Join us Friday, January 27th at 7:30 for a book reading and launch party for Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (MIT Press). In the early days of computing, women used to be present in computer work in higher percentages than they are today. Ever wonder what happened? In Programmed Inequality, historian Marie Hicks traces the decline of the British computer industry and the story of labor feminization that undercut British efforts to computerize. In 1944 Britain led the world in electronic computing, but by 1974 their computing industry was all but extinct. Women were a hidden engine of growth in high technology. but as computing experienced a gender flip, becoming male-identified in the 1960s and 1970s, the government systematically neglected its largest trained technical workforce, leading to catastrophe.
With over 30 images–including period photographs and cartoons–the reader gets a feel not only for what happened, but the cultural texture of the time. Hicks explains why, even today, possessing technical skill is not enough to ensure women will rise to the top in science and technology fields. Programmed Inequality shows how the disappearance of women from computing had grave macroeconomic consequences for Britain, and why the United States risks repeating those errors in the twenty-first century.
Marie Hicks is an assistant professor of history of technology at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. She does research into how gender and sexuality bring hidden technological dynamics to light. Her first book, Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (coming out January 2017 from MIT Press) looks at how women's experiences change the core narrative of the history of computing and drastically alter what we think we know about the technological progress. Hicks teaches courses on the history of computing, the history of women in computing, the history of technology, and disasters.
Hicks received her BA from Harvard University and her MA and Ph.D. from Duke University. Before entering academia, she worked as a UNIX systems administrator. For more about her work, see her website, www.mariehicks.net or her book website, www.programmedinequality.com