How Did Tech Become So Male-Dominated?

How Did Tech Become So Male-Dominated?


I was about to make a presentation at a tech conference when a male attendee gave me this unsolicited piece of advice. “Don’t be nervous. You’re hot. No one expects you to do well.” I’m a software engineer, and I’m regularly asked to take notes in meetings. None of the men are asked to do that. After giving a talk, I received abusive emails from men who said things like, “I jerked off to the video of your talk.” How did we get here? Why is this so common? How did tech become so male dominated? Modern computing emerged in the early 1940s. During World War II, the military hired hundreds of women to solve complex calculations that would improve the accuracy of weapons on the battlefield. Naval officer Grace Hopper, also a mathematics professor developed a compiler – a program that translates English instructions into computer code. This paved the way for modern programming language. And by the end of the war, women worked on the army’s top secret projects – the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC. The ENIAC is often credited as the world’s first general purpose computer. After all of our hard work, we weren’t even invited to the ENIAC unveiling celebration. The male hardware engineers were congratulated, while we trudged home in the snow. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, women often worked behind the scenes building software, while men specialized in hardware engineering. Perceived as mindless and menial, computer programming had become women’s work. In 1967, Cosmopolitan magazine published an article hailing computer science as an exciting alternative to secretarial work. Twenty years ago, a girl could be a secretary, school teacher, social worker or a nurse. Now have come the big, dazzling computers and a whole new kind of work for women – programming. During the 1970s and ’80s, the number of women pursuing degrees in computer science steadily increased. By 1984, women majoring in computer science grew to 37 percent, nearly twice what it is today. The revolutionary advancements in computer software of the 1980s brought a gold rush to Silicon Valley. The focus for men shifted from hardware engineering to software development. Men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates became the heroes of the rapidly expanding industry. This is a 21st century bicycle that amplifies a certain intellectual ability that man has. Pop culture gave rise to the stereotypical male nerd with movies like “War Games”, “Weird Science”, and “Revenge of the Nerds”. They don’t have the moves or the muscle. But they’ve got the brains. Video game companies marketed their consoles as toys, and because toys were gendered, toy stores stocked games in the boy aisles. Ads depicted fathers teaching their sons how to use computers. Women often appeared as wives or product models. I was a math geek in high school and thought Comp Sci would be no problem. When I went to college and took a beginning computer science class, I was already behind. When I asked questions, I was told, “You should know that by now.” Today, the number of female computer science majors holds steadily at around 18 percent. The truth is that the company had trouble hiring women because it was just a bunch of nerds. They never talked to women, so how were they supposed to interact with and hire them? Tech companies reject women from jobs by saying they’re not culture fits, which seems to be code for our male employees don’t know how to socialize with women. Today, around one in four computing jobs are held by women. The percentage has actually fallen slightly in recent years, even as women are making large strides in other fields. These women are nerds and innovators, but because our culture relentlessly tells us that only men can be defined as geniuses, women get pushed out, leaving tech at twice the rate that men do. Women developed computer science – not just men. Programming is not male or female, and remembering that is a key step to fixing the tech industry’s gender gap.

100 thoughts to “How Did Tech Become So Male-Dominated?”

  1. Studies show that women actually have a massive gender ADVANTAGE when it comes to being hired in STEM fields. They are more than twice as likely to be hired than equally qualified male applicants, probably for political reasons and ´optics´. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4611984/ Even with this bias working in their favor, there are far less female programmers. Why? Probably because most women simply aren´t that interested in programming.

  2. Nintendo put videogames in the "boy aisle"? I bought an NES in 1986 and I remember videogames having their own dedicated aisle (or aisles). What are they talking about?

  3. Truth is, not everyone can program. It takes a specific minded person to become good at it. If you tend to forget things easily, coding probably isn't the best for you. Just like with acting, they remember a lot of lines. Many actors say, "I'm just good at remembering scripts." That alone is 70% of acting. That alone is what most people can not do. Most people can not remember paragraphs of dialogue at a time.
    I think it's not fair to sell people false hope. Fact is most people can not and never will code on a good enough level to land a career in it.
    Right now, it's not as simple as "men are good at programming"… that's far from the truth. Most men even are not that good at it. It's not something that all humans will be doing as their jobs in the future. That's selling false hope to sell programming like that.

