Listen Up

Marie Hicks

How Sexism Destroyed the British Computing Industry

April 13, 2018


Presented via web conference

Historically, who gets to do certain high-prestige work in high tech fields is contingent on gender, race, class, nationality, and many other categories. This talk looks at the example of early computing, in the nation that invented the computer, to explain how the gendered labor contours of the field developed, and how the field went from feminized to male-identified. As managers began to understand computing's power to shape the political landscape, gendered rules and regulations became more entrenched. But as this gendered change was taking shape, the British computer industry was simultaneously taking a nosedive, and the two changes were interrelated. This talk shows how history can help us make sense of the present and the future by focusing not just on stories of technological progress, but also being tuned into what we can learn from stories of technological failure.

Presentation format

Marie will give a talk about her work via web conference, followed by time for Q&A. Ragtag will host a Slack channel for all ticket holders for discussion before and after the event, as well.

About Marie Hicks

Marie Hicks photo Marie Hicks is a historian of technology who focuses on the hidden histories of computing that change what we think we know about high technology fields today. She serves on the executive council of the Society for the History of Technology and is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. Hicks's award-winning book, Programmed Inequality, looks at how discrimination tanked the British computing industry and continues to hurt high tech economies. Hicks uses her research expertise to try to add a historical corrective to current stereotypes about gender and technical skill. She has written on gender and sexuality in computing, the history of computer dating, and her current book project looks at the deep pre-history of trans algorithmic bias to explore how users expressed resistance within early digital systems.

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Listen Up is a joint project of Ragtag LLC and the Ragtag Education Fund.