Hello everyone! Glad to have found this great community here!
A little background, I have a cert in web development from several years ago which I aced every class, however couldn't find work at that time with such limited schooling. Every job asked for a Bachelors plus a large handfull of other programming skills I was lacking.

Now I'm looking at going for my full degree and considering software/JAVA programming as a major. The reason for my question here is that I've heard it may possibly be a difficult environment for women and older programmers, being a 'young man's' type of work culture. Not to say every company will be this way, but as a newbie 50+ woman when graduating will I be a guppy in a pool of sharks LOL? Is it really as bad as 'they' say? A woman friend of mine works in IT and has found it pretty tough. I'd hate to complete years of school just to find it an unpleasant worklife and have to change direction. Am I crazy to attempt to dive into this field or maybe this all is a bit overblown? I also don't want to miss out on a fabulous career due to faulty misperceptions. Can anyone speak to their experiences?

Thanks for any guidance you can give on this huge decision!

~Anjolie

If you have the skills for the job and you match the company culture, I don't think you have anything to worry about.

Just remember the company has to fit you just as much as you fit it. If they pass you over for being a woman or older, you probably didn't want to work there anyway.

On the plus side, pretty much every company is looking for female programmers so they don't look like Facebook or Google right now :D

Every job asked for a Bachelors plus a large handfull of other programming skills I was lacking.

That's normal, unfortunately. HR departments are usually the first gatekeeper and will demand between reasonable and unreasonable credentials. This is where knowing someone on the inside is a good thing.

The reason for my question here is that I've heard it may possibly be a difficult environment for women and older programmers

As always, it depends. I have yet to see any significant difficulties for women in general, provided we're talking about real difficulties rather than petty ones. ;) A larger issue would be older folks. It's unfortunately not uncommon to perceive older people as technological dinosaurs who are set in their ways and refuse to learn new things. You may find yourself having to defend against that mindset in competition for a job with younger people.

as a newbie 50+ woman when graduating will I be a guppy in a pool of sharks LOL?

That's the case as a newbie in general. However, as a 50+ woman, you probably have quite a bit of education and experience in other fields that can be leveraged to give you an advantage over your ~20 year old peers fresh out of high school and college. Exploit that as much as you can. :)

A woman friend of mine works in IT and has found it pretty tough.

IT is a tough field, period. Usually when people ask me whether to get into the field I ask why they want to do it. If the answer is anything other than variations of "I love working with technology" or "I love solving problems", I suggest that they consider the decision carefully. About 10-15 years ago the tech field was inundated with folks looking for a quick high paying job, and when the bottom fell out they ended up in a job they hated (if they retained their job at all).

I'm not saying that you have to love your job, it is a job after all, but there needs to be a modicum of enjoyment given that IT and development success is highly dependent on passion.

On the other hand, if the same people appear to have an idealistic concept of what jobs in the field entail, I'm careful to give them a dose of reality without totally destroying their childlike wonder. ;D

Am I crazy to attempt to dive into this field or maybe this all is a bit overblown?

I think it's vastly overblown. I've worked with a large number of companies both large and small, and a huge variety of people, to reach that conclusion based on experience.

software/JAVA programming as a major

Java is a major? I'm not so sure about a major fixed on one language or technology.

If you go through a reputable school for a bacholers, you should be fine.

Keep in mind, it's a field that you'll never stop learning in. A bacholers will certianly give you a good foundation, but keep in mind your education is far from over.

Thank you all for the thoughtful advice and I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Perhaps things have been somewhat overdramatized. Well I gave much thought to everything in your replies and reached out to some other friends who are in the field who were actually very encouraging when they learned I was considering this career path. I'm feeling much better about it now lol. Enough so that I have readmitted to college and now trying to decide which direction to go, web or software.

@Hiroshe ... Java/Mobile is one of the 'subplans' within the A.S. Computer Programming degree (Java, C++, Android and iOS development) at the local college. The other subplan I'm interested in they call 'open source' which consists of Perl/CