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

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Preface

We don’t normally think of academic publishing as a contact sport, but this volume was born with bruises on my arm. We were planning a workshop at the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) and enjoying the process of framing a much-needed historical assessment of gender and computing. We knew it was a respectable topic. Scholars from many different backgrounds and traditions had in recent years put gender on the academic map. The exploration of gender and computing history was long overdue. After all, there must be something in the many hundreds of photographs we’d seen over the years showing “white guys with computers.”

When introducing the CBI workshop to my colleagues in science and engineering, I explained how gender had become a useful category of analysis in the social sciences, and our aim for bringing gender analysis into the mainstream of computing history. Often, I didn’t get more than two or three sentences into the spiel when a female colleague grabbed my arm and said: “no, you don’t quite understand—what you are doing, gender and computing, is important, really important.” My technical colleagues had gone through graduate school and started their careers in the midst of the women’s movement, and many had struggled in their careers and institutions with its ambiguous successes. They wanted to understand gender and computing, but they also wanted to change the existing state of affairs. This volume took form with both these aims in mind.

We were fortunate to draw on ...

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