I just returned from PyCon, and one question that was put to me several times was "Why aren't there more women programmers?"
I'm no expert on the matter, but I do know what I encountered growing up as a geek with two X genes rather than one.
Who was the computer geek in the house?
While I believe that children model both parents when it comes to behavior, there's more than a little evidence that they model the parent of the same sex as them more than the other. Could be biology, could be socialization, it's probably a lot of things that are outside the scope of this post.
In my house, it was my mother who was the programmer. My father was a logistician who detested computers. While my mother had no great love of them, she would talk about programming and be the one to fix someone's ailing PC if needed. When she took me to work she showed me what email was and let me play with any spare terminals lying around. She taught me the program for using the color printer and let me entertain myself with your tax dollars. She even let me write a few small programs at her terminal, and taught me what databases were.
My dad showed me spreadsheets. And the snack bar.
I had a unique situation, though. Most young girls that are of my generation grew up in a house where the father, the former electronics geek, did the computer fiddling.
If you're going to do anything outside what's seen as 'normal' for your sex, you have to be prepared for friction. There will be people who will give you crap for being a girl who likes computers more than literature. If you're a guy who wants to go into nursing, you get just as much crap, I'm told.
I have never felt ignored as a woman interested in computers. If anything, it's gotten me more attention. It's human nature. I looked different than anyone else in the room, so I was often noticed first. Being something of an attention whore, I've rather enjoyed it. Being as how geeks aren't always known as the most social of creatures, I can see where this can be intimidating. I knew an introvert who refused to join the chess club at his college because he was too good: he'd stand out. That horrified him.
Cluebat: geek girls can be just as shy as geek guys.
There's some cute guys in computers. I think the situation is getting radically better every year. However, in my formative years, computer guys were... a bit rougher around the edges. Their uniform was an ill-fitting t-shirt, often with the odd wear hole and unbleachable stain, baggy jeans, gray hoodie, and a patina of poor hygiene.
Imagine being a girl and walking into that particular after-school club.
Yeah, I'd go see if there were any open slots in the Model UN, too.
Note: I don't know who popularized showering in the past decade, but thank you.
So what to do?
I think things will get better with time, but if you want to really push the curve, here's what I'd do:
1. Geek guys: make sure to breed with geek women. I'm married to a geek, and we have two very geeky children. If you breed with a non-geek woman, you run the risk of ending up with a mother who limits their time on the computer. This will not do.
2. If all geek women are taken, try to convert a potential geek woman. I recommend starting off with Star Trek: Voyager (the Trek for your girlfriend) and The Sims. Do not start with World of Warcraft until AFTER you have cinched breeding.
3. If you have geek children who are male, start primping them for snagging the attention of potential geek girls. I recommend cool jeans, artsy t-shirts, a guitar, and excellent shades.
4. In your fellow geek males, do not accept slovenly ways. Beat them until they buy better clothes and can affect an air of cool disinterest that chicks totally dig.
5. Men of Python Calendar. We have a year until the next PyCon, so start working on your abs.
As we tempt more women with eye candy and careers that do not smell of sweat and Coke, women will become less a strange site in the industry, hence reducing friction and attention. Though I will not get as much attention as before (sob), I will accept this as a consequence of diversifying our trade.
So, guys, get on it.
Get some awesome jeans. Us girls need something to ogle.