Reigniting The Flame of Women in Tech

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Girl coding on her computer. Did you know the first computer programmer ever was a woman? (Shutterstock)

Did you know that the first computer programmer ever was a woman? Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the poet Lord Byron, wrote the notes for the first program to be carried out by Charles Babbage's "Analytical Engine" in the 1840s.

Today, only about 10 percent of computer science majors are women, but that wasn't always the case. Maria Klawe, a computer scientist, mathematician, and president of Harvey Mudd College, remembers at different breakdown during her university days.

"When I went to college, there were very few women majoring in mathematics," she says. "There were actually many more women at that time majoring in computer science than there were in mathematics, which is pretty funny."

Yet in recent decades, things have changed—today, men far outnumber women in computer science majors.   

At Harvey Mudd, Klawe has worked hard to get women just as interested in computer science as men, quadrupling the number of female CS majors at the school. New Tech City host Manoush Zomorodi spoke to Klawe and other professors and students about why more women don't pursue computer science majors and how we can change that.

Guests:

Manoush Zomorodi

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [6]

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Jul. 22 2014 03:06 AM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

"Python, which is more forgiving..."

???

What's NOT more forgiving is ME, when confronted with sloppy, junky, clunky, bloated, buggy python scripting.

"We need more computer-skilled people..."

We need more skilled people who actually have an affinity and passion for doing quality engineering.

Mar. 26 2014 03:49 PM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

"Computer science" isn't science at all. It's mathematics.

I've worked in computing and networking machinery engineering in Santa Clara Valley ("Silicon Valley") for thirty-five years - since I was a sprout, okay?

I've had a number of female co workers and two (very excellent) female immediate supervisors. I don't have any experience working at the traditional Eastern seaboard technology companies but in California since the 1970s, I believe that women have been welcomed AND well respected among my cohort, for the qualities of their talent, hard work and their achievement, with very little gender bias. Occasionally, I've quizzed female coworkers about this and though often the difficulties associated with childbearing and family leave are mentioned (and this, somewhat less often in recent years), most of the time the response to my unscientific questions is that they experienced a more collegial reception from male workmates than they had from male students at school. I allow that this has changed a little, over time.

Mar. 26 2014 03:32 PM
Dale W-L from Austin, Tx

Um, may I be the first stereotypical, video-game-centric, CS major of the 80's to note that the video game to which you were trying to refer is titled, Galaga, not Gonzaga. On the other hand, that proves that you can succeed in these fields without having come from that background, so that's good. ;-)

Mar. 26 2014 03:29 PM
Larry Fisher from Backin Brooklyn, N.Y.

An entire series on Women in Science and Math would be exciting to show my 8 year old daughter.
You could discuss people like Rosalind Franklin who contributed to the understanding of the DNA and was the first person to take photos of the double helix.
And of course Jane Goodall for starters

The way society makes women veer away from science and math might be of interest as well

Mar. 26 2014 02:24 PM
Fred Banks from St. Louis MO

Grace Hopper should get credit.

Mar. 26 2014 12:45 PM

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