MIT Press Classics: Unlocking the Clubhouse

MIT Press Classics: Unlocking the Clubhouse

Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher’s 2003 book Unlocking the Clubhouse, is a seminal work in the study of women and computing. In order to understand familial, educational, and institutional influences on the gender gap in computing education and professions, the authors conducted hundreds of interviews and collected data over a four-year period. Unlocking the Clubhouse was among the first books to demonstrate that, as Gregory V. Wilson wrote in Dr. Dobb’s Journal, “by viewing computer science from different angles, we can attract a broader cross-section of society.”

And yet, the gender gap continues to grow. In 2003, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, women made up 27 percent of graduates with degrees in computer science. As of 2015, the number dropped to 18 percent. Unlocking the Clubhouse is an essential guide to understanding how institutions and individuals can pursue practices and policies that invite more diverse voices to the computing field.


“Why should it matter if the inventors, designers, and creators of computer technology are mostly male? At the most basic and individual level, girls and women who have the necessary talent and inclination but do not become engaged in the technology are missing the educational and economic opportunities that are falling into the laps of computer-savvy young men. Computing salaries are high, jobs plentiful, and entrepreneurship opportunities unbounded. Furthermore, a command of information technology is an asset in many contexts outside the field itself. Since so many facets of education and the economy are driven by technology, an understanding of the workings ‘under the hood’ can be invaluable.”

Takeaways from the book: