[Humanist] 27.667 why don't girls compute?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jan 4 07:29:51 CET 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 667.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 03 Jan 2014 13:51:29 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: Why don't girls compute?

Comments on the following would be welcome. How different is the 
situation now? And how is it different?

> WHY DON'T GIRLS compute? There still seems to be a popular feeling
> that computers are terrifically technical and whoever understands
> them, or even manages to use one at home, must be some kind of weird
> boffin. Boys' stuff, so the myths tell us. Luckily the myth is in the
> process of being blown away. More than 20,000 computers are being
> sold each month in Britain, largely thanks to Clive Sinclair; it
> would be hard to maintain that we are finding another 20,000 boffms
> every four weeks. Yet of those 20,000 newcomers to the market each
> month the vast majority are still boys.
> It is hard to tell whether parents deliberately buy computers for
> their sons rather than their daughters, or whether it is the sons who
> demand of their parents that they have a computer for their
> birthdays. Whichever it is, the girls are not computing.
> At the recent ZX Micro Faire in London, the girls were outnumbered by
> approximately 100 to one. Parents must take a certain amount of the
> blame for this - perhaps they still feel that it is not quite proper
> for girls to compute. If that is the case, they are doing the next
> generation of girls a great disfavour. For the up-and-coming
> generation a knowledge of how computers work will be of immense value
> when looking for work in today's bleak job climate. Being able to
> program a Sinclair ZX machine is obviously no qualification for a job
> but at least it opens one's eyes to the possibility of learning how
> to program to a professional standard. Maybe some will even be
> sufficiently encouraged to try and start their own software
> companies; there are already many precedents of young entrepreneurs
> earning more from their hobbies than their parents do in their
> full-time jobs.
> The other culprits are the schools. It is often in schools that the
> segregation between the arts and the sciences, between the girls and
> the boys, begins in earnes!. The boys are sent to the science
> laboratories and the girls are left with the so-called soft options.
> The result is seen at every computer exhibition.
> It is the teachers, not the girls, who are responsible for advising
> parents that the best chance of academic success for their daughters
> lies in languages, biology and domestic science. Part of the problem
> is that compllting is not yet regarded as a soft option. Learning the
> l00-odd key words in the vocabulary of Basic is a doddle compared to
> mastering the intricate irregularities of French, Spanish or German.
> Let's tell the teachers to think again.
> Editorial, Your Computer Magazine (November 1981)

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

More information about the Humanist mailing list