After Class Writing: Marie Hicks’ Programmed Inequality

After today’s class, write and post a comment to this blog entry of at least 250 words summarizing the reading and the book talk that Dr. Hicks presents in the video above. We will watch it during class and discuss it afterwards.

If you weren’t able to find the reading, follow this link.

13 thoughts on “After Class Writing: Marie Hicks’ Programmed Inequality”

  1. Marie Hicks is a historian of technology, gender and Modern Europe. Hicks is a professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and holds a Bachelors degree in Modern European History from Harvard, and a Ph. D and Masters in History from Duke University. In Hicks’ essay “Introduction: Britain’s Computer “Revolution”” we see the misogynistic world in relation to technology. Computer operations and programming, back in the day, was initially viewed as “women’s work.” The passage highlights this point by saying “ Janet Abbate wrote back into history many of the highly successful women programmers in the early decades of US and British computing, showing how programming initially was not a male domain.” Men were tasked with doing the more labor intensive jobs, but after computers started evolving and gaining more integration into the everyday world, men became more involved. With men displacing the women, computers acquired a new image: that of masculinity and relevance. Men Taking credit for women’s work is nothing new in history, but it’s just another classic example of society’s misogyny. Women had little little to no control and flexibility in work schedules, were paid far less than men for the exact same work and were eventually pushed out of those jobs. So, not only were women restricted because of their gender, but others because of their class, as well. Women in the middle-class had far less options as opposed to lower class women. Society dictated that middle-class women could’t acquire jobs in factories cause society didn’t want to tarnish the image of the “angel in the house.” Not only were being kicked out of the jobs men pigeon holed them in, but were restricted from obtaining most other jobs cause they wanted women to adhere to a certain image. When Britain realized they needed workers, they soon began more women to fill the clerical jobs. And still women were treated second to men. Women were forced to use different stairwells, entrances/exits, and lunchrooms. Its just backwards the mentality our societies had concerning women. We strip them of the jobs we allowed them to have, take said jobs , tell them they can’t work certain jobs cause its not ladylike, then segregate almost all contact from them in the jobs they do have cause they might seduce men into salacious behavior. I know our society still has a ways to go before man and women are equal, but I know we’re on the right track.

  2. Jessica L. Roman
    ENG 1710
    April 29, 2018

    Dr. Marie Hicks is an Assistant Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the history of technology, computing history, gender and sexuality, institutional change and modern Europe. Prior to teaching in higher education, Hicks served as a UNIX system administrator for the Department of Electrical and Computer Science at Harvard.

    This week we read the introduction to Hicks’s Book, ” Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologist and Lost Its Edge in Computing.” Hicks offers this story as a cautionary tale to how technical advancements, economics, and modernization can suffer when societal problems of inequality prevail.

    In the 1940s, computing and programming were viewed as women’s work, thought to be too liminal for the likes of male workers. Hicks explains that as a field became more machine based it became feminized. Feminized work, in turn, was viewed as less complicated. Regarding the computing field, this could not father from the truth. In 1944 Britain was a leader in computer technology. These advancements were integral to the outcome of World War II through the arrival of decryption and decoding. Women in the Royal Naval Service assembled, operated and would troubleshoot these machines including the Colossus computers.

    Once it became evident how important computers were to national powers, the British government began to push women out in favor of male workers. There is no logic to this decision, Britain already had a massive workforce of computer programmers, they just so happened to be women. These women were skilled enough to train the men that would take their place. Hick’s mentions in a specific instance, they would become their trainee’s subordinates. Societal ideas of the nuclear family and gender roles would be detrimental to Britain’s modernization. As the number of capable programmers whittled down, the government responded by making their computer system more and more centralized while outside of Britain everyone as decentralizing. Hicks explains that IBM had a markedly easier time dominating the market because Britain essentially sabotaged themselves.

    An interesting point Hicks turns to is Chile; their socialist government attempted to use computing for social justice that would grant more power to the working class. While we may want to believe ideas of change like in Chile would be the result of technological advancements, Britain did precisely the opposite. In this way, Britain’s story tells us that no number of technological advancements can change the social issues in a society, and these inequalities can be the downfall of genuine progress.

