Programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are “essayists who work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms.” The point: programming should be easily understood by real human beings — not just computers.
For the last year I loyally biked the 1.3 miles to and from work, but since I got a pedometer I’ve been walking 80% of the time. It adds an additional 15 minutes to my commute time each way, but the big bonus is it allows me to listen to my favorite podcasts. I’ve compiled a list of the podcasts in heavy rotation on my walk of walks here.
As noted on my About page, I graduated with a B.A. in English but entered the Computer Science program at Washington State University immediately afterward. And it all came about because I had read an article by renown science writer Margaret Wertheim titled “Women, wake up about computers!” in the March 1996 issue of Glamour.
“Women, wake up about computers!” was a call to action and I took it as such. The internet was just beginning to snowball and the dot-com explosion was bubbling. The feminist in me suddenly became more excited about throwing my hat into the ring and venturing into tech waters than applying to English literature doctoral programs.
Recently, in a fit of nostalgia, I started thinking about the article and wondering if I could find it to read again and frame on my wall. I headed to the UO library and actually started my search in the back issues of Ms. Magazine, where I had mistakenly thought (all these years!) I had read the article. Many fruitless searches later, I started doing wildcard searches for “women in tech” in any magazine published in 1996.
Although I found a brief abstract of Wertheim’s article, the library did not have back issues of Glamour dating to 1996, so I did the next best thing: ordered it on eBay.
When it arrived, I excitedly looked up “Women, wake up about computers!” and within a few sentences knew I had found the right article. It’s still as exciting and dynamic as it was when I read it as an impressionable young college student.
And more tellingly, it’s still as relevant. Sixteen years have passed, and Wertheim’s plea could still be considered just as urgent and necessary. We haven’t made as much progress as one would hope or expect in that time, and some would even argue we’ve regressed in terms of attracting and keeping women in tech. It was sobering to read the stats cited in the article and realize they haven’t changed much.
At the same time, it renewed my commitment to change the world by changing the gender ratio in tech — through projects like STEMinist, through showing up and being visible, and by speaking up and out.
Thank you, Margaret, for shaping my life and inspiring my career. Sixteen years from now, I hope to have very different numbers for you.
Read the article here:
“Women, wake up to computers!” by Margaret Wertheim, Glamour magazine, March 1996 (PDF)