The untold history of women and computing: how pioneering women succeeded in a field shaped by gender biases.
Today, women earn a relatively low percentage of computer science degrees and hold proportionately few technical computing jobs. Meanwhile, the stereotype of the male "computer geek" seems to be everywhere in popular culture. Few people know that women were a significant presence in the early decades of computing in both the United States and Britain. Indeed, programming in postwar years was considered woman's work (perhaps in contrast to the more manly task of building the computers themselves). In Recoding Gender, Janet Abbate explores the untold history of women in computer science and programming from the Second World War to the late twentieth century. Demonstrating how gender has shaped the culture of computing, she offers a valuable historical perspective on today's concerns over women's underrepresentation in the field.
Abbate describes the experiences of women who worked with the earliest electronic digital computers: Colossus, the wartime codebreaking computer at Bletchley Park outside London, and the American ENIAC, developed to calculate ballistics. She examines postwar methods for recruiting programmers, and the 1960s redefinition of programming as the more masculine "software engineering." She describes the social and business innovations of two early software entrepreneurs, Elsie Shutt and Stephanie Shirley; and she examines the career paths of women in academic computer science.
Abbate's account of the bold and creative strategies of women who loved computing work, excelled at it, and forged successful careers will provide inspiration for those working to change gendered computing culture.
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
Number of pages: 258
Weight: 499 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
Abbate's chapters are, as readers of her earlier work expect, trenchant, precise, and compelling, for she carefully connects technical considerations with social dimensions to provide thick description of behaviors in action.-- Carol Colatrella * nternational Journal of Gender, Science, and Technology *
This book is good reading for anyone who would like to explore the challenges of setting policies and gain a better understanding of the gender dynamics of a scientific and technical workforce.-- Maxine Cohen * Computing Reviews *
Through the stories of early women programmers such as the World War II 'Wrens' who worked on top-secret code decryption, entrepreneurs such as Stephanie Shirley who created and ran her own computing firm, and current-day computer scientists such as Anita Borg, Abbate does a marvelous job of describing the excitement, fun, and satisfaction that women past and present have found, and will continue to find, in computing work.-- Caroline Clarke Hayes * Technology and Culture *
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