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Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing by Thomas J. Misa

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Part II: Institutional Life

4

A Gendered Job Carousel

Employment Effects of Computer Automation

CORINNA SCHLOMBS

It is often observed that women are underrepresented in computing and computer science. However, a closer look at computer-related occupations reveals a more complex picture: high numbers of women in some computing areas counterbalance low numbers in others. While few women work in computer specialist occupations such as software engineering and programming, many work in the occupations that make intensive use of computers, in particular, in the office and secretarial occupations. Although in 2004 women constituted only 27% of IT specialists in the United States, for example, women represented almost 50% of the overall workforce using information and communication technologies, and almost 90% of the clerical workforce using information and communication technologies [1]. While these numbers prove that women are adept computer users, they also reveal that few women obtain advanced positions in computing. Historical roots explain this persistent pattern of female (non) participation in computing.

When electronic computers were introduced to shop floors and offices in the 1950s, they carried the promise of improving working conditions. Automation proponents such as John Diebold claimed that computers would relieve workers from arduous routine jobs and create more skilled positions. “The computer techniques make possible an entirely new approach to many of the information-handling ...

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