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October 25th, 2011

Computer girls make a comeback

In much of the 20th century, women’s professional careers were largely limited to teaching, nursing or secretarial work. But from the 1940s through the 1960s, a blip occurred that has stirred the interest of workplace researchers and college career counselors. As the computer age was born, women were a driving force, and in fact, the very first programmers were women.

The Computer Girls article from Cosmo 1967

The Computer Girls, Cosmopolitan Magazine

Nathan Ensmenger, an “information revolution” historian and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, unearthed an article from the April 1967 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine called The Computer Girls. The article described a career in computer programming as offering better job opportunities for women than many other professional careers. “It’s just like planning a dinner,” Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, herself a computer science pioneer and original coiner of the term “debugging”, explained to Cosmopolitan readers. “You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so it’s ready when you need it. Programming requires patience and the ability to handle detail. Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming.” Read more…