STEM: Software development was “dominated by women”- No it was not

Software development was a nascent field, struggling to gain traction and be taken seriously. It was also previously a field dominated by women, and sadly, a new influx of men wanted to come in, take over and make it a “proper, masculine” discipline. So they pretended they were all engineers and they were all building things, like men wearing hardhats in factories in an engineering or manufacturing context.

Source: Software development is a design activity – Extreme Uncertainty

I stopped reading at the bold faced text because that is not true. And if that easily verifiable fact is not true, what does that say about the rest of this report?

Programming hasn’t always been such a male-dominated field. By the 1960s, women made up 30% to 50% of all programmers.

30% to 50% is not “dominated by women”. I entered the field in the early 1980s when women were up to about 40% of the software work force. By the late 1980s, that began to shift and steadily decreased in the 1990s. Now it is under 20% even though for two decades there have been numerous programs to encourage more women to enter STEM. Surprisingly, they have entered STEM but not TE. They use STEM interchangeably with TE when they really mean TE.

What changed? No one has a coherent answer.

One possibility, never discussed, is the advent of the H-1 visa.

In the early 1990s, the H-1B visa was introduced and almost all H-1B visa tech hires were young men. Unfortunately, the government claims not to know the gender of those working on H-1B visas and we have only estimates. By the year 2000, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce study, 28% of jobs in the field requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree were H-1B workers (who were almost all male). This skewed the gender distribution of the work force but is one that we do not publicly talk about.

Regarding women in STEM, last I had looked at NSF data, women were just over 50% of STEM graduates. But it depends on how you define “STEM” and many choose to define steam as “TE” – technology and engineering and not as Science – Technology – Engineering – Math.

I have seen surveys that omit women in the health sciences (nursing is about 90% female), veterinary medicine (majority of new grads are women) and even medicine. Consequently, the public has no idea about any of the underlying data. We are spun by propaganda messaging from those wanting to adopt their agenda.

Note – Over a ten year period I have personally mentored numerous young women in high school through the FIRST Robotics program. They went on to pursue (and complete) degrees in computer science and engineering fields. This is how we can make a difference.