Among the women who join the field, 56 percent leave by midcareer, a startling attrition rate that is double that for men, according to research from the Harvard Business School.
A culprit, many people in the field say, is a sexist, alpha-male culture that can make women and other people who don’t fit the mold feel unwelcome, demeaned or even endangered.
Computer science wasn’t always dominated by men. “In the beginning, the word ‘computers’ meant ‘women,’ ” says Ruth Oldenziel, a professor at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands who studies history, gender and technology. Six women programmed one of the most famous computers in history — the 30-ton Eniac — for the United States Army during World War II.
But as with many professions, Dr. Oldenziel said, once programming gained prestige, women were pushed out.
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