Equality News Update: The Numbers of Women in Tech Rise and Fall, But Sexual Harassment is Ever Present

Reports of sexual harassment continue to rock the tech industry and the world beyond. In a recent survey of startup founders, 78 percent of female founders said they’ve been sexually harassed or know someone else who has.

Reports of sexual harassment continue to rock the tech industry and the world beyond. In a recent survey of startup founders, 78 percent of female founders said they’ve been sexually harassed or know someone else who has.

But sexual harassment is nothing new; even in the early days of computing, when women made up the vast majority of computer programmers and operators, harassment was a problem, reports historian Marie Hicks.

Hicks, author of Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing, pointed out the tech sector’s sorry history to an audience at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

“Whenever women are talking about their experience, sooner or later, it comes up,” she said.

During the development of the secret Colossus computer, the world’s first programmable electronic digital computer, in the 1940s, she said, the women operating the machine worked really long shifts in a hot machine room. “A couple of the women are cooling off outside the machine room one night, and one of their fellow workers, a ‘gentleman,’ comes by and says, ‘If you want to cool off, why don’t you take off your tops.’”

In another iconic episode, Hicks reported, Dame Stephanie Shirley started her own software company after her efforts to advance in an established computer company were stymied by the men above her. Her company, Freelance Programmers, hired virtually all women, and business boomed.

 

#EqNews #Diversity #GenderEquality #WomenInTech
Read more at:

https://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/at-work/tech-careers/the-numbers-of-women-in-tech-rise-and-fall-but-sexual-harassment-is-ever-present

Published by

lewisbainbridge

Information and Communications Assistant at Fife Centre for Equalities