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A UW Professor Argued that Women Don’t Want to Code. What do Women Computer Scientists Have to Say?


From left to right, top to bottom: Anna Karlin, Isabella Smith, Julie Letchner, Wanda Pratt.

Women computer scientists from the University of Washington respond to an essay about why women do not pursue computer science as often as men.

Credit: Letchner, Karlin, Pratt, Smith

This summer, University of Washington computer-science lecturer Stuart Reges created a stir when he argued in an essay in the online journal Quillette that while women can code, they often don't want to—they often choose different careers instead.

Reges said the industry may have already harvested all the low-hanging fruit by eliminating overt discrimination and revamping policies and procedures that favored men. And he feared that descriptions of the tech industry as toxic for women could have the self-perpetuating effect of keeping them out of the industry.

Reges' essay caused such heartburn that Hank Levy, the director of UW's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, posted two strongly worded responses to the essay, explaining why he and other top leaders at the school think Reges is wrong. The Allen School is considered one of the top schools for computer science in the country, and it has done better than many schools at attracting women, who account for about 30% of undergrads and Ph.D. candidates.

What do women computer scientists have to say? We're publishing six short essays from UW women in tech and academia, describing their own personal experiences, and asking what forces they believe are keeping women from joining the tech industry. We wanted to know if they think overt discrimination has indeed been eliminated, and if policies that favored men have changed enough to make a difference.

 

From The Seattle Times
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