Anna Lewis on the Fog Creek blog about women returning to computer science, and why they've stayed away until now:
One of the things that happens is that women don’t even think they’re qualified for something because it’s advertised in competitive language. The language of competition not only doesn’t appeal to many women, it actually puts them off.
Did you know computer science used to be a mostly female profession? What happened was that in the 70s and 80s, with the rise of personal computing and the male 'hacker' culture of Jolt Cola-fueled all-night coding jags, the boys came in and the women mostly left.
In other words, women were around back when computing was a job and not a subculture, which is interesting to think about. It reminds me of an anecdote I heard a while back, where a woman asks Chopin why he stuck to nocturnes and never really tried to write a symphony. He replies: "Madam, my kingdom is a small one, but I am king there."