  3. Marie Hicks is a writer, historian, professor, and public intellectual. She has an interdisciplinary background, having degrees and experience in Modern European history; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; technology, and in UNIX systems administration. She gives lectures and writes literature to shine a light on the presence and contributions of women, people of color, and LGBTQI people in history and their impact on society and technology.

    We read the introduction from “Programmed Inequality” as well as watched a video of Dr. Hicks discussing her book. Dr. Hicks addresses the downfall of Britain’s computer “revolution” vis à vis their implementation of a systemic policy of discrimination as a business model at the end of WWII. She explains how Britain intentionally phased out women, essentially the only people with the expertise to operate computers at the time, in order to bring on what they claimed were more “qualified” people, to wit: white, male, heterosexual workers.

    In 1944, as WWII was nearing its end, Britain was leading the pack in terms of computing and technology: they were making huge strides on a global level, such as with Alan Turing’s breakthrough in computing which led to decrypting messages from the Enigma machine. To that end, there is a misconception that the end of the war drove away women. To the contrary, most men were not attracted to this line of work, as it had been labeled menial and simple. There was also a myth that held that more men were entering the workplace with the advent of electronic computers: this was also untrue. The government had to forcibly try and draw them in, even as they were ushering women out.

    The truth was that women were pervasive in computing, before and after the war. Despite their vast skill sets, expertise, and technological know-how, these women were portrayed as mundane, banal, and simple. They were often shown as objects, something to look pretty in pictures and manuals: rarely were they named or given titles other than “typist”. These were all intentional acts to minimize and even erase their presence in history. And because women were depicted this way, their work- the computing field itself- was also portrayed this way. Thus computing was equated with feminized and vapid work.

    The gender “flip” in the British computing field occurred when government and industry leaders realized that technological computer work was becoming prevalent, and thus, lucrative. They felt that something as complicated and intricate as computers were no longer suitable to be operated on by women; but rather, they decided that they must work to bring on men- the ones capable of “complex thinking”- to do this work. They began to phase out the women by termination, “retiring” by marriage, unequal pay, and demotion. Numerous women were used to train their new male hires, and once trained, the men would become managers, and the women would be demoted. Most women realized they could not fight this kind of a system, and so would leave.

    As more and more unqualified men filled these computing roles, this labor change began to have a huge ripple effect. First, because men didn’t know their jobs, the government had to outsource to get qualified labor. Second, many of these men often left because computing jobs had a reputation of feminization as well as no real path for promotion or longevity. Third, as the workforce downsized, the government began making more mainframes, bigger and fewer in number to compensate (whilst other countries were making smaller, more efficient computing systems). They tried to centralize in order to have more control and save money. Ultimately, not even the government wanted the archaic mainframes produced and their computer industry crashed.

    Dr. Hicks speaks of meritocracy at length. It can be defined as a promotion system that favors a person or group based on their ability and talent rather than their wealth or social standing. On the surface, that sounds like an excellent idea, and if employed accurately, would be a great plan. The issue, however, was that Britain defined only white, heterosexual men as having the intellectual capacity, talent, and ability to perform elite computing tasks, based on nothing but their gender. Had they actually promoted individuals based on their talent, the women who already performed and knew these jobs would have been recognized and promoted.

    Though Dr. Hicks doesn’t mention him, Alan Turing is another example of a person who revolutionized computing for Britain, and yet was marginalized and cast out for his sexuality. He had truly shaped the success of the Allied powers through his breaking of the German Enigma code. He is considered to have developed the precursor to the modern computer. Britain repaid him by prosecuting him for being homosexual (a criminal offense in that time). He ended up committing suicide after the government forced him to be castrated. Britain could not, or would not, see the obvious value in contributions from women, minorities and the LGBTQI community, and thus engineered their own demise in the tech field.

