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Recoding Gender


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We've heard stories about women pioneers in computing, and some of us have our own to tell, but Janet Abbate captivates us as she recounts the roles of early women in defining the field. These inventive women did more than battle limiting rules and expectations of their times but created their own rules and succeeded at the new game. Abbate offers this history in the context of a thoughtful and balanced exploration of how a newly formed field was, and continues to be, impacted by evolving forces of gender bias. There are amazing stories and important lessons here for all of us. -- Irene Greif, IBM Fellow and Director, IBM Center for Social Business In stories that can only be described as both heroic and cautionary, Janet Abbate shows how women worked to establish a place for themselves in the field of computation, how they succeeded, and how they were frustrated in their efforts. She provides a well-written account of how a technology that had promised a universal, logical machine became deeply intertwined with issues of gender and identity. Abbate's women help us to understand how we arrived at our modern perceptions of computing careers. -- David Alan Grier, George Washington University; 2013 President of the IEEE Computer Society This timely book takes a deep dive into the important question of why women are such a minority in computing technology. I hope the issues raised in this valuable book will inspire more women to join this growing field. -- Lixia Zhang, Computer Science Department, University of California, Los Angeles How did programming go from being 'women's work' to a 'boys-only clubhouse'? Janet Abbate has woven extensive interviews with women on both sides of the Atlantic who were instrumental in the beginning of the digital computer industry into a fascinating story of how the culture of a profession develops. This book should be read by every woman in computing and by men who want to understand how the current culture of programming evolved from very different roots. -- Robin Jeffries, Systers' Keeper, Systers Forum, Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

About the Author

Janet Abbate is Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech and the author of Inventing the Internet (MIT Press, 1999).


Abbate's chapters are, as readers of her earlier work expect, trenchant, precise, and compelling, for she carefully connects technical considerations with social dimensions to provide thick description of behaviors in action.

-Carol Colatrella, nternational Journal of Gender, Science, and Technology

This book is good reading for anyone who would like to explore the challenges of setting policies and gain a better understanding of the gender dynamics of a scientific and technical workforce.

-Maxine Cohen, Computing Reviews

Through the stories of early women programmers such as the World War II 'Wrens' who worked on top-secret code decryption, entrepreneurs such as Stephanie Shirley who created and ran her own computing firm, and current-day computer scientists such as Anita Borg, Abbate does a marvelous job of describing the excitement, fun, and satisfaction that women past and present have found, and will continue to find, in computing work.

-Caroline Clarke Hayes, Technology and Culture

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