  4. Agreed. I'd like to see equal ratios of men and women in the field as I am (a male) pursuing programming. However this video didn't really answer the question. It just went on about how the field progressively became more male dominated, but no actual reason was given. And perhaps it could have EXPLAINED some ways tech can become more neutral.

  5. The disparity between men and women in STEM degrees is only a western thing. In the middle east, women outperform men in STEM and make up most of the degrees. In kuwait, 40-50% of computing degrees, and 80% of science degrees, are earned by women. Clearly, it IS a cultural thing (it's been suggested that single-sex schools allows girls to thrive) and it's even funnier that the the region you all make out to be epitome of female oppression is the one where women have more equality in (in STEM atleast). Arab girls also outperform boys in math standardized math tests, unlike in western countries (http://blogs.worldbank.org/arabvoices/exception-gender-gap-education-middle-east-north-africa) . Even in western countries, girls only scored an average of 2 percent less. Maybe it's time u western boys stop jacking off to the fake idea that men are better at math, cause it's clearly bullshit.

  6. The idiots who made this video can't mention a single woman who is currently interested in working on realtime simulation software in my country (here in Argentina they're all feminists you know but they're all artists there is no such thing as girls interested in actual computer science or electrical engineering, no matter how much money you offer to them).

  7. Feminist propaganda correlating basic gender differences to oppression. Agreeable people tend to be in lower job positions in the hierarchy than people that are less agreeable, women are generally more agreeable than then, therefore more likely to take lower end salaries. Identity politics is bullshit and so is the pay gap when you take into account multi varied analysis of why the pay gap exists.

  8. From the first 30 seconds of this what I am getting is that you're hot… people point this out and how did tech become so male dominated.. huh?… where is the link here?… Tech seems to be doing just fine without women…

  9. First of all… why exactly does the tech industry need as you said "fixing"? Because there aren't women? Wait but isn't programming not male or female? Secondly you just said that all tech company employees that are male according to this video are socially akward… and that women's superior social skills are keeping them back from getting jobs?… Assuming that this is even true… why does it matter that 'non-akwardness' is not a factor employers hire based on… i dont think being a really social person is going to help all that much when working on code unless you are in the pr department…. Thirdly all the conditions you mentioned that may have kept women away from tech are not true for today… women just dont want to he in tech.. if they do they can…

  10. Because the dipshit SJW’s who made this video don’t understand how statistics work LOL, small variations in the average produce great variations at the extremes…maybe have someone with a brain do the next video instead of some loser who’s $80K in debt because she got a journalism degree instead of a tech degree

  11. Has anyone considered that the maybe the reason women aren't in fields like tech, is becuase women simply aren't inrested in these jobs?

  12. Interestingly, a recent study revealed an inverse correlation between women in STEM and societal egalitarianism. Countries with low female empowerment have far more women in STEM than countries with high female empowerment. This suggests that the more agency women have, the more likely they are to use that agency to choose careers that align with their passions, which is very unlikely to be engineering. Men and women are different, and it's not as much about competence as it is about temperament and interests.

  13. All this video does the points out that there's mean people in the world. You can be the smartest math nerd in the world but when you go to college if you're still getting me this kid who can program a game of life within two hours on a random microcontroller. discrimination is sent only limited to what gender you are. I had a co-worker who was a former Green Beret, as a result he look like he could punch a horse to death. Many people would assume that due to his muscle mass he was unable to grasp simple programming techniques.

  14. HiGuys , I would like to add subttitles and translate this video to spanish, but it seems you don't allow that , would you mind ? thanks!

  15. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/02/the-more-gender-equality-the-fewer-women-in-stem/553592/

    As societies become more egalitarian, women increasingly choose away from STEM fields.

    how to respond to that?

  16. It's funny how the Google Udacity course only has special slack channel for the LGBTQBBQ group and for womentechmakers. I asked then to make one for men techmakers and my comments were deleted. It's a dangerous world for men now when you're treated as if you're unwanted in the industry by some of the industry giants. Even if unwanted is too strong a word, you should never encourage one sex or one race of people over another. It only creates more racism and sexism not less of it.

  17. "Computer engineers are not used to talk to women". Why do you think that is? it takes two to have a conversation. If you want to fix that, then women should start talking to computer engineers. Have some patience and stick around for the initial awkwardness to subside. You'll notice that computer engineers actually make good conversation partners. Just give them a chance.

