The sorry state
of women in tech

I read the anonymous blog post Your Pipeline Argument is Bullshit with great interest. While it’s not very diplomatic and contains a great deal of ranting, it speaks about something very important: Women in tech. I read it more as an expression of frustration, than a mindless flamatory rant as others have indicated.

On the disproportion of women granted CS degrees in the US:

I use this data because I graduated with a CS degree in 2000. Convenient. The 2000s is also when the proportion of women getting CS degrees started falling even faster. My first job out of school had an older woman working there who let me know back in the 80s there were a lot more women. Turns out, in the early 80s, almost 40% of CS degrees in the US were granted to women.

In 2009 only about 18% women graduated with CS degrees.

Although purely anecdotal evidence, my experience after working seven years as a professional programmer is that more women than men leave the industry to pursue other careers. In fact the numbers show that the cumulative pool of talent (meaning all who hold CS degrees) is close to 25% women.

We have to recognise what a sorry state our industry is in. Callous and utilitarian focus on technology alone, as opposed to building a healthy discourse and community around computing that is inclusive to women, does more harm than we can imagine.

Because men hire men, and especially those men similar to ourselves, I’m in favour of positive action to balance the numbers.

Whoever is saying that we should hire based on talent alone, there’s little evidence to support that 25% of the available CS talent is any worse than the remaining three quarters.

Andreas Tolfsen works for Mozilla on engineering productivity. He is the author of several WebDriver implementations, including Marionette and OperaDriver. Previously he led the core infrastructure team at Opera. He also holds a BA in Musicology from the University of Oslo.