How does Malaysia encourage so many women in software?

 In 2003 I gave a talk in Malaysia. What I noticed immediately is that my audience was well over half women. This was really noticeable because they were all wearing brightly colored hijabs. Usually I scan the room and count how many women I can find – usually on my fingers even in a room of hundreds. Hijab-programmer-womanYet here were hundreds of women attending a talk about the economics of open source software!

I've wondered ever since what they do so differently in Malaysia that they get so many more women involved in software. Is it something we could do as well?

A recent study offers a theory:

in Malaysia jobs in technology
are seen as appropriate for women: Men do not perceive indoor work as
masculine and much of society stigmatizes women who work outdoors as
lower class. Computing and programming are seen as “women-friendly”
professions, with opportunities opening up since men are not
interested in competing for these types of jobs. “It’s a woman’s world
in that respect,” said Mellstrom.

So women that work in software are higher class. Where as in my experience it's often been insinuated in the US that if you are attractive or social, there are better careers for you. "You're a programmer?? You don't look like one!"