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The secret history of women in coding
Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today. What went wrong?

When the number of coding jobs exploded in the 1950s and '60s as companies began relying on software to process payrolls and crunch data, men had no special advantage in being hired. Employers simply looked for candidates who were logical, good at math and meticulous. And in this respect, gender stereotypes worked in women's favor: Some executives argued that women's traditional expertise at painstaking activities like knitting and weaving manifested precisely this mind-set. (The 1968 book "Your Career in Computers" stated that people who like "cooking from a cookbook" make good programmers.)
The field rewarded aptitude: Applicants were often given a test (typically one involving pattern recognition), hired if they passed it and trained on the job, a process that made the field especially receptive to neophytes. "Know Nothing About Computers? Then We’ll Teach You (and Pay You While Doing So)," one British ad promised in 1965. In a 1957 recruiting pitch in the United States, IBM's brochure titled "My Fair Ladies" specifically encouraged women to apply for coding jobs.

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