This is a good thing on many levels:
One of the most prestigious prizes in computing, the $100,000 Turing Award, went to a woman Wednesday for the first time in the award’s 40-year history. Frances E. Allen, 75, was honored for her work at IBM Corp. on techniques for optimizing the performance of compilers…
First, the substance. All of us in computer development should get on our knees and thank those who have taken compilers from hindrances of productivity to something we hardly ever think about. You young whippersnappers who have never known anything but .Net development don’t know how good you’ve got it. The way things used to be, a simple code change that took minutes, would turn into an hour ordeal with slow compilation, hooking up links, and all the other minutia that is now taken care of for us. I have no doubt that Allen had a lot to do with that.
Now for the sociology. It’s never made much sense to me why more women don’t go into computer science. Now, my more strident friends can blame the patriarchy all they want, but if you didn’t go into computer science, it’s because you made a decision not to go into computer science.
I have a theory, but scant evidence. My building holds all the “computer people”. One thing I’ve noticed, especially in contrast to people in the other buildings at the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation is that “computer people” either aren’t as sociable as the “normal” people, or they try but lack very fine tuned social skills. I’m not talking about the stereotype of nerdiness, just a general unease speaking in front of other people.
Perhaps, it is belived, one has to be nonsocial to be good at IT. This is not true, but I think many believe it. By nature (here comes more trouble from my feminist friends), women are generally more social creatures. So my theory is that many girls in high school think they’ll have to become an anti-social nerd to go into IT. Secondly, they may not see the creative side of my business, and think that the job will be nothing but dry logic. So they leave the data center to the nerds, when they really didn’t have to.
What is the result? Well, for the past few years, I’ve gone to Tech Ed, a Microsoft-sponsored convention/seminar for all techies involved with Microsoft products. This is the only time I’ve seen at a large gathering of people, where women can walk right into the restroom, and men have a line going out the door. The imbalance is that bad.
I’d like to see more women get into IT. I’m getting lonely, being the only person I know who looks at programming as a creative, artistic endeavor. I think my industry could use more of that, especially from women.
There’s no getting around it, I’ve seen scientific proof: women’s brains actually process information differently from men. And if I’ve learned anything from almost 20 years in IT, it is that programming problems have to be approached from many different directions before the proper solution can be found. Right now, we are missing a voice we should be hearing.
So come on, ladies! Like Frances Allen, dazzle us with your ingenuity! We could really use you. Plus it would be nice to have a shorter wait for restrooms at IT conventions…