What Happened in 1984?

Click the image above to enlarge.  Source:  NPR.

Would it surprise you to hear that women's low representation in coding and electronics wasn't always the case?  Women conceived the first algorithm for a mechanical computer, programmed the first vacuum-tube computer via hardwiring, crafted the first modern computer language, invented fundamental debugging tools, and even wrote the flight control code that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon.

Women entered the field in increasing numbers until 1984, when the percentage of computer majors who were female approached 40%.  Yet while the percentage of women in fields like law and medicine continued to rise, the percentage of women in computing flat lined and then nosedived.

NPR concluded in "When Women Stopped Coding," that the change was the result of a cultural sea change that introduced unwelcoming geek stereotypes. "This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative... It helped define who geeks were, and it created techie culture."  Thirty years later, that culture, more than innate ability or interest, is still having an adverse effect on inclusiveness.

For more detail on cultural happenings circa 1984, click the button.