You Can Love Programming Without Loving Star Trek

The IT sector has far more male workers then females. One possible factor in that disparity? The assumption that people who are into programming and other "geeky" topics will also share the same enthusiasms for TV shows and movies.

Picture: Getty Images

In a thought-provoking blog post, programmer Jessica Kerr notes that there is clearly an overlap between programmers and geek culture: "So many geeks code that there's a stereotype in our culture: programmers like Star Trek and Star Wars."

However, the fact that the audience for those sci-fi franchises is also predominantly male can make it even harder for women to feel comfortable and productive in programming environments. Not doing that could be helpful, Kerr suggests:

If the geek-culture references reinforce a stereotype that drives potential programmers away before they even get started, maybe I should put away my Picard slide and stop referencing the Prime Directive like everybody knows what that means.

That doesn't mean you can't enthuse over those shows; it just means that we need to be more careful about assuming one enthusiasm requires the other. The whole piece is definitely worth a read.

Star Trek and Computer Science [Abstractivate]


    I had the misfortune of working for a non-geeky woman who would have been a secretarial pool supervisor in the days before technical publishing. Instead, she was given management of a highly technical team of programmers who could write, and tried to push them to be clerical assistants rather than thinkers -- particularly the women on the team. Thinking like what is espoused in the article, as one commenter pointed out, could all too easily re-marginalize the geeky, just like the presence of the "secretarial pool supervisor" did to the women on our team. Have a mind of your own? Have opinions? Not afraid to speak up when a male is wrong? Show up to work in nice pants and a shirt instead of a short-skirted pink suit? God forbid, be homely and chunky? Look out, you're not conforming to the appropriate norms for a techni-clerical woman, and your performance review is going to suffer for it. It is IMPORTANT that CS stay welcoming to the geeky women who've found that we belong here. Based on personal experience, efforts to make it more friendly to non-geeky women could all too easily alienate the geeky ones.

    While I love a lot of "geeky" topics, I have never really liked either star wars or star trek, and I have been a programmer for about 6 years now.

    Yeah I kinda read the headline to this and thought "no shit"

    Interesting read, though I think it proceeds off a false assumption:

    For whatever combination of causes, Star Trek fandom and video games and staying up late drinking soda are perceived as masculine

    Those things are usually perceived as effeminate - not masculine. They're attributes of a specific sort of male that is regarded as not being very "manly". "Real" men aren't fans of Star Trek - or of anything that isn't a sport. I think the only time geekiness is regarded as masculine is when the geek or geeks in question are female.

    The author still raises some good points, though, and appears to be closer to the mark than a lot of the regular "programming is too male" arguments. I suspect the dominance of geek culture is far more off-putting than the ratio of penises to lines of code. Certainly a lot better than the regular Kotaku pieces that bizarrely equate the stereotype of the bullied, cowering nerd ensconced in their mother's basement with that of the keg-tapping, football-obsessed, wife-beating neanderthal as equal partners in ongoing female oppression.

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