The Computer Girls
by Lois Mandel
A trainee gets $8,000 a year...a girl "senior systems engineer, gets $20,000--and up! Maybe it's time to investigate....
Ann Richardson, IBM systems engineer, designs a bridge via computer. Above (left) she checks her facts with fellow systems engineer, Marvin V. Fuchs. Right, she feeds facts into the computer. Below, Ann demonstrates on a viewing screen how her facts designed the bridge, and makes changes with a "light pen."
Twenty years ago, a girl could be a secretary, a school teacher...maybe a librarian, a social worker or a nurse. If she was really ambitious, she could go into the professions and compete with men...usually working harder and longer to earn less pay for the same job.
Now have come the big, dazzling computers--and a whole new kind of work for women: programming. Telling the miracle machine what to do and how to do it. Anything from predicting the weather to sending out billing notices from the local department store.
And if it doesn't sound like woman's work--well, it just is.
("I had this idea I'd be standing at a big machine and pressing buttons all day long," says a girl who programs for a Los Angeles bank. I couldn't have been further off the track. I figure out how the computer can solve a problem, and then instruct the machine to do it."
"It's just like planning a dinner," explains Dr. Grace Hopper, now a staff scientist in systems programming for Univac. (She helped develop the first electronic digital computer, the Eniac, in 1946.) "You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so it's ready when you need it. Programming requires patience and the ability to handle detail. Women are "naturals" at computer programming."
What she's talking about is aptitude--the one most important quality a girl needs to become a programmer. She also needs a keen, logical mind. And if that zeroes out the old Billie Burek-Grace Allen image of femininity, it's about time, because this is the age of the Computer Girls. There are twenty thousand of them in the United (continued on page 54)
While looking for the rest of the article, we found many other related articles reflecting on the past, beginning of coding, gender roles, etc. Some of them include:
http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~nathanen/files/cbi-gender.pdf - study draft not to be circulated yet online