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Software Development Gender Gap Pondered

By InfoWorld

May 8, 2009



A panel of women developers at the recent RailsConf 2009 conference in Las Vegas held a session entitled "Women in Rails" to discuss the issues that cause software development to be a male-dominated profession. The panelists said reasons for the imbalance include a lack of women in computer science programs, women leaving the industry to raise families, and women underestimating their chances when job opportunities are available.

RailsConf 2009 Panelist Sarah Mei Sarah Mei spends time teachingJavascript to high school girls and encouraging them to considerprogramming. 

Panelist Sarah Mei, a software developer and Rails user, says she has been working to get more women to attend San Francisco meetings on Ruby, and has been trying to connect with Web designers and women who have never programmed before. Mei also teaches JavaScript to high school girls and encourages them to consider programming.

Part of the problem is that in the 1990s computer science programs were designed to be difficult and weed people out because there were more applicants than available developer positions. However, since then the industry has become much larger and more open, but computer science programs have not changed their approach.

Mei also points to the "macho gaming culture" that suppresses the number of women in programming. She says that computer science in general suffers from an image problem, including fears about jobs being outsourced, but believes that innovation requires expanding the programming talent pool.

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