Let's start from the subtitle:
In World War II, Britain invented the electronic computer. By the 1970s, its computing industry had collapsed—thanks to a labor shortage produced by sexism.
I had a vague recollection about Britain's supremacy in computing: the best Nazi codebreakers were probably British and 75% of personnel at Bletchley Park was made of women (!!).
What I didn't know is how pervasive stupidity and short-sightedness were in the 60s and 70s in Britain. Though I acknowledge that judging past societies by contemporary standards is risky, we're not talking about Middle Kingdom in Ancient Egypt or something remote like that, it's just a few decades ago with behaviors that still have ripercussions today.
Going back to the article, which I urge you to read, there are a few (more than a few to be honest) passages that flabbergasted me (aside from women retiring from the work force in their 20s to get married, which totally makes sense, doesn't it??!):
our programmer also had to train two new hires. These new hires didn't have any of the required technical skills. But once she trained them, which took about a year, they stepped up into management roles. Their trainer, meanwhile, was demoted into an assistantship below them. She succeeded at her job, only to fail in her career. That the trainer was a woman, and that her trainees were both young men, was no coincidence.
This is a classic, it still happens today, in tech and in other fields.
computers were now becoming widely integrated into government and industry. Their great power and potential was growing more apparent. Suddenly, low-status women workers were no longer seen as appropriate for this type of work—even though they had the technical skills to do the jobs.
So, as soon as society and goverment realized there were serious money and power in controlling computing machines, they started jettisoning women out of jobs they were perfectly skilled for.
After being denied another promotion, one that she’d earned several times over, she eventually learned that the men evaluating her were resigning from the promotions board rather than making a decision on her case. “They disapproved on principle of women holding managerial posts,” she found out, so they would rather resign than consider her for a promotion. “I was devastated by this: it felt like a very personal rejection,” she recalled.
Men resigned from boards because they didn't want to promote women!
And when she was unable to get contracts early on, she took her husband’s suggestion that she start signing her letters with her nickname instead: “Steve.”
Writers to this day use male pseudonyms to sell books and there are studies on how women hiding their gender on GitHub get pull requests accepted at a higher rate.
The arrangement of using remote workers to manage projects worked so well that Ann would go on to become technical director at the company, in charge of more than 300 home-based programmers.
Did you know this? It's the 60s and Ann Moffatt led a programming team for the Concorde project. All home based programmers, using the phone to coordinate. I have seen companies today failing to adjust to half a dozen remote workers with all the technology anyone can possibly dream of :D Yesterday Microsoft released a human sized screen for teams to collaborate remotely...
So determined were ministers within government that they needed a cadre of male, management-oriented technocrats that they began, counterintuitively and in desperation, to lower the standards of technical skill needed for the jobs. Lowering standards of technical proficiency to create an elite class of male computer workers didn’t work, however. In fact, it made the problem worse, by producing a devastating labor shortage.
This reminds me of some men going around saying that standards shouldn't be lowered for women or minorities.
In conclusion: women were largely erased from Britain's history of computing because they didn't fit the narrative and sexism contributed to the failure of its tech industry.
I've always wondered how technology (not just computing tech) would be now if society didn't basically forbid half of its population to work for so long.