NPR: Toy Industry Influenced Women in Tech

npr-homeIn an October 21, 2014 article posted online on and titled, When Women Stopped Coding, author Steve Henn identifies a period of time in the ’80s when personal computers, then mostly toys, were marketed to boys. The article points to a Carnegie Mellon University study that associated young men’s increased comfort level using computers with the decline in same-aged women maintaining college enrollment in computer science.

The gist: Professors came to expect new enrollees to start with base knowledge, which then discouraged beginner female students.



“Modern computer science is dominated by men. But it hasn’t always been this way.”

“The share of women in computer science started falling at roughly the same moment when personal computers started showing up in U.S. homes in significant numbers.”

“Then she took her first intro class — and found that most of her male classmates were way ahead of her because they’d grown up playing with computers.”

“In the ’70s, that never would have happened: Professors in intro classes assumed their students came in with no experience. But by the ’80s, that had changed.”



Author, Steve Henn’s npr page indicates that he is a Technology Correspondent, “who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life – exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us.” See his full bio.

npr Planet Money logo
npr Planet Money logo
Planet Money is an npr division that seeks to explain the economy in fun ways via podcasts, articles, and radio stories.

Stephen Henn’s Twitter @HennsEggs statement reads: “I tell stories about people, technolgy and money for @NPR and @planetmoney. Dad, Ultimate Frisbee player, and gimpy triathlete mending my ACL. The egg is mine.”



An August 31, 2015 post, When Women Were Considered Better Programmers Than Men, by Mark Guzdial on his blog, Computing Education Blog, includes quotes from Nathan Ensmenger.

In 2010, Nathan Ensmenger wrote a book, The Computer Boys Take Over, and runs a blog, The Computer Boys. A summary of the book includes this blurb: “His rich and nuanced portrayal of the men and women (a surprising number of the “computer boys” were, in fact, female) who built their careers around the novel technology of electronic computing explores issues of power, identity, and expertise that have only become more significant to our increasingly computerized society.”

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