Gender and Computing (ctd)

To add to the conversation about gender in computing (from Claire and Cecilia), I just wanted to very briefly point out that while the gendered culture and gender gap in computing are not recent phenomena (on the former, Jennifer Light’s brief article on the submerging of women’s roles on ENIAC is a good read), it’s actually been getting much worse in the last few decades rather than better. Women’s participation in both academic computer science and the information technology industry has been on the decline since the 1980s, the exact opposite trend as the great progress women have made over this period in education and business at large. As this gender division has widened and gendered stereotypes have become crystallized,  even the iconic figures – the Ada Lovelaces and Grace Hoppers – have been shunted off into “token woman” status that robs them of the titanic contributions they made as computing pioneers.

There’s been alot of commentary on the reasons for this decline and I feel rather unqualified to judge their relative merits (I am personally convinced though that tech’s “startup”  culture, originating in the 1970s but reaching its apex in the 1990s and 2000s, is a major contributor). Whatever the cause, this trend demands active measures to correct it. From my short exposure, DH has seemed a rare and pleasant refuge surrounded by the larger technological sea of gendered assumptions and toxic sexism. I don’t have any better ideas of how, but Claire and Cecilia’s suggestions that DH or Praxis be wielded to challenge norms within its larger communities (be it technology or academia) seems especially important now.

Shane works on the history of computing and the impact of digital technology on culture and politics. His dissertation, "Kingdom of Code: Cryptography and the New Privacy" tracks the development of civilian encryption technology and the emergence of cryptography as an academic field of study, the debates over crypto regulation, and the concomitant construction of a new, far more expansive…

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