Females and Failures

Gender, Software - No Comments » - Posted on November, 15, 2006 at 3:22 am

Further to my rant the other day, I wonder if the shockingly high project failure rate in Software is in any way related to the shockingly low participation of females in the field. Is there some sort of relationship between lack of females and failure?

Sure, other disciplines of engineering have been around for a lot longer than Software, and due to social norms throughought the ages, they have been male dominated fields. So one could argue that it’s more due to the maturity of the field of engineering than to female participation rates.

But very few software projects actually fail because of technical issues. The majority of them fail because of miscommunication and mismanagement (aka requirements and schedule). Women are in general good communicators, and I wonder if the rate of failures would be reduced by an increase in the number of female Software Engineers.

What happened to women in IT?

Gender, Software - 2 Comments » - Posted on November, 13, 2006 at 4:39 am

The only female Software Engineer in the department gave a very interesting talk the other day on how the two genders differ when attempting to communicate. Do women in IT need to communicate in the male way in order to be accepted? No, in fact apparently women who use male techniques are often seen as “bitches” because people don’t expect women to be direct/short/aggressive.

Anyway, I am digressing; after the talk I asked if this difference in communication technique could explain why there are little or no females in the IT industry. Is it that the few females who do attempt to get into the field are met with a solid wall of mis-communication and frustrated, drop out and do something with more of their own kind? This would create a self-perpetuating male dominated field.

One of the old timers at work piped up and said “it hasn’t always been that way”. In my Software Engineering degree, there were 30 dudes, and 3 girls. So certainly in MY time it’s been mostly males, but a bit of history….

  • Ada Lovelace wrote a description of the babbage engine and had the Ada language named after her.
  • Jean E. Sammet was on a comittee that created COBOL and was a lady who worked for 27 years at IBM during the 50’s 60’s and 70’s.
  • Betty Holberton was one of 6 programmers of the ENIAC system back in 1945.
  • More…

So certainly women were a part of it at the start, and if what this old timer was saying is true, there used to be a lot more women in the field 10-20 years ago. So my question is what the hell happened to them all? Is there actually any data showing that the rate of women in IT has decreased?

Futhermore if it isn’t a communication breakdown, or some sort of acceptance complex, is it a brain thing at all? Is it that the female mind doesn’t have the same part of the brain that enables us guys to enjoy programming a fruitful excercise? Or is it a social thing? That from an early age, subconsciously or not, we teach our little boys how to put together lego (which lends itself to programming) and our little girls how to dress barbie dolls (less relevance to programming), and are thus setting the wheels in motion to guide what they do in later life?