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After all, men had never done it before.

No soldier returning from the war had the skill set these women did. New women began to enter the field, too.

Orangutan refuses to let go of woman's hand

Although the boom pulled in more men than women, the percentages of women in programming were much higher than those in other STEM fields. Still, even with the introduction of men, programming was often conflated with low-level clerical work commonly performed by women like typing or filing, writes Nathan Ensmenger , a professor of informatics and computing at Indiana University.

These stereotypes about the job helped keep its pay and prestige low. Yet programmer Grace Hopper , who invented the first computer language compiler which transferred mathematical code into machine code , also used gender stereotypes to encourage women to enter the field. Programming, some argued, was similar to knitting, sewing, or even crossword puzzles, so women were a perfect fit. Over time, stereotypes about the field shifted to the point that computer programming came to be seen as a job better suited for men than women.

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In the summer of , a white male programmer at Google was fired for writing widely-circulated memo that used gender stereotypes to argue that women were inherently worse at programming than men. Radio Shack ran ads showing that personal computers were great for nerdy white boys and sporty boys because they could use it to do homework and play video games. Another Apple ad showed how much a computer could help a boy named Brian Scott, while also demonstrating what fun he could have teasing a girl who was trying to use a computer.


When professions shift from male-dominated to female-dominated, they usually see decreases in pay and prestige. Teaching and nursing , once considered male fields, are today largely low-paying, pink-collar occupations. In the case of computer programming, this transformation ran in reverse. These underpaid, undervalued women who played such a critical role in developing their field might never have gotten their due at all without the work of female historians like Kleiman and Abbate.

But there is still more work to be done in bringing the stories of uncredited women out of the shadows, particularly in regards to the contributions of women of color.

Credit: NASA. Course 25 Women See Gods Will.

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    A Woman's Hand Is Taken by Tamara A. Suell

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