Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why women may be thought of as bad programmers

I got my first tech-related internship back in the summer of 2009. The position was a very competitive one with a company in the heart of San Francisco. While I was ecstatic, I was also confused.

I hadn’t done very well on the interview. I screwed up the first question about dropping two eggs from a 100-story building (couldn’t get away from thinking binary search), and messed up a different question about the number of bits required to store some large number (mixed up “bits” and “bytes” and tried to calculated log_2 in my head, only to get it wrong).

Nor did I have much experience. I had barely heard of a version control system, had never really gotten accustomed to the command prompt, and hadn’t even written a single line of production code (well... beyond my silly tournament signup page, which refused to let you sign up if you had an underscore in your email).

Needless to say I probably left very bad first impressions on my coworkers. I was the silly little girl asking questions like, “What was that command you use to get into that other machine?”

So, here’s the hypothesis: companies want to hire more female programmers, either because they are constantly accused of being sexist or because they actually value having a gender-balanced team. So they lower the hiring bar for women, and end up letting in people who may not be as experienced. The rest of the team only sees that a woman was hired and she has very little experience as a programmer, and concludes that women are bad programmers.

End of Entry