Diversity

5 facts about women in Programming

Posted on August 3, 2023

If we look at the History of women in programming, it takes no time to realise that programming and computer science actually began with brilliant, visionary and talented women.  

So why is it then that nowadays women are a minority within Tech, when it is in fact them who propelled the ascension of computer science and programming up until the 1980s?  

What is it that changed the course of women’s role in computer science and programming – nowadays widely referred to as Tech?  

And what is being done to adjust the disparities between women and men’s contribution to the Tech industry today? 

In the first blog post of this series, we set the scene with these 5 facts about women in Programming: 

  1. Ada Lovelace – an English Mathematician and Writer, is considered by many to be the world’s first computer programmer. In the 1840s, she wrote the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, making her a pioneer in the field of programming and a symbol of women’s contribution to computer science. You can read her biography here.  
  2. During World War II, women’s role in programming was instrumental in winning the war, through their crucial contribution to the codebreakers’ work. Indeed, many women were employed as “human computers” to perform complex calculations for military purposes. This was the steppingstone to women’s involvement in programming and laid the foundation for future advancements. 
  3. After WW2 and with the rise of Demand for computers and their programmers, employment opportunities for women increased. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a significant increase in the number of women pursuing computer science degrees. Back then, programming jobs and careers were considered suitable for women because they required qualities such as collaboration and meticulous attention to detail, qualities traditionally associated with women. 
  4. The 1980s and 1990s unfortunately saw a decline in women’s representation in computer science and programming fields. This decline has been attributed to various factors including the rise of personal computers – marketed primarily towards men, as well as societal stereotypes – associating programming with male interests and abilities, whilst pretexting that females weren’t as good as maths and science. Efforts to address this gender gap continue to this day. 
  5. Nowadays, many organizations and initiatives promote women’s participation in tech and programming and work to address the gender gap in the tech industry. Examples include Girls Who Code, an organization that provides coding education and resources for girls, and initiatives like Women Who Code, which offer networking opportunities and support for women pursuing careers in programming and technology. These groups and organisations strive to create a more inclusive and diverse tech community. 

In the next post of this series, we dig deeper on these facts as we keep exploring the evolution of women in programming through the years and evaluate the progress made as well as the challenges that remain. Stay tuned!