I was out on a Freshwalks event in Derbyshire last Friday and met up with someone who worked in digital marketing. We talked about the gender gap in tech jobs and how few women worked in that sector.
It set me thinking about my own experience in the sector. In 1982 I got my first ‘proper’ job in the civil service in one of the new computer centres (it was a secure area so I can’t tell you where), but we all went through a test with the on-site trainer to see if we were of the right mindset for software development. This involved giving us a cryptic crossword to complete and if we could get 5 answers in a set time, he felt that indicated that we could work in software development.
At the time there were no computer screens, we punched holes in cards to develop the software and each program module had to be less than 4k in size, so we used a very low level programming language.
The thing that I suddenly realised when having this discussion was that 25-33% of the programmers were women and indeed my boss was a woman and our team was 50% men and women. There were no computer science degrees and it wasn’t taught in schools. Also, Sinclair had only just released the ZX81 which ran software from a cassette recorder. Now I know this is a very small sample size but how many tech firms do we know at the moment that have 25-33% women in the Dev sections?
I will hazard a suggestion that Tech is a much more male dominated world now than it was then, but that has nothing to do with the inherent abilities of men and women but more to do with how we have set up the qualifications to show employers that someone will be good at the job. Maybe we need to get back to the personal qualities people have rather than the paper qualifications they possess.
One other thing to note is that when we sent something live we didn’t spend the first six months issuing bug fixes!