Computing has traditionally been an all-male club, but surveys show that women dig it just as much as the boys. ‘Unlocking the Clubhouse’ takes on the issue of women in tech.
As with most inherently geeky pastimes, computing is by and large a boy’s club. Most surveys show that women use computers every bit as much as men, but when it comes to design and creation, that’s when the gender gap widens.
And that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon, according to Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher, authors of “Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing” (The MIT Press, $12.95). Margolis and Fisher, a social scientist and computer educator respectively, spent four years talking to computer science students and faculty. Their mission was to get to the bottom of why women seem to avoid tech as a profession–or whether they’re steered away from it by others.
One general reason for the trend is surprisingly social in its origin: Girls tend not to want to pursue vocations that don’t interest their friends. The authors show us Tanya, a bright student in a computing magnet school. There’s little doubt that Tanya has what it takes to make it in IT, but between the social factor and her insistence that most of her teachers are from the math faculty and therefore “don’t know their stuff,” she’s likely to choose another path.
That story is unfortunate, but not as much so as the way girls are often talked out of pursuing IT. Some of the teachers interviewed by the authors maintain that girls are too meek and thin-skinned to succeed in a competitive, high-pressure field like IT.
The book’s tone is often like that of a white paper–a bit dry. But that’s made up for by the provocative nature of the information presented. “Unlocking the Clubhouse” expertly dissects a nagging problem in the technology industry, and should required reading for high school career counselors everywhere.