  18. Maybe women just want to do other things? Like have children, and watch As The World Turns. Outrageous I know…

  19. Who is holding back women to become anything they want? According to this video Men. Who is holding back black people then? Should be filled the racial gap in Tech as well? this is non sense

  20. While im sad that stuff like this does tend to happen. This is actually a fallacy known as Misleading vividness – involves describing an occurrence in vivid detail, even if it is an exceptional occurrence, to convince someone that it is a problem. It is part of the appeal to emotion fallacy

  21. Men created Silicon Valley. Women are more risk-averse so they want to join an established company after all the hard work is done and all the risks have been taken for them. That's why most start ups are founded by men and why the earliest employees are men, which is why men have better stock options.

  22. Full of misinformation and clearly not produced by people who have any experience in the tech industry. The "women hired to solve complex problems in WWII" had terrible and uncreative jobs, operating mechanical calculating machines according to written instructions produced by the mathematicians and engineers. It was shit work. Women played no role in designing the ENIAC; they were hired to perform menial tasks like setting switches and plugs. There were exceptional women, like Grace Hopper, who developed COBOL, but that was not the first compiler; it came out after FORTRAN and about the same time as ALGOL.

    Women are choosing to not major in Computer Science, nobody is discriminating against them. No tech company pushes women out. Entirely the opposite, companies clamor to hire women and minorities, but they just aren't in the market. I've known many women who were fine programmers, but as a rule the small number of truly exceptional programmers are always men.

    As many studies have shown, when men and women are given freedom of choice, they tend to follow stereotypical jobs.

  23. That was completely irrelevant to the question, you barley touched on the situation nowadays the 80’s was 2 generations ago

  24. Men from comments below are butthurt. This video is accurate. As a woman, I felt the same – I'm also discriminated by male classmates and also male instructors and treat differently. So I quit computer science and become a nursing. F*ck men who loves making excuses.

  25. I work in tech, and the distribution of male to female in the engineering group I work with is about 7 to 3 – not a bad distribution compared to some other teams I've been apart of.

    I honestly think the answer to the current gap is likely video games. I grew up playing computer games, and that naturally led me to tinkering with computers as a child. I remember helping my dad setup a LAN so we could play Doom deathmatch – my first ever foray into any kind of networking. This was back in 1994 before the internet became popular and when non split screen multiplayer gaming was an unknown thing to even my other fellow nerds.

    Girls growing up shied away from video games and thought it was nerdy. Not all, but most.

    Hence, I think boys of this generation simply had more exposure to tech at a young age given that they weren't shamed away from it. Computers and tech always felt second nature to me and I can imagine why it wouldn't feel so easy to someone who wasn't actively engaged with it at a young age. You can't expect to learn this stuff in your 20's and be comparable to someone who has been doing it all their life unless you're simply gifted.

    I believe this may drastically change in the next generation as it seems every young kid is heavily exposed to tech these days.

  26. HappyMeal-Jackal I agree. Most Girls and Women do not give a shit about coding/computer science/engineering ,so men took over from women and men became rich BUT A.M.D. Lisa Su(CEO of AMD and #1 cpu core manufacturing company) is the only person in the world that might care about coding computer programming/hardware.

  27. Answer: Women in majority don't like STEM and tech carriers and a lot of things men like to, women prefer other things and there's nothing bad about it. Deal with it

  28. Its pretty simple. In general: Men like things. Women like people. Being a "nerd" myself the core reason why i like tech is because of the mechanical aspect of it. Not so much the "bigger picture". I like to play with tech just because its fun. I couldn't care less if its there to help anyone else. Most women think the exact opposite. They like the idea they're doing for "the greater good"

  29. The reason why STEM is so male dominant is because more men choose the degrees needed for those jobs. At the moment more women are getting degrees than men….. if they went into STEM, women create a resurgence in those fields.

  30. How you revise history…

    Well, first you go… Rip… Rip… Rip…

    Then you go… Snip… Snip… Snip…

    Then you whip in a… Zip… Zip… Zip…

    And spin it up to the… Hip… Hip… Hip!

    Wretched video.

  31. If women aren't plenty in tech, then they are definitively doing something else that they cherish. How is that a problem?

  32. Being honest here. (Being a female CS student) there aren't many women taking CS classes. I heard men say that throughout their entire college years there were only a handful of women out of all of their classes.