    Dr. Hicks also discusses the difficulty of changing a systemic and longstanding policy of discrimination. It’s not just a gender issue, but also a civil rights issue as well. Unfortunately, the only time governments and industry leaders tend to try and “fix” issues of inequality and discrimination are when it favors them financially. And so they tend not to look at the core causes and effects, but rather apply band-aids to the cosmetic problems, such as trying to hire more women and minorities in STEM fields to compensate for the dearth of diversity. However, this alone doesn’t work. We learned that 40% of women who achieve degrees in STEM fields actually never work in these fields. It is a good start to encourage and enable women and minorities to have the ability to pursue careers in technology and science; however, if the fields themselves are still laden with archaic and discriminatory leadership and doctrine, those women and minorities will likely not succeed. Undoing something that took decades to systemically employ takes careful consideration and time, and lasting change must be motivated by something other than greed.

  4. Marie Hicks is an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and researches the history of computing, labor, technology and queer science and technology studies. She received her A.B. from Harvard University, then received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. She wrote a book called Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing which was published by the MIT press in January 2017 and won the 2018 PROSE Award for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. In her book, she talks about the history of women in computing and the discrimination that occurred. In Marie’s book, she starts out by telling us how a computer operator was in charge of programming and testing a electronic computers all while at the same time they had to train two new hires. Once the training was complete, the new hires quickly ascended into management positions, while the person who trained them and was responsible for testing and programming new equipment was demoted to a role of assistantship. The reason being is because the trainer was a women and the trainees were men. This was unfortunately the treatment that the women received who were working in computer fields. They were unable to ask for a raise or for a promotion. Computer operation and programming was seen as women’s work in the 1940’s. As computing gained popularity, it attracted men and replaced the women who were working in the field. Women were then encouraged to get married, stay at home and not work while boys were encouraged to go in the field.The discrimination against women played a big role in the economy. It also keeps women in certain jobs and men in others. Women with the appropriate skills would be excluded and overlooked. Although there have been some positive changes within the years, we still need to make a lot of changes like how women get payed less for the same job that a man has.

  5. Marie Hicks is a historian, author in addition to being a professor. Her research is based on the history of computing, labor, technology, sexuality, among numerous other concepts. Hick has represented the numerous systemic issues and the power struggle based on gender.
    Hick’s work “Programmed Inequality” and her conference about her book expanded on core narratives women have faced in the workplace in computing history. She focuses on the structural inequality and the technical consequences of British computing. As new technical advances occurred to improve work, this also created flaws and unintended consequences. As hard labor became done by machinery, it was viewed more feminine. Structural inequalities began to affect the economy as well as how the nation deals with sexism. Her work also included the minority aspect as she expresses the stories of her personal experiences alongside researched data. Hicks perspective opposes that of a male’s perspective.
    The social hierarchy has played a significant role in the success of women for an extended time. Women were seen as less valuable, less educated, therefore less qualified to obtain careers often male-dominated. The idea of misogyny has cursed female workers who are not given equality in society. Although women have proven to be just as qualified as men, the product assumptions are predetermined creating a structural discrimination impact. There were examples Hicks included where women used a male alias instead of their own names. This allowed women to be employed while doing work deemed for solely men. From a historical standpoint, it was unusual to see a woman recorded working on machinery. Most of their stories were lost. It was also unusual for women to be equally paid for this work as men. Women were almost always excluded from pay grades, in addition to being excluded from the Equal Pay Act. The logic behind this concept: new machinery eased work, therefore, making the technology feminine. So, why should women be paid the same? Today’s interpretation of this included Margo’s movie “Hidden Figures”, about the first black women engineers at NASA. This movie was a visual representation of technological success while lacking the respect of women.
    In class discussion, a fellow classmate opens a door into a conversation about a personal systemic discrimination experience. His employment for a major NYC company was predominantly a male occupation with few women employees. He expressed that female workers did not have a locker room like their male colleagues. Women would have to find alternatives to change into uniform or to use the restroom. There was a lack anticipation of female workers in this occupation.
    Hence, there are more actions needed to combat inequalities in career opportunities and salary.

