Yes, I agree completely. The reason is entirely clear - from a young age, boys are marketed to in an entirely different fashion than girls, parents gently nudge their daughters into more passive roles, and the types of toys that are available for girls that don't reinforce social stereotypes suck in a fashion that I don't think I can explain to someone who isn't raising a daughter.
Lego has finally released some Legos (yeah, I pluralize it) that appeal to girls, and while some of them are lame (a hair salon, for example), others are cool, but the vast overwhelming acreage of the girls' half of any given toy store is filled with pink dolls, barbies, kitchen sets, crap to do with your hair, and the the type of half-assed girl versions of boy toys that make a responsible parent want to burn the place down.
Let me offer an example. I have a pair of friends who are both PhDs in CS, and both work at Google. They have a daughter whom both parents would love to see in engineering. The mom has the following story of when she gave up trying to resist her daughter's inclinations to make everything pretty instead of wanting to build stuff.
Mom left her daughter to play with a box of regular legos for a bit hoping that she would try to build something. When she came back a few minutes later, every green lego was out and a smattering of others scattered over the floor. Her daughter looked up with a big smile and announced, "Look! Here is my lawn, and these are the pretty flowers!"
I have watched this with my own daughter. First, let's be clear, we do not have a TV in our house and she does not see most of that marketing. But everything "girly" that she's been exposed to, she wants. Why? My best guess is that she's keenly aware that she's a girl, she's not a boy, and she actively seeks out clues as to how to not be a boy. At preschool she gets exposed to the idea of what girls play with, and she's happy to go along.
That is in her case it isn't a push from the external environment to be that way. It is a pull from within herself to figure out how to conform.
Whatever the cause, the extreme girl toys you hate are in the store because they sell. The marketing that you hate is done because it works.
I'm no node.js wiz here, but I think I have a valid idea... maybe the reason that most of the women that didn't become programmers, didn't become programmers because they had no interest in it and didn't want to become a programmer?
Also, does anyone else get the sinking feeling that the reason so many young men on HN feel so strongly about "fixing" the fact that many women have no interest in writing code, is actually more about said young mens' desire to work in an office where they are surrounded by women all day?
In my head, positive discrimination is another form of discrimination. I know plenty of female programmers and they all got into programming because that's what they wanted to do, not because it was marketed as a career to them and not because they've never interacted with shitty co-workers.
If there's any problem with Software Engineering as a career it's the idea that it's a field for socially-inept nerds that sit in the basement and code away from the outside world. The "evidence" for this attitude is all over the place and in my mind this is as likely to turn women away from the field as much as it is men. When the field decides to stop allowing itself to be further commoditised and demand some respect (and better pay) we might see more women want to join us.
We got into doing programming because it allowed us to make and modify games.
At my university CS class, a large number of the guys there had similar motivations. Now consider that the majority of video games were marketed towards males at that time and it's not difficult to see a link.
However these days with the rise of casual/social gaming and it becoming more socially acceptable for girls to play video games in general, combined with the fact that blogging and running webstores etc are popular with women we might actually start to see a steady organic shift as more women enter the industry.
In other words, I don't think it's entirely fair to blame the industry itself for everything. Sure, people who are doing things that will actively discourage women from entering the industry or make women already here feel bad about themselves in some way should stop doing that. OTOH when you have an industry that is 90% male it seems inevitable that it will cater to the male demographic first.
You're right that boys are marketed to differently than girls, and there is still a heavy bias in media, fashion, and toys towards antiquated gender roles.
But it doesn't explain the lack of women in software, because there are record-breaking numbers of women going into fields that were previously stereotypically male. All the physical sciences, law, medicine, you name it. Women are busting out of the traditional gender stereotypes in every direction except software.
So whatever the effects of gender role indoctrination in children, the software industry is doing worse, much much worse than even that pathetic baseline.
Knowing this, IMO blaming the phenomenon on society in general is a huge cop out. We are doing far, far worse than just about any other profession.
Remember, the software industry is where "nerds" go, but the "smart money" is in finance and the "creme of the crop" is in finance.
My thinking is that in aggregate women choose to go to the highest paying, and most socially prestigious fields: law, medicine, finance, sciences in that order.
First I remember offhand are the "Paradisa" sets from 1993 or so, which were basically the same as other "town" Lego sets, but in pastel colors. Those stuck around for a couple years, then Lego moved onto a different supposedly-girl-oriented theme.
I do recall hearing that they've recently released the latest attempt, but it's not a new idea.