  33. Who's gonna raise our Children if women wants to have careers,this is nothing New most men went out and Earn the Bacon,while women stay home and raise children and cook our meals,millennium women want careers and wana be independent know in 2019

  34. Not really, STEM professions don't appeal to women so they choose other careers where they can satisfy their special needs like socialization and empathy unlike men. STEM is doing it very well being a male "dominated" field so there isn't any problem to solve.

  35. TRIGGERED FEMINIST OMEGALUL ITS MALE DOMINATED NOWADAYS BECAUSE WOMEN ARE TOO BUSY BITCIHING TO LEARN ABOUT COMPUTER SCIENCE.

  36. Tech fits male brains better is why. Why are Vets & people oriented jobs female dominated? Testosterone makes male brains far more thing oriented & female ones end up being more people oriented. This is BASIC science. Idiot SJW's/mainstream media will NEVER understand this because they're locked into their far left religion. Can we cut the victimology? I'm so tired of 'victims' & their Marxist oppressor/oppressed crap. Start your own female tech companies!

  37. Also: why must a gender gap be “fixed” at all?

    Do I want 100-pound firefighters of either sex? No, they could never lift me and would find it harder to break down doors. Do I want to force unwilling women into STEM fields when they wanted to be teachers? No, that’s the height of authoritarianism.

  38. I find it absolutely hilarious you try to blame the lower number of female comp sci majors on the belief that Male "nerds" don't socialize with women.

  39. "Computer engineers are not used to talking to women"
    Wrong. Computer engineers don't want to talk to women because women don't want to talk about computer engineering.

  40. Reminder that women where secretaries which back then required more sophisticated understanding of Compsci, so successful women got degrees there. then they came out with idiot proof software to replace their specialization.

  41. Here's a novel idea. How about women enroll in STEM degree programs in greater numbers and then began applying to the available jobs. What's exactly stopping them… some vague and undefined societal pressure? I thought these strong independent women were able of making their own decisions.

  42. The only reason less women are in tech is because less women enroll in tech. I could make an exactly similar video of a male nurse in a hospital. In our generation nobody decides the trend, people are doing what they want.

  43. Forget the past , but I think in future women can be hired more in IT firms especially today's firms are more application based jobs and current knowledge , women need to take the advantage .

  44. Do women think that men don’t get harassed at work? Men treat each other like shit too, we just tough it out cuz we want to be the toughest. If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. That’s advice that’s applicable to both men and women. Why does someone have to be labeled a bad guy just because you’re insecure.

  45. Because men have a better track record in the field, they work longer hours and can actually pet each other on the back giving a complement without someone screaming sexual harrasment

  46. Because tech is dominated by 20 something supergeeks that spend their lives with their d.cks stuck in a port on the back of their computer and prefer other people that are similar?

  47. whoever the hell said thatin0:8  is such an idoit,or she is exaggerating(which is more than 60%true) and 2:48 please i thought you girls look down on computer games….

  48. You are not helping by making a video that is so misleading. The video makes it seem as if the women were the ones creating the software, when what they were doing is just inputing the instructions that was produced by the engineers. It was a slow, tedious and repetative job which is why the engineers didn't waste their time doing it, the women could be paid far less. That's not to say women didn't play any role in the development of modern computing, they did. But computer science, just like most other engineering disciplines is male dominated because males are naturally more interested in engineering, I don't think it's anymore complicated than that.
    Also, trying to suggest that the reasons that there are fewer females in the industry is because tech nerds don't know how to talk to women is complete BS.

  49. Hi, The Atlantic! I really enjoyed the video! I am a Ph.D. student and have been discussing sexism in science. Therefore, I would like to add subtitles in Portuguese and/or Spanish to present this video in discussions here. It would be great if this function becomes available! Thanks!

  50. Here let me fix this video: The Computing of the 60's to the 80's DIED and was replaced by Computing of the 90's and beyond – very different. Computing became more Software oriented as hardware became commodities and dirt cheap. Women dont do well in many work places not because of men – those work places with mainly men do extremely well by any metric – innovation, profit, sales etc. There arent any female dominated companies existing and there is a reason for that. The problem is that Women play by different set of rules in society in general and there is no desire to change that: 1. There is no accountability when women do wrong, its never her fault. 2. The laws dont apply to women. 3. A woman can expect those around her to change while she insists that she remain the same. 4. Women are free to make false accusations without penalty and still be upheld as a victim.

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