  6. I’m a Computer Science Professional writer, so this book was straight up my alley. The book concept is Meritocracy, I was surprised by the amount of information I learned, not just about PC history. Marie Hicks is an historian of innovation, sexual orientation and current Europe, notable for her work on the historical backdrop of ladies in computing. This book demonstrates how sexism harms economies and whole countries. It’s pitiful the amount it reverberates with what is happening today. A decent read for any person that is keen on figuring out why capable, shrewd women still aren’t given their due. The explanation of/ in/for this is about power and history, not about women not being “sufficient.” And the British case is a useful example to the U.S., We’d do well to gain from their missteps.

    Programmed Inequality; is fundamentally perusing for any person that needs to comprehend the powers that have formed the contemporary STEM work advertise. It also focuses on what happens when nations and their institutions not only discriminate and thereby deprive themselves of the labor and the talents of huge swathes of their population but when they make this discrimination part and parcel of a new technological order. The book dissects the historical backdrop of technical processing in twentieth-century England to show how work history and sexual orientation history are indistinguishable, and to contend that basic sex inclination eventually tottered British innovative advancement. It merits accentuating that Programmed Inequality was composed by an expert history specialist ; they have been prepared to deliberately look at and measure the proof gave by essential source materials (such as, bulletins, government reports, work records) making amid the chronicled period being examined *and* to translate that confirmation in light of what different narratives, students of history, columnists, and different writers have expounded about the matter.

    Programmed Inequality is fascinating, plainly composed, and completely inquired about. Hicks use articles from the British Library, the London Metropolitan Archives, and the National Archives (in addition to different documents), and from interviews, government reports, processing manuals, and plentiful non-chronicled sources to prove how — and why — British figuring ended up male-distinguished. Hicks exhibit how women ‘ commitments to British innovation were cheapened and limited after some time, in parallel with how the British government attempted to introduce a guaranteed mechanical upset to enhance British society. There isn’t an obvious relationship between technological or economic failures and the discrimination that played a role in causing them.

    Section One concentrated on World War II, demonstrates “ why the women who worked with the world’s first digital, electronic, programmable computers had a critical, material impact on the outcome of the war.”. Section Two follows how “ women’s technical abilities dropped in value “ after the war. At that point, “ in 1964, Prime Minister Harold Wilson initiated a white-hot technological revolution meant to burn up inequalities within British society as it modernized the country.” That “ White Heat “ exertion delivered openings for work for people, however just quickly, as chronicled in Chapter Three. Part Four clarifies how enrollment endeavors soon centered around “ the vocation disapproved, administration hopeful young fellows “while” high-level jobs were thought to be inappropriate for women.” Part Five demonstrates the impacts on this gender, directed enrolling: in light of “ the legislature disregarded a large part of its ready specialized workforce “ who were women and attempted to find the “ perfect technocrat “ hopefuls considered to be men, “ these new hiring standards had the effect of draining training budgets and exacerbating labor shortages. Hicks convincing decision applied this wake-up call for high innovation workforce today.

  7. Marie Hicks is an interdisciplinary writer and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She writes about modern European history, computing technology, and gender and sexuality studies. In her book, Programmed Inequality, she breaks down the history behind the computer revolution in Britain during and after WWII, the downfall of the industry in Britain , and how did it happen over the span of 20 years. She explains the importance that women had during WWII, specifically how there were the computer operators that help Britain succeed in being the leaders of computing industry. She then discuss how after the war computing was seen as women job , but the future of the world. She referred to the many women activist groups trying to protect the place of women in these complex computer jobs. However, she also described how politicians saw that the future was in computing too and wanted to centralize the industry and make it masculine. Ms. Hicks referred to how women event taught other women how to code and although they got hired by these companies that were ran by men they were not treated with the same equality as men in the workplace. In the last class, we watched a video of her discussing her book and she brought some great points. One of the points was about how STEM careers are being treated like a pipeline, people, especially women are just being stuffed into these careers and not being treated equally. When she brought that up I thought about how many different careers are in STEM or at least involved with STEM and how people are being placed in the same careers and although that generates more money it still perpetuates inequality in the workplace. People may be able to do the same things that another person in another field or the
    same workplace can do, but they are different. Whether it be by gender or the job title these things open the door for inequality in the workplace.

