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I recently read the "top jobs" on the us news and world report website.


Computer jobs were well represented, but so were health sciences. Here's the full list

1. software developer - san jose - 116K (93k natl avg) 2. computer systems analyst - (couldn’t find it in SF, best anywhere was $116k in bridgeport, 84k nation avg) 3. dentist - couldn’t find SF, can be up to $250K in best cities. 163K natl avg 4. nurse practitioner - san jose - $125K 5. pharmacist - highest of 160K in el centro ca, 115k natl avg 6. registered nurse - 122k in san jose, natl avg 65k (I think it’s about 112k in SF according to sfgate) 7. physical therapist - natio 81k, vegas 117k 8. physician - national around 190k, high paid regions about $250k 9. web developer - national 62k, san jose/sf around 90k 10. dental hygenist - 70k national, in SF 106k

It was eye opening to see how highly paid some of the health care degree fields, which generally enroll more women, are in the bay area.

For instance, nationally, nursing is about 90% women, and in San Jose (and San Francisco, according to a different survey), RN's (registered nurses) actually outearn software developers. There are a large number of factors here (growth potential, job security, the possibility of age discrimination at 40 or younger, where, when and how you like to work...), so I'm not saying that this tell the whole story - but there's a decent argument to be made that nursing may be a better paid and more stable field than software development over the course of a career. Would women be well served by reducing that 90% to 50% to free up more women to become software engineers?

Another interesting thing to note - since we're talking about flagship UC's here, the entering medical school class at UCSF is 58% women, and at boalt law school, it is 54%. I couldn't get exact numbers for pharmacy, but nationally, it skews female over male. Again, would women be well served by diverting some of these students to computer science rather than remaining in health care? A friend of mine who is an emergency room physician probably earns over twice the average software developers salary with fewer hours and very flexible shifts. I can't possibly claim she would have been better off in computer science.

I have a tough time with this, for a couple of reasons. First, I have no right to claim sour grapes for someone else. If women want to go into computer science, and feel that it is a great field, they should not have to put up with gender discrimination.

Second, it's unclear as to whether software development is wonderful field. So not only do I have no right to tell others that the grapes are sour, I can't say with certainty that they are sour.

However, I do think that there is, at least a very clear case to be made that the grapes in health care are a lot sweeter than they are in the high tech world.

We need to consider, seriously, the possibility that avoidance of high tech in favor of health fields is a very rational choice from an earnings, working conditions, job security, and social prestige perspective. Young women are, in many ways, outperforming young men. Perhaps appreciating the beauty and joy of computer programming as a short detour on your road to emergency medicine or dermatology is a far more rational way to go through life than majoring in CS and getting a grad degree in a STEM field, or working for as series of startups or bigco's.

I'm not asking people to accept this conclusion, but rather to recognize that this question needs to be part of the debate.

I am a current UCSF medical student and I majored in statistics in undergrad. I program in R and python. In undergrad, did consider doing an internship at a tech company as a data scientist, so I feel like I understand the perspective from both sides.

That said, I feel this is entirely a false dichotomy - there are actually very few people choosing between nursing and computer science, and it is not "diverting some of these students to computer science rather than remaining in health care". They are simply very different students and workforces with different motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.

I am sure we can agree that there are many fields that are worse off than computer science. Retail, administration, and many disciplines don't have the flexibility or financial compensation. To me, in some ways, it does sound like sour grapes when one says "well, look women have nursing. They make good money." Regardless whether healthcare is a good field, that creates a false dichotomy when there are many people (both male and female) who aren't in these fields.

Even digging into this false dichotomy, it is another discussion whether healthcare is actually more flexible, has fewer hours, and is a better career choice than software development. The grass is always greener on the other side, but I would say that only in healthcare does a significant proportion of the workforce have to work overnight shifts, 30 hour workdays, and have to deal with relatively hazardous or infectious materials.

