This is an excellent article by Birgitta Böckeler on the history of software developers and our images of them.
The stereotype of the socially-awkward, white, male programmer has been around for a long time. Although “diversity in tech” is a much discussed topic, the numbers have not been getting any better. On the contrary, a lot of people inside and outside of the IT industry still take it for granted that this stereotype is the natural norm, and this perception is one of the things that is standing in our way to make the profession more inclusive and inviting. So where does this image come from? Did the demographics of the world’s programmer population really evolve naturally, because “boys just like computers more”? What shaped our perception of programmers? This text is about some possible explanations I found when reading about the history of computing.
Read it for the history and insights on what to do about it.
Stop acting so surprised!
Whenever you hear yourself or somebody else saying things like “You don’t look like a programmer”, or “What? You don’t know ___?” — stop right there. It might be an innocent little comment that you don’t mean anything by, but the person you are saying it to might be hearing this for the 500th time, and your comment might be the last straw to make them think that they indeed do not belong. This is why such comments are often called “microaggressions”. Each one is small, too small to really be aggressive, but when they appear every week they have a significant cumulative effect.
Learn more about microaggressions to increase your awareness of this, for example by reading this excellent article about how microaggressions enforce stereotypes in tech.