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Elaine Ou

Enjoy Your Job in Software? You Have a Woman to Thank

Women weren't merely pushed out of the industry. They were pioneers.


Photographer: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images

The most tragic story of the computer industry is how a field once dominated by women became the domain of men. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t just a matter of the latter pushing out the former. To a large extent, men have women to thank for the very existence of their jobs.

Once upon a time, only programmers could interact with computers. It was considered a form of clerical work, like data entry or switchboard operation. Female programmers -- known as computer “feeders,” because they fed data into a machine (hence the term “data feed”) -- translated flow charts into logic operations, then punched the corresponding machine codes into cards.