women coders: hidden in the secretarial class – –

psst. one for late Sunday night studio practice realizations: I realized where women’s skill at coding has been hiding in our cultural history. Women are the secretaries, the support roles for male bosses. Traditionally they wrote in secretarial shorthand [ it was a requirement of their training in the 50’s ].

The gendered use of shorthand isn’t mentioned in this wikipedia article. Huffpo explains that “administrative assistants” are gendered 96% female, same as it was in 1950.



This kind of work remains undervalued in our culture. A friend of mine currently struggles with the intense workload and silence of administrative assistant work at the department level of a major university.

At one point in the late ‘oughts [ REDACTED CORPORATION ] fired the secretaries that supported its middle management in a cost-saving move. They gave the middle management men new laptops.  Some of those men ended up as my computer students. I will never forget listening to one or the other of these men mourn the loss of the woman who followed him around, writing down everything he said, in a code he couldn’t read.