages

    And the source of the image of African American Katherine Johnson is Makers: https://www.makers.com/katherine-g-johnson

  • @JudyMalloy said:
    To conclude this response on young women engineers who came to promenance, Chinese American, Helen Ling grew up in war-torn China, so I haven't yet found a picture (ok to use) of Helen as a young women, although @markcmarino might like to know that she went to Notre Dame.

    Shake down the thunder!

  • edited January 27

    Quick question, inspired by this other thread:

    If we include the work of creating functions in Excel (and other spreadsheet software) as programming, wouldn't that radically expand who we might include in this category of women programmers who have worked in the field of space exploration, similar to the way including those who were computers (performed calculations) has? Are there disadvantages to such an exclusion.

    If we did, whom else might we include? (Or does that create a list that has too wide a scope?)

  • @markcmarino said:
    If we include the work of creating functions in Excel (and other spreadsheet software) as programming, wouldn't that radically expand who we might include in this category of women programmers who have worked in the field of space exploration, similar to the way including those who were computers (performed calculations) has? Are there disadvantages to such an exclusion.

    I am thrilled at this suggestion and have been wondering the same. Re-casting spreadsheets as software helps bring some clarity to our earlier discussion of programming-as-work. If a spreadsheet is software then not all software development involves writing code.

    One anecdote: an extended family member once described her responsibilities at a "bookkeeping" job in the 1980s as creating relational databases, writing custom SQL queries, and running automated reports. Yet, she did not self-identify as a "software developer" nor was she afforded the professional status or salary of a computer programmer. A critical history of spreadsheet work since the 1980s might show how the very act of typing code into a text editor versus navigating a GUI enabled the unjust distribution of power and resources among information laborers.

    For background, I've returned time and again to the special issue of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing on PC spreadsheets from 2007. Martin Campbell-Kelly's contribution stands out as it compares VisiCalc, 1-2-3, and Excel as development platforms for the non-programmer. The article's title alone offers something for us to think with: "Number Crunching without Programming: The Evolution of Spreadsheet Usability".

    (As an aside, even as an enthusiastic programmer, I have been somewhat suspect of the preference for R/Python in data science. Discarding spreadsheets seems less about technique or efficiency than about a fetish for typing code--with all its political consequences. In the face of this anti-spreadsheet moment, Joel Spolsky--Stack Overflow founder, and former Microsoft PM on the Excel team--gave a fascinating presentation on advanced spreadsheet development titled "You Suck at Excel" (2015). Just watching Spolsky navigate the interface is fascinating.)

  • One of our CS faculty members at UCSD who taught students in our Culture, Art, and Technology program taught Excel as part of his course on programming. Unfortunately I no longer have access to my email archive but will try to remember his name.

  • @markcmarino said:
    If we include the work of creating functions in Excel (and other spreadsheet software) as programming ...

    Here are two definitions that provide criteria for whom to consider as programmers: Programming is the act of creating a program, and a program is an algorithm that can be understood by a machine. Thus a programmer is a somebody who turns an algorithm into a form that can be understood by a machine.

    So, yes, everybody who has ever put a formula into a spreadsheet has programmed. And so have many other people (see below).

    If we did, whom else might we include? (Or does that create a list that has too wide a scope?)

    The field of end-user programming and end-user software engineering is based on the observation that many people with no formal in programming nevertheless do program. Other examples include programming your Tivo or any of your home appliances.

  • @erwig is there a needless implied or perceived hierarchy that we should disrupt here? I say needless if there is no significant difference between the nature of the programming in Excel or out, just the site.

    or is the distinction relevant because one who creates or revises code in a text-basrd interface is doing something significantly different?

    In other words is the difference cultural and conventional or is it technological, requiring advanced skills or knowledge?

  • Although @erwig I could've just sought the answer in your book, which echoes your post:

    Anybody who has ever put a formula in a spreadsheet has written a program. (6)

    Just feeling out the limits of the isomorphism between entering formulas into spreadsheets and programming. Although I can think of occasions where a programmer only changes the data of inherited code. The poem (and poem generator) generator Taroko Gorge is one such example. So could we say, when someone enters data in a cell of a spreadsheet they are programming? What if, as in most cases, the column has a rule, such as last names. Aren't they followig an algorithm? or rather creating one with each entry?

    Don't let me take this into sophistry. I just want to suss out a distinction, such as between data entry and programming on a spreadsheet, if there is one.

  • @markcmarino said:

    In other words is the difference cultural and conventional or is it technological, requiring advanced skills or knowledge?

    The distinction is made to acknowledge the fact that end-user programmers cannot be assumed to have knowledge that trained programmers have, so it's technological. This means that tool and language designers should be careful in the assumptions they make about the background knowledge of end users. For example, an end user probably wouldn't understand a typical type-error message produced by a compiler of a standard programming language. That's why, for example, we have used labels in spreadsheets to communicate formula errors to end users (for details, see here and specifically here).

  • edited January 29

    @markcmarino said:
    So could we say, when someone enters data in a cell of a spreadsheet they are programming?

    I'd say no, because data does not (generally) represent an algorithm.

    What if, as in most cases, the column has a rule, such as last names. Aren't they followig an algorithm? or rather creating one with each entry?

    They may be following an algorithm in filling in the data, but the filled-in data does not constitute an algorithm itself, it is merely the result of an algorithm they have in their head or so. This means they are not programming but only executing an algorithm.

