Why are there so few good men programmers?

I’ve been a programmer for a while now. About 15 years! In all those years, I’ve been part of many kinds of programming teams: very diverse teams, somewhat diverse teams, but also, totally homogeneous teams. Sometimes I worked with men without even paying attention to their gender! But despite having worked with many more men than women, I noticed on average they work much less hard compared to the women. So I have a question: why are there so few good male programmers?

I don’t know the answer, though I’ve pondered it often. It would be nice if there were more good male programmers in my line of work. I like men! Really! Some of my best friends are male. I can provide references, not that I expect you to ask for them since I’m a white male myself.

Now, I’m sure there’s patriarchy involved. Perhaps even a lot of it. But I also think there’s something about society constantly patting men on the back, even for just the tiniest of accomplishments, that makes them over-estimate their skills and importance, and forces women to work much harder by comparison. I have a theory about this. Actually, it’s not really a theory, but whatever name I call it doesn’t really affect the meaning of what I’m saying here.

Society is a very complex system, like a program architected by an incredible genius. To be any good at understanding how society’s norms affect the way we see each other and treat each other, you have to accept and acknowledge your own privileges. And be very patient, since it takes a lot of hard looks at oneself and one’s past to come to grips with this. I imagine it’s a lot like finding out you’ve accidentally been stepping on your friends’ feet for years, but they were too polite to say anything, and besides, you had them over for dinner.

There is acculturation in our society. It seems pretty clear that society as it exists today is mostly favorable of straight white men. This means that (straight, white) men all grow up with society’s unquestioning support, leaving these men to be uncritical of themselves, which makes them not honest with themselves about their mistakes and their flaws. Which also raises the obvious question that perhaps we can make it so it doesn’t unfairly discriminate against anyone who isn’t playing on the lowest difficulty setting there is?

I invite you to think about this problem more deeply, rather than comment on this piece.

Update: while the above topic is very important for our industry and society as a whole, none of this shit matters.

If you liked this, you should follow me on Twitter!