Women Coders- Solution?

How do we promote full inclusion in our educational and vocational systems?

Common sense might suggest that simply encouraging more participation in certain subject areas or certain industries will fix the problem.
But does it?

Maybe not, according to UCLA faculty member Miriam Posner, who teaches in the digital humanities department.

She lays forth an interesting argument that highlights a deeper division within the computer programming industry-the rift between designers, “front end” and engineers, “back end.” Apparently, the “back end” workers have more prestige, earn higher salaries, and tend to be males-often considered the “geniuses” of the industry.

In a “Hidden Figures” style revelation, apparently women were among the earliest computer programmers, but were pushed out by market forces which propelled men to the forefront. I am curious to read Nathan Ensmenger’s, The Computer Boys Take Overwhich more fully lays out this argument.

Educators and parents interested in a thought provoking opinion piece should definitely check out Miriam Posner’s essay.

I only wish there was a simple solution.

For more on computer historian Nathan Ensmenger, check out his website

Questions for Discussion

1.”Technology has a gender problem, as everyone knows,” according to Miriam Posner-discuss this with your students-have they noticed it, what examples can they cite for this, what exceptions are there to this statement? Is it an effective lead or “grabber?”

2. What does she mean, “But in practice, when more women enter a role, its value seems to go down more.” What evidence would you look for if you wanted data to support or refute this statement?

3. What change does Coraline Ada Ehmke describe occurring in the industry?

4. What does Nathan Ensmenger highlight as ways to protect the status of an industry?

5. What does Marle Hicks identify as the real problem in the industry?

6. Miriam Posner’s essay does not end with any solutions to the problems highlighted in the essay, what solutions can your students brainstorm that would help improve the role and status of women in the “tech” sector?


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