I love medicine, it's a great field, and I really enjoy having an impact on people's lives. But similarly, there are intangibles in software development like the satisfaction of creating something and doing things that can touch people far away. I think that to split these professions into "male" and "female" is a huge disservice and it brings nothing to the discussion to say some female predominant fields have good earning potential.

PS. UCSF medicine is typically between 47 - 54% female each year. Not sure where you got the 58% statistic. There are a lot of applicants, so the administrators probably have a lot of flexibility on how they want to shape the class demographics.

This is where I got the entering class profile link:


"The 167 new arrivals were chosen from 6,767 applicants. The average age of the class is 25, with a range of 21 to 34, and it is 58 percent female and 42 percent male."

I haven't made any further inquiry into the accuracy of this statistic, so it could be wrong, or it could be an unusual year.

I would like to address the false dichotomy you have indicated - that it doesn't make sense to talk of people being diverted from software development into health care fields. There are a couple of essays I'd suggest. Neither are about programming or women - they're about science/engineering graduate programs and Americans. However, they both reach the conclusion that Americans in general are rationally avoiding graduate degrees in STEM fields.

The first is a study by the RAND institute:


This study concludes that Americans are avoiding STEM degrees in large part because the pay and job prospects compared to the "professions" including law or medicine have become so uncompetitive.

Another is by professor William Zumeta at the University of Washington. He looks into students with strong quantitative backgrounds to analyze why they are not going into science and engineering. He does conclude that they are often going to MBA or Health Sciences. (He also does address some systemic problems that particularly affect women in these fields).


Unfortunately, these researchers don't really address the false dichotomy you've brought up - they seem to assume that academically talented students do choose between very different fields based on pay and career prospects. Perhaps that is, as you've suggested, a deeply flawed assumption.

Believe it or not, I actually think that this in no way invalidates claims that outright discrimination or socialization from an early age is a factor! After all, even if it is a relatively poor career choice (already a very debatable claim), these can still be substantial (even definitive) factors!

This is a strange comparison, what does software have to do with nursing? What about all of the under-employed women who are not interested in healthcare or law? As a female developer who is actively involved in helping women learn more about tech career paths, I would never presume to lure someone who felt called to nursing away from that field. I am more interested in reaching women stuck in dead-end administrative, service, and retail jobs who are craving more challenging and rewarding work.

> This is a strange comparison, what does software have to do with nursing?

Both are statistically dominated by an individual gender. There's huge amounts that we can learn from comparing the different approaches to this matter.

Just the women? Are there no men in that condition or do you suffer from some personality disorder?

"Personality disorder" is part of a set of diagnoses in DSM and ICD. They're controversial diagnoses and people throwing the term around as an attack is stigmatising and hateful.

I have met one man who was interested in learning to code and looking for help getting started, but most of the folks I've met in that position have been women.

> We need to consider, seriously, the possibility that avoidance of high tech in favor of health fields is a very rational choice [...]

It's great if people are making a rational. Onsidered choice.

I'd love to see research. I suspect that people are not making that informed choice and that segregation along sex happens much much earlier.

And if being an RN is so good why are so many nurses imported from other nations? Perhaps that doesn't happen in the US or at least not for RNs.

As an aside: the highest paying RN job is in San Jose - isn't San Jose the crack capital of California? (I am only asking about crack, not about nursing or etc).

(Anecdote: My son is just over 3. He likes and talks about flamingos and his favourite colour is pink. (He has pink sunglasses.). We were drawing and I handed him a pink pencil and he said "no Dan, pink is a girl's colour." The only place he could get this from is nursery which means that children below UK school age are policing activity based on gender or staff are being careless with words. (Luckily I have a pink phone case and a pink towel and a pink watering can so I managed to persuade him that anyone can like pink.))

OT, aside:

Not sure what relevance your anecdote has to the topic, however ...