  • Many of the examples here are programming. But for a list of NASA programmers, (which is where this discussion began) it would be good to look at what the person listed has accomplished. For example, if asked to list musicians, we could say my neighbor plays the violin, but we would be more likely to include Hilary Hahn or African American jazz violinist Regina Carter. And if asked to list programmers, Richard Stallman comes to mind, or Margaret Hamilton, or African American Dorothy Vaughan, or Dame Wendy Hall, or Mary Ann Horton (transgender), or Asian American Michelle X. Zhou.

  • @JudyMalloy I understand your emphasis on programmers who have accomplished something historical or influential, but it seems me that an approach drawn from feminist or womanist approaches might value equally or seek to document the contributions of those doing everyday programming, in other words might not place a higher emphasis on those who have done something historical (thinking, too, of our discussion in this thread about "credit").

  • @markcmarino says:

    ...it seems me that an approach drawn from feminist or womanist approaches might value equally or seek to document the contributions of those doing everyday programming, in other words might not place a higher emphasis on those who have done something historical...

    This is a good point. It does depend on the context, and the approach you suggest might be important in encouraging women programmers.

    At the same time, in this Google memo era I wonder:

    a. if we are listing male programmers, is the approach we would take?

    And

    b. I've looked at musicians, lets look at painters and ask the question: If every woman who paints is included, are we obscuring the accomplishments of distinguished women artists?

  • @JudyMalloy said:
    @nazuaidris Thanks for bring this up. It would be of interest to hear more about your experiences and what you are working on!

    thank you @JudyMalloy for your response. At present, I am a first year MA (Literary Studies) student in Washington State University. I am also doing a graduate certificate course in Digital Humanities. Dr. Roger Whitson encouraged me to join Critical Code Studies. Even though this field is completely new for me, I can relate to the threads and discussions based on what I have learned in my DH course so far. The discussions have prompted me to think about future directions in this field; specially DH/CCS in the context of developing countries.

    Since you have asked to share my experience, I am elaborating on what I have said in my earlier thread:

    In Bangladesh, there is lack of enough oppportinity to learn about programming in the graduate schools (CSE, IT etc. departments) or in related job sectors. The students who are interested in programming, form groups and work together. And it might sound strange, but most of these people work late night (one of the practical reasons is internet speed is better at night). My brother is a programmer and I have seen him working with his friends whole night. And culturally, this is still not acceptable in most families that their girls will be out at night, work mostly with men, and learn programming. Specially, when it is a strong cultural belief that girl's brain is not suitable for these works. Most of the parents are not willing to let their daughters go to engineering schools. Those of the female students go to engineering schools end up becoming a teacher or join public service, where there is hardly any need/scope to use or brush up their programming skills. Many of them also work in network monitoring, call centers, user interface design, IT section of corporate or banking sectors (where you usually use software created by others) etc. In addition, if we look at the overall infrastructure of the tech-industry in our country, building a career in programming requires a lot of extra work, which of course, means extra-time. The cultural prejudice against women influences the recruitment process, as it is a generally accepted belief that women cannot provide that extra-time or effort (which is a seriously flawed assumption!). I was trying to find out if there is any study about programming culture and women in Bangladesh. I have been talking to my brother and he informs me that this prejudice is so much taken for granted that no one even bothers to conduct a research on women and programming culture in the context of Bangladesh.

  • edited February 3

    @nazuaidris Thank you very much for sharing your story,

    There are similar stories in Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures - The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. (NY: William Morrow, 2016) and in Nathalia Holt, Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars. (NY; Boston; London: Little, Brown and Company, 2016)

    Shetterly and Holt write about American women in the 20th century who excelled in mathematics but the only work available to them was clerical work or teaching (and not University teaching) .

    Shetterley documents how at one place, Langley Research Center, this was changed when Langley began hiring black women to work as "computers" and later as engineers. Holt documents how JPL did the same for women in Southern California.

    Hopefully, some organizations in Bangladesh will begin hiring women.
    Women like you who are concerned about this issue are also important.

    Here is some information about Achia Khaleda Nila, Founder of Women In Digital Bangladesh (WIDBD):
    http://fielfalt.de/portrait-achia-khaleda-nila-founder-of-women-in-digital-bangladesh-widbd/

    She says:

    WIDBD‘s vision is to successfully cultivate mutually beneficial networks between industry, academia and government with a focus on women working in the technology industries across the country.

    Good wishes for your digital humanities studies!

  • @JudyMalloy thank you very much for these resources.

  • In looking at diverse programming cultures that are hospitable to women, I'd like to mention the electronic literature community as being very inclusive of women, particularly Latina/Hispanic women, and to point to Maria Mencia's recent book _#WomenTechLit _(West Virginia University Press, 2017) which includes:

    "Latin American Electronic Literature: When, Where, and Why" by Claudia Kozak
    " Czech Electronic Literature" by Zuzana Husárová
    "A Diorama of Digital Literature in Spain" by Dolores Romero López
    "Digital Poetry Evolution and the Art of Machines" by Jeneen Naji
    "Transient Self-Portrait: The Data-Self" By María Mencía
    " In Search of a Female Technological Identity in Electronic Literature: Dancing with the Spanish Domestic Cyborg" by María Goicoechea and Laura Sánchez
    " A Comparative Study of Shu Lea Cheang’s Brandon" By Maya Zalbidea Paniagua

    among many other chapters!

  • Continuing the theme of hospitable environments for Latina computer scientists, the computer science at the University of Texas at El Paso, chaired by Professor Ann Quiroz Gates, is of interest:

    Emily DeRuy , "Where Being a Latina Computer Scientist Is the Norm", The Atlantic, Dec 17, 2015
    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/12/where-being-a-latina-computer-scientist-is-the-norm/433662/

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