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Women in Technology

By Phil Factor,

When one considers that the whole idea of programming was invented by a woman, it is strange that programming is now considered the preserve of twenty-something men. This isn’t just due to ageist and sexist prejudice within the IT Industry: society in general seems to have considered the profession to be one that is no place for the female or the ageing.

The sex-bias is absurd. Ada  King, the first programmer, and the inventor of the punchcard method of storing programs was a lady after all. She wrote a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with Babbage’s Analytical Engine in 1842. The analytical engine had not even been built , and she worked from Babbage’s specification.

Since then, the history of computing has featured a number of famous lady programmers, including Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Fran Bilas, Kay McNulty, Marlyn Wescoff, Ruth Lichterman, Grace Hopper, Jean E. Sammet, Barbara H. Liskov , Karen Spärck Jones , Adele Goldman,  Radia Perlman , Eva Barbara Liskov and Jeannette Wing. The eighties were a peak time for Technical Women but, since then, the proportion of women in technical roles has been in decline.  Some estimates describe an alarming percentage fall from 40% to 20%. Clearly something must be done to reverse the trend. Although I enjoyed the Women in Technology Luncheon at the 2009 PASS Summit, it was worrying to think that it had come to the point where we must take positive action to ensure that we take a more even distribution of youngsters into our ranks, even to the point of visiting schools, and helping secondary teachers to describe work in technology in a way that is more realistic and is less likely to be interpreted by children as a ‘male-geeky’ preserve.

Thank goodness for PASS. This is the ideal organisation to take a dominant role in making sure that there is no sexist bias against the appointing of SQL Server Professionals, and that youngsters are encouraged to view the profession of DBA and Database developer as being one that is great for anyone with the required skills and attitude, whatever their sex, age, culture, race or disability.

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