>he said "no Dan, pink is a girl's colour." //

I found for my sons that the girls in their nursery were very strong policers of colour and toys ("you can't play with that it's for girls" or "pink is for girls"); all the teaching staff are women, most parents/carers/guardians present at pick-up are women .. I corrected the kids [I'm like that, "anyone can have pink things, I've got a pink shirt", usual response giggling] but never heard anyone else do so.

Got to admit to feeling self-conscious carrying one son's pink love-heart handbag around after dropping him off though. It's really not my style.

The children do seem to be strong enforcers of what is "acceptable". There's an article about a cabal that formed in a nursery around Lego.

It has some odd messages about ownership. http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/21_02/lego212.shtml

That's really good - thanks for sharing.

Reminds me somewhat of Thomas Paine's "Agrarian Justice" as well pedagogically as the teacher running a live experiment on racism using eye-colour (I'm sure you've seen it, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeK759FF84s).

They are imported because there is a big difference between a nurse and an RN. I couldn't think of a similar distinction in the tech industry. Also I'd also venture to say that RNs are paid very well all across the US.

No, actually not. You can't call yourself a nurse unless you've actually been licensed as a nurse (Registered Nurse). The sub-RNs are CNAs (Certified Nurse Assistants) and LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses). The step above RN is NP (Nurse Practitioner, which is roughly the equivalent of a general practitioner MD and a small step above PA (Physician's Assistant, which can do all the stuff a GP/MD can do except write prescriptions). Even within RNs there are two categories: "normal" RNs and RN/BSNs, which are registered nurses who also have a bachelor of science degree.

Source: wife is a nurse (RN).

Yea, TheCoelacanth hit the nail on the head. I was referring to a nurse practitioner.

Isn't the progress Nurse -> RN? Or is it a completely different path?

The link said average pay for RNs was $69,000

It can be that progression but the RNs I've come across were more like a restricted general practitioner, so I think they just went to school (takes longer) then went into practice. They can even write certain prescriptions, but it seems like they are under the supervision of actual doctors.

That sounds more like a nurse practitioner than an RN. It takes 4 or 5 years of school beyond that required to become an RN to become an NP.

You're right. I mixed it all up.

I'm very confused about how this places Software Developer at #1 and Computer Programmer at #30. I'd always understood these to be different terms for the same thing, is there some distinction I'm missing that accounts for the $15,000 difference in average salary?

It's using BLS categories which don't necessarily match up to actual job titles or to colloquial use. According to the BLS, Computer Programmers turn detailed specifications into code while Software Developers have involvement in the development process beyond just writing code. Software Developers are far more common than Computer Programmers, so for the most part you can just ignore the whole Computer Programmer category.

Was looking at nursing for these exact reasons.

It's bizarre that you have more free time as a nurse to work on your own programming projects than you do in the tech industry.

The commutes are almost certainly better. Hospitals are located in cities, not in office-parks at the end of an hour-long commute in bumper-to-bumper sprawl traffic.

Ha. That's a Silicon-Valley-centric problem. There's plenty of programming work in great walkable places in San Francisco proper, New York, Boston, etc.

I'm not in Silicon Valley, I live in Ontario. The tech industry in this province is concentrated in two places:

1) Waterloo, which everyone sees as a ticking time-bomb because of Rim.


2) Mississauga, which is Toronto's sprawl and is where all our soulless corporate code is written.

Fortunately, I work for a hospital.

I live in Waterloo. Toronto dwarfs Waterloo. It's not really close.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of great stuff going on in Waterloo and I love living here, but Toronto is so much bigger and has so many more opportunities its not funny.

Waterloo has a population of 100K people. If you include Kitchener and Cambridge then you're up to 400K.

Toronto on the other hand is the 10th largest city in the Americas[1]. To put that into perspective for Americans, that means that if you live in a city in the states that isn't NYC or LA, then Toronto is bigger.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Largest_cities_in_the_Americas

So live in Mississauga? It is the nicest place anywhere near Toronto anyways. Also you missed Toronto itself which has tons of tech jobs, and richmond hill/markham which absolutely dwarfs Waterloo's imaginary tech industry.