  8. Marie Hicks is the professor of University of Wisconsin-Madison University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work “Programmed Inequality” reveals British history of women of computing with inequalities affects among the age of second World War. She mentioned in the past different mistakes are being made, those mistakes have been repeatedly made. They aren’t mistakes, but more discrimination among British society specifically. “Hidden Figures” illustrates both inequality and looks forward to technological success. From her perspective, her books tell a fairer story. Discrimination is being made in her book; these consequences sneaks on people. They are no appearances that discriminations are causing them. The book indicates British history instead of American. It colors our perspective and sees everything are relative to it. Other contexts reveal how America is developed well. British starts the classified experiment around 1944, are used for political events. People in those pictures were maintaining those machines. Britain continues to develop digital machines; companies create computers for development. The computer is named Leo; it becomes the power ICL eventually. British computer falls behind after 30 years. Women used to calculate for computing, as it becomes more electronic, the power girls become electronic computers with advertisements. These are the people taught with the education of computer programming. These jobs include bug testing and deskilled. For instance, 1950 UK gov gives qual pay, but women didn’t receive equal pay. Women are excluded from equal pay. Labor feminization affects all the economy, and it lowers GDP. Computer programming jobs become men job; first reason is that the government starts to catch on it was more critical compared to previous, industrial leaders isn’t appropriate to give deskilled people for this occupation. The women would rein her courage from retirement party around 1965. As a result of her speech, discrimination is not evolutionary, it takes time and works to improve.

  9. During today’s class Professor Ellis asked us to watch two videos. One was about Dr. Jean Yang who talked about how programming language affect is similar to the spoken language. What it takes to design programming models that are actually useful for the user and in general show her viewers that women can also become technicians and program or do coding, that this is not only a mankind job.

    The main reading for today’s class was by Marie Hicks. She wrote a book titled “Programmed Inequality”, mainly focusing on women and their achievements and about the inequality that they had to go through in Britain. In addition, we watched a video of Marie Hicks whom talked about, or summarized her book in more detail. Hicks is an assistant professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Her research mostly focuses on the history of technology, computing technology, gender and sexuality. In her book she talks about the times during the 1960s to 1970s where computers started to become very popular and little did the population know was that the main operators of those computers were women. Women were the Master of Computers, but this was socially wrong to many(government) so for any price they wanted to replace women with men, even though men weren’t good at operating computers. She discussed the discrimination, how women were being discriminated just because they knew how to operate computers. One of the comments that Hicks made during the video was that by the mid 1950s United Kingdom government gave equal pay for all workers, but the sad truth was that majority of women working with computers did not get the equal pay, despite the fact that they did all of the work.

    All women, should be proud of who they are, despite the obstacles that might come on their way. This is one of the biggest takeaways I took from this reading.

  10. In class we watched the video of Marie Hicks talking about the discrimination and chauvinism that women experience in the technical field just because they are women. Hicks wrote a book title “programmed Inequality”. Hicks explain and encouraging all the achievement women have obtain throughout history yet they are not being widely publish mainly because of their sex. On the video and her book she talks about the inequality women experienced after World War II (WWII) in Britain. Women were taking care of most of the jobs, especially in the technical field, and when the war ended they were send back home so “more qualify” people can take of the jobs again, which was just code to say go back to your house and let the white men do their job. This behavior of inequality chauvinism was unacceptable for women. This is where Dr. Hicks goes more over about bias favoritism of one sex over the other one.
    Marie Hicks was another multidisciplinary and overachiever professor that has a background in women’s history, technology, gender and sexuality studies, modern European history and UNIX system administration. Hicks provide her services and knowledge in her lecture and literature work to bring to the table all the aspect and influences women, color people and the LGBTQ community have done in history special in society and technology.
    Also, in class we saw the video of Dr. Jean Yang talking about the difficulties a women has to go through in the science filed and the similarity of understanding computer language and language itself. Even though both were extremely interesting we focused more on Marie Hicks video and the book “Programmed Inequality” since it goes more in depth with sexism and inequality.

