Smash Company Splash Image

February 13th, 2011

In Philosophy

3 Comments

Women, men, and the culture of computer programming

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Is it okay to work 60 hour weeks? Apparently a lot of the women in computer science reject it as a career because of the perception that it involves long hours and therefore an unbalanced life. And yet my ex-girlfriend, and 2 other close female friends of mine, all thought it was natural to work 100 hour weeks so they could become medical professionals (2 became doctors and 1 became a nurse practitioner). Their hours were, if anything, more extreme than anything in the computer profession. I am having trouble getting my mind around this. Clearly, in some professions, women are willing to work extreme hours. But the women who are drawn to computer science seem to reject extreme hours? That is what Carolyn is suggesting.

Carolyn writes:

However, in the past few years, I’ve met more students who study CS in engineering schools. When they talk about how they live to program and never leave the lab, I feel like I’ve been wasting time by having other hobbies when I should have been keeping up with my competition. I worry that my skills aren’t up to snuff because I’ve been knitting or reading Japanese books instead of programming and reading compiler books.

I’m certainly not alone. In Unlocking the Clubhouse, Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher cite this effect as a reason that many girls decide not to stick with CS. In their study of CS students at Carnegie Mellon, they found that men tended to glorify the long hours spent in the lab, while women worried that that they would lose balance in their lives.

“The rub for women in computer science is that the dominant computer science culture does not venerate balance or multiple interests. Instead, the singular and obsessive interest in computing that is common among men is assumed to be the road to success in computing. This model shapes the assumptions of who will succeed and who “belongs” in the discipline. [source]”

I also know, of course, that programming in “the real world” doesn’t mean programming night and day, and that kind of lifestyle is actually very harmful to both men and women. StackOverflow agreed last October that being expected to work 50-60 hour weeks on a regular basis is unacceptable, and none of the programmers I met during my internships worked very much overtime (when they did it was only to fix last-minute bugs before the release date).

Source



Check out my book:





RECENT COMMENTS

February 20, 2019 10:41 am

From Just An Observer on Don't waste your life on Twitter

"A couple of my favorite bloggers started doing twitter. Instead of permanent additions to knowledge, there is..."

February 20, 2019 3:24 am

From Brennan on Did sleep paralysis start the Salem Witch Trials?

"If you have occasional sleep paralysis, you can take steps at home to control this disorder. Start by making s..."

February 19, 2019 11:09 am

From Ryan Earp on Why I prefer dynamic-typing over static-typing: the speed of adapting to change

"If static typing lead to greater programmer productivity (via a reduction in bugs) then corporate Americ..."

February 3, 2019 2:32 pm

From ruurd on Argument about attraction and sexuality and trans

"wait wait wut? what's the liberals doing here?..."

January 18, 2019 10:22 am

From Justin McGuire on When will the era of CyberPunk end?

"The reason cyberpunk doesn't die is because it all came true. From Noah Smith on twitter: "The cool thing a..."

December 16, 2018 9:06 am

From lawrence on Yair Lapid: What does it say about us that Israel has become the only democracy in the world in which Jews don’t have freedom of religion?

"Cat Mara, thank you for catching that. I've fixed it now. (The URL was a "v" by mistake. Looks like I was tryi..."

December 12, 2018 7:50 pm

From lawrence on Object Oriented Programming is an expensive disaster which must end

"Jussi Nurminen, thank you for writing. I believe you are correct, in the sense that Python 2.x had all the bas..."

December 12, 2018 5:13 am

From Jussi Nurminen on Object Oriented Programming is an expensive disaster which must end

"Hello! I've lately became a bit more suspicious of OO designs (including my own), so I read your original 2014..."

December 4, 2018 9:22 am

From lawrence on Docker is the dangerous gamble which we will regret

"GK, thank you for writing, but I don't understand what you mean when you write: "However, at that point you..."

December 4, 2018 7:14 am

From GK on Docker is the dangerous gamble which we will regret

"A development VM is a fine choice, provided that it comes with tools that make it just as easy to run commands..."

November 30, 2018 7:04 pm

From lawrence on Docker is the dangerous gamble which we will regret

"GK, thank you for writing. About this part: "That thing is writing portable shell scripts. The moment you n..."

November 30, 2018 1:41 pm

From GK on Docker is the dangerous gamble which we will regret

"The fat binaries article was nice, but full blown fat binaries are not really necessary. Whats needed is that ..."

November 27, 2018 1:13 am

From lawrence on Object Oriented Programming is an expensive disaster which must end

"Andres Moreno, thank you for writing. Among other points to be said, I'll say I'm almost heart broken about Py..."

November 26, 2018 9:11 pm

From Andres Moreno on Object Oriented Programming is an expensive disaster which must end

"I am stunned! Why did it take so long to show that the Emperor has no clothes? I got bit by the Lisp bug early..."

3 COMMENTS

February 17, 2011
12:09 pm

By Carolyn

Thanks for the link to my blog! I never thought of this perspective, and it’s a very interesting contrast. I’ll have to see what my pre-med classmates think about their impending long hours, and why that would affect women differently in one field than from another. I suspect it has to do with the stereotype that programmers spend all their time programming *at the cost of doing nothing else,* while the long hours of learning to be a doctor don’t come with that stigma. Learning to be a doctor also means a lot of face-to-face interaction, while being a programmer stereotypically means sitting alone in a lab (though it’s not necessarily true, it is the stereotype).

Link to a relevant paper on what keeps women out of CS, that talks about the fear of being stuck in front of a computer all day: http://www.imageofcomputing.com/pdf/p27-carter.pdf

February 17, 2011
4:36 pm

By lawrence

Thanks, Carolyn. I’ve been collecting information on this subject (the gender disparity in tech) for several years now. I find there is a misleading myth in the question “What chases women out of tech?” If you ask that question, you get one set of answers. If you ask other questions, you get different answers, I think.

For instance:

Women receiving advanced degrees in computer science in the USA peaked in 1989 and has since retreated. So a different question would be “What chases women out of tech in 2011 that did not chase them out of tech in 1989?”

Or, women in Israel receive degrees in computer science at higher per capita rates than in the USA, so another question to ask is “What chases women out of tech in the USA, but not women in Israel?”

Another incident that was interesting (posted on my old blog):

http://www.teamlalala.com/blog/2009/10/12/the-strange-anomaly-of-gender-issues-in-tech/

February 17, 2011
4:38 pm

By lawrence

Carolyn, you make an interesting point about stigma of unbalance that attaches to the computer profession, but not being a doctor. Doctors lead unbalanced lives for several years (literally 80 to 100 hour work weeks, sleeping on a cot in the hospital several nights a week) while in school, but they can look forward to a day when they can have a schedule more to their liking. Perhaps it is that future expectation that plays a large role.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>