Part IV: Women in Computing


The Pleasure Paradox

Bridging the Gap Between Popular Images of Computing and Women’s Historical Experiences


I still think, of all the fields open to women, computer science is the most wonderful one. First of all, as a programmer, no one knows what sex you are, what color you are, what your gender preferences are; they just know: Does it work or not? Did you get it done? Is it fast enough? And therefore, it is the field where you are judged by the output—that’s it. … So I love it for women.

—Paula Hawthorn, United States, started computing work in 1960s

Almost every day it’s fun to go to work—and I don’t hear very many other people say that about their jobs. I loved what I was doing when I was programming. … Once I had kids, being a manager was so easy and so fun, and you get to do so many different things, and you get to leverage all these smart programmers who can produce things. … And it’s interesting, because it’s always new. … So how can you have a better job?

—Ann Hardy, United States, started computing work in 1950s

Women’s pleasure in computing is an aspect of history that has gone largely unexplored. Most studies of the underrepresentation of women in computing focus on negatives, such as discrimination, hostile climates in classrooms and workplaces, and ways in which girls are discouraged from getting the necessary preparation in math and science [1]. The quotations above are striking in describing computing not merely as a field ...

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