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.