When people talk about supporting women in tech, they look at Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code, both of which I’m sure are very worthwhile programs. What troubles me, though, is the assumption that we need to focus only on young girls – in short, we, the oh-helpful ones, are the mentors and the solution to increase the representation of women in technology is 5 or 10 years out when these girls finish college or graduate school. WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN WHO ARE HERE NOW?They dropped out. They dropped out because programming demands single-minded focus, mathematical skill, logic, and most of all, individual accountability. They dropped out because they didn't belong in the field and encouraging them to pursue it was doing them a serious career disservice. As a general rule, women don't like competitive jobs where they are held to an objective standard, particularly when they cannot easily pass off their work to others and still take credit for it.
If you are overlooking the women who are here now, what does that tell the girls you are supposedly bringing up to be the next generation of women in tech that you can overlook 15 years from now? Why do we hear about 16-year-old interns far more than women like me? If it is true, as the New York Times says, that in 2001-2 28% of computer science degrees went to women compared to the 10% or so now – where are those women from 12 years ago?
Throw in the fact that male programmers tend to be competitive and socially graceless, which means that relatively few of them are inclined to do a woman's job for her in return for the well-practiced flash of a big smile and a few smug coos of appreciation, and it should be no surprise that even intelligent and well-trained women don't tend to last long in the industry.
(The stark contrast between the sweet expression presented when a woman is attempting to convince you to do her work for her and the rage-filled one that inadvertently appears when she hears you tell her to "do your own fucking job" can be hilarious.)
There were two female programmers at my first place of employment after college. One was attractive, athletic, married, and competent. She wasn't a star, but she calmly went about getting the job done. The other did literally nothing for two years. She never completed a single job, rotated from task to task on a regular basis, passed off her work onto others, and somehow managed to stay employed until her complete lack of productivity finally caught up to her.
Both women had CS degrees. I very much doubt the latter is still employed in any programming capacity.
This is why Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code will fail, just like every other women-in-technology initiative before it has failed. Eventually, all the training has to come to an end and the trainee has to go out and compete with the self-motivated young men who have been coding like banshees since they were in their early teens. And remember, these are smart women, so it is little wonder that they take one look at their prospects for competitive success and promptly go in for marketing, human resources, and management.
Programming is like writing. If you CAN be discouraged, you SHOULD be discouraged.