First Advisor

David Johnson

Term of Graduation

Summer 2005

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Women computer programmers -- United States, Women in computer science -- United States, Women -- Employment -- United States, Oral history -- United States, Oral history, Twentieth century, Women computer programmers, Women -- Employment, Women in computer science, United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 133 pages)


The question "Why are there not more women in computer science?" is one that has been asked by both scholarly and business communities since women entered the workforce in large numbers starting in the 1970s. Although there exists a vast literature covering how to involve more girls and women in computer science today, as well as a smaller body of literature outlining the few female pioneers in the field, little has been written about the women who, despite historical exclusion, actually participated in the computing industry as programmers and software engineers beginning in the 1960s. Who were the women going into this part of the labor force during this time? What was the path of women who were successful in the field? What motivated them? What deterrents did they face, and how did the women in the field overcome them? Did the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s have an impact on women who went into the field? Did late twentieth century feminism affect their experience in the workplace? To answer these questions, I conducted oral history interviews with twenty-six women who had worked in computer programming between 1960 to 1990 then cohorts emerge in the analysis: one cohort of subjects (8 interviewees) born before 1950 who came of age largely before the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and a second cohort of subjects (18 interviewees), those born after 1950 who came of age at the height of the late twentieth century women's movement. The analysis presented here helps answer the question of why there are not more women in computer programming, what characteristics were held in common by the women who did go into this field, any particular barriers these women faced to pursuing such careers, and how a particular social and historical context affected the consciousness and decision-making processes of individuals in their education and careers.


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Interview transcripts are available below in the additional files.

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