Ah. If you want a programming job in a city and you're finding them more in Mountain View than SF proper, also try "Silicon Alley", New York.

(I'm looking out the window from the Empire State Building right now.)

Nursing can be extremely exhausting though, physically and mentally. That's not to say you can't program a bit after work to get your mind off it, instead of watching TV or whatever; but I don't find it "bizarre" at all that nurses are well paid, I think they ought to be. Just like teachers and people working in kindergartens, I don't think very many people can do that job, certainly not for decades. (Speaking purely of those who have empathy, as the rest shouldn't do these jobs to begin with)

Technology even at its most complicated is hardly a comparison, but at its average? Heh. You can't compare any of it to caring for people while they are sick, get better or die.. with feeding them, taking care of their wounds, cleaning up vomit and feces, washing a dead body, being confronted with suffering and fear (as well as bravery and generosity beyond comprehension).

I never even worked as a "real" nurse myself, just in a close enough capacity for long enough to have some serious respect for cojones I simply don't have, not in the long run. A few years would be rough, but a career of it? Anyone who light-heartedly thinks they could hack that might be fooling themselves. Programming is "just" hard, but being a nurse is hard.. of course I can only speak for myself, but what kept me from becoming a "real" nurse wasn't anything I could have learned, no matter how disciplined; I just don't have it in me. On the other hand, I think at least smart people generally all could learn to program in just about any language if they really wanted to, and invested time regularly. I'm not trying to diss "the tech industry", but I do think firefighters and nurses and whatnot play in wholly different leagues, sorry :P

Yeah. I bet your average person can't understand compiler theory or asymptotic growth of recursive functions.

But I see your point.

They are as emotionally advanced as computer types are intellectually advanced.

Based on lived experience, I don't see a lot of people in this industry understanding "compiler theory or asymptotic growth of recursive functions".

> They are as emotionally advanced as computer types are intellectually advanced.

Some of them are pretty damned intellectually advanced as well.

They could be smart, like scones, enjoy hot tubs, practice riverdance and have a peg leg but that's not what the point of the exchange was.

The point was that nurses have more emotional strength than most people.

Definitely. CS isn't the best field for every and anybody.

I couldn't care less about who is getting into whatever field, though, so long as they are passionate about it - not just the paycheck.

Well said!

I think part of the "problem" is that you don't hear about a couple nurses working on a new "nursing product" (sorry.. not sure what the nursing equivalent of "WhatsApp" is) and then getting bought out for $19Billion nearly as often as you do with engineers. I think some careers are more stable and pay more on average than computer jobs but they lack the (possibly over optimistic) possibility to get a big exit check.

What you are describing is starting a business not learning computer science. Women could start a health care company, or at-home nursing, etc... and get bought for a billion something (in theory).

True.. but you gotta learn computer science (or coding or something along those lines) if you're going to start the next "WhatsApp" business. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen in other fields. But I think you know it doesn't happen nearly as often or you would not have ended your comment with in theory. Just about anything could happen... in theory.

Not really. You need to hire a coder, mostly.

As a coder, never work for a startup without founders who can code.

There's a difference between "can code" as in understands the challenges and opportunities well enough to create a good business plan, and "can code" as in knows how to implement a floppy disk controller in software (yes, that's a reference to Steve and Steve of Apple).

> We need to consider, seriously, the possibility that avoidance of high tech in favor of health fields is a very rational choice

Why does this only apply to women?

Yeah, it would be nice to see a "where would they come from?" analysis, especially vs success in lower education or something.

interesting that CSA was separate from Software Engineer. I'd have thought that they'd be lumped in since in my experience Computer Systems Analyst were just job titles created for Canadians and Mexicans in the states on TN.

No, it was a traditional job title that existed before they put it on the TN list. I think, but am not sure, that it would be something like "business analyst" today.

Get into dental or medical school and you are set.

Right, I'm in. There was an open transom. It's dark though and there's nobody about, what do I do now?

eat a mango?

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