When I first read Dave Winer’s blog post about the lack of women in programming, I braced myself. He suggests that women are not “very patient,” and that this explains why they are not very present in CS. Unsurprisingly, this does not conform to my experiences.
One of the largest purported CS interest groups is teenage males, who -- at least in the case of personal experience -- have little to no patience. My mother, who raised five children, has incredible patience, and no interest in CS. Patience can’t be the driving factor behind the field.
Then something occurred to me -- most people reading Winer’s post are either men who are interested in CS, or women who are interested in CS. Regardless of their opinions about why women are more absent than men, they’re united by a common interest in the subject.
Most people don’t choose CS, men or women. It requires a highly specialized set of skills -- in my experience, intense focus and a desire to understand how technical things work -- that belongs to a minority of people. More of that minority is men than women, but what separates the group from the masses is their interest, not their gender. The question should not be “why are there so few women programmers?” but “why are there so few programmers in general?” when some level of programming is essentially ubiquitous for navigating today’s digital world with proficiency.