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Woah, so Tim took me seriously about linking to women’s blog posts from his own, and suddenly I get readership! Edd phrases what I was trying to say better than I did myself:

As Jeni brings her article to a close, it’s with some shock and shame that I get the punchline loud and clear: “this isn’t about you.”

It’s about empathy, inclusivity and selflessness. Human qualities that are unrestricted to either gender.

But I wanted to address some of the comments that question whether we should really care about this. For example:

Why we need to have an equal number of men and women in every job field known to man is beyond me. Women freely choose not to be programmers. That is manifestly not a problem, and certainly not a problem that needs fixing. I try to respect peoples decisions about what they do with their lives, so I for one vow to do absolutly [sic] nothing about this.

I agree completely that there shouldn’t be an assumption that we need to have an equal number of men and women in any job field. I think it’s very likely that, if culture is taken out of the equation, there will still be a lower proportion of women in computing than men. But if you look at history, the proportion has been higher in the past, and similarly, the proportion varies by country, with a number of countries having higher proportions than the UK (or US). So it seems unlikely that culture has been taken out of the equation.

What I was discussing was not the low proportion of women in computing in absolute terms, but the likelihood that some women are put off entering computing for cultural reasons, rather than due to a free, unbiased choice.

In his post Maybe the Women are Right, David Megginson also suggests that the status quo is nothing to worry about:

These postings all assume that we need to do something to pull more women into coding. Why? Do we think there are there lots of women would be happy coding, but aren’t smart enough or motivated enough to choose the right careers for themselves, or are too timid to deal with any barriers unless someone comes along and dismantles them first?

If I’m a smart, motivated and brave female student, equally attracted by and able in medicine and in computing, which profession am I going to enter? The one where women make up more than 50% of the intake, or the one where they make up 25% of the intake? The one where I know women can succeed and be recognised, ‘cos I see them on TV all the time, or the one in the industry where all the big players seem to be men? The one where, when I visit the campus, I get welcomed by a bunch of female students, or the one where I get ignored by a bunch of guys?

If it were a choice between coding and nothing, then of course the smart, motivated, brave woman is going to choose to code. But given a choice between coding and an equally satisfying career that has a track record of attracting, accepting and promoting women, it’s a no-brainer.

(I’m still digesting David’s post, and may well return to it another time.)

Meanwhile, Len questions whether it matters that there’s a low proportion of women in computing, if they have nothing to offer that men can’t. I’ve been taking it as a given that the field would be enriched by having more women in it, but I can’t offer any proof to back that up, only the feeling that I shouldn’t have to.