  11. In her speech “Structural Inequality and Consequence,” Marie Hicks discussed the extensive lengths that woman have to go through to gain the recognition they deserve. Not only does she speak about the disparity of woman workers in the STEM field, but also the disparity of colored woman workers. In this speech, she focused primarily on the history of woman in the computer field in Britain. But why focus on Britain only? Hicks says that she focused so much of her research on Britain because the main focus of the world is always America. She states that everyone looks at the rest of the world through the lenses that America chooses to focus on. She wanted to focus on something besides America, and also for the contributing factor that the UK allies were able to turn the tide for the World War 2 code breaking. Hicks goes on to listing many extensive research topics she found by stating direct evidence, and names. She names a woman by the name of Marie Jackson. Jackson defies all odds at being the first Black woman at NASA. Hicks blantly says that if the “country leverages all of its work force to achieve a particular goal with no discrimination, then much more can be gained.” As stated in her speech, and discussed in class, her book “tells a failing story, what happens when institutions discriminate.” Her book tells a “depressing tale to show a process by which a country takes the existence of discrimination and makes it into a new technological regime, which is deeply flawed and makes certain things worse.” Instead of solely recognizing that there is unequal opportunities, she recognizes two set traits that make it nearly impossible to be recognized as anyone in position; being of color and being a woman. Hicks describes this all as structural discrimination, and says it is nothing new; it in fact takes a lot of planning where woman and men are kept in completely different job, as it relates to race and the jobs sectioned off by race as well. The only way to break this structural discrimination, according to Hicks is by resisting the system. Hicks says a very great line that needs to be recognized: “history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” This quote is important because discrimination that occurred in the United States hundreds of years ago is occuring now with our current president, and so many other bigoted minds. Marie Hicks not only brings up the great point of discrimination against colored woman, but the point that this NEEDS to stop, and will not unless we all conform to the idea of resistance.

  12. Marie Hicks is a historian of technology and gender, in her book “Programed Inequality” she talks about how Britain lost their lead in computing and how inequality can affect the economy in nations. Hicks talks about the history of women in computing, during world war two while the men were off fighting the war, women were back home working with computers helping with the war effort. After the war and the men came home, the computer market started getting larger and larger. Before the war computer work was seen as simple and just a button pushing job so easy a woman can do it, but when the market started to grow more and more men wanted in. women would end up training men to use computers and in return the men they would train would get promoted and the women would get laid off. Women were seen at this time as house wives and should stay home and take care of kids while the men went out and made money. The reason this lead to a decline was because men who had little to now experience were now using computers and inventing then while the women who knew how to use them were sent home and laid off. After 30 or so years the British computer market had dried up and they had fell behind. Hicks wants us to see how if we leave certain people who are useful out of things, we may experience a decline and major set backs.

  13. The author of the novel “Programmed Inequality”, is known as Marie Hicks. Hicks is not only an author, but also a profound historian and professor who specializes in the history of computer science as well as queer science. In her novel “Programmed Inequality”, the author discusses about the oppression of women during World War II in Britain. At the time, Britain was leading in the world with computing technologies and the those who were the most knowledgeable of computing and calculations were women. Women were in charge of the calculations and were even the mascots for British computing who were known as the “Powers Girls”. However, British computing began to fall behind as the years advanced due to gender roles. As men began to come into the companies for jobs, the women were used in order to train them for their jobs. As the men who were trained how to doe these calculations and how to manage the computers, they rose in ranks within the company. Meanwhile, the women either remained in the same rank and weren’t given promotions or the men replaced them. When looking at the ads for British computing, one would normally think that the women were just used as the company’s face in order to attract companies. However, they were also the ones who were managing the computers as well. The women who were doing these jobs were excluded from getting equal pay or the same pay rate as the men. These women were doing these jobs for so long and even taught the men who entered the industry how to do their job, were not granted raises in their wages.

Leave a Reply