Conclusion

Through examining numerous statistics, anecdotes, and situations, it is evident that women are feeling unwelcome, outnumbered, and self-conscious in the computer science field. One possible way to alleviate these problems is through the evaluation of the current system of computer science, to locate possible obstacles and hindrances that are preventing women from entering, staying with, and enjoying computer science. The current system of computer science perpetrates the "alpha geek" myth, in which the lone and obsessive programmer is idolized. The ability to forego sleep and meals in favor of junk food and coding is seen as the ultimate goal by fellow students, co-workers, and even superiors. Unfortunately, the unwillingness of most women to embrace this lifestyle is seen by many as an indication that women are not suited for computer science, rather than as a call for the re-evaluation of the idolization of the alpha geek.

The system is teaching computer science students to become obsessed with our machines. We spend many consecutive sleepless nights trying to incorporate just one more fancy trick into already-obfuscated and completely uncommented programs; all dinnertime talk revolves around programs and UNIX obscurities and transfer rates and the latest version of each operating system. The current system of computer science teaches us that we must work alone; if we need to ask for assistance too often, it's because we just aren't working hard enough. We are taught that we should emulate the machines that we are obsessed with; work-related stress should be handled alone, in silence. Ellen Ullman talks about this silence, and the intense isolation of programming under the alpha-geek mentality, in her essay "Come in CQ: The Body on the Wire":

There is a male sort of loneliness that adheres in programming. It's nothing like women's loneliness, which might be assuaged by visits and talk and telephone calls, and interrupting sort of interaction that might come anytime...programmer loneliness does not interrupt. The need for concentration forbids it.... Fifteen years of programming, and I'm used to the silence. I've become accustomed to the small companionships of clicking keys, whirring fans and white nose. Fifteen years of programming, and I've finally learned to take my loneliness like a man (3-4).

This system of computer science needs to be re-evaluated. We need to let go of the obsession with the alpha geek, and re-structure the system into something more welcoming for members of both sexes. We need to de-emphasize the competitive nature of the field and strive to make communication and group work an integral part of the classroom and workplace experiences. We need to examine the notions, especially amongst young women, that computer science is "too hard" and that only "nerds" can enjoy computing, and eradicate the aspects of the field that lead to these prejudices. Without this conscious evaluation, re-evaluation and movement to change within the field of computer science itself, it is doubtful that much will be accomplished with regards to encouraging more women to join the field and ameliorating the situation of women already in it.


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