I was reading The Guardian today and ran across a striking article[^] about women in computer science. It takes me back to the 1980s, when I worked for Interdata, a company that used to build minicomputers.
In the computer center, most of the operators were women. One of the women complained to me about one of the utility programs she had to frequently use. When she asked for modifications, she was belittled and denied. She asked me for help, but I was behind schedule on my project at the time. Instead, I had been helping her with her computer science homework, I suggested that she modify the source code. She did and logged it into the library. I countersigned as the "supervising engineer." The new version began shipping with all new computers and was included in the software maintenance update.
Then the problems began. Customers complemented Interdata on the improvement. Only then did management realize that the utility had been updated. Because of government contracts, all software updates had to be signed by the "responsible engineer", that is, the engineer who actually did the work. She did not have the title of "engineer". I, as "supervising engineer", refused to modify the release document, citing the IEEE Code of Ethics which the company officially supported.
This went on for several weeks. There was a government delivery approaching, which would include a software library audit. I suggested that, since she had the skills and would soon receive her bachelor's degree, that she be promoted. I was told that the idea would never fly. Guess what? Just before the delivery, senior management promoted her to Junior Engineer.
Guess what also happened.... I was in deep political hot water. I did stay with the company through several name changes for the next six years.
From the article, however, nothing much has changed in the past forty years!
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept that there are some things I just can’t keep up with, the determination to keep up with the things I must keep up with, and the wisdom to find a good RSS feed from someone who keeps up with what I’d like to, but just don’t have the damn bandwidth to handle right now.
© 2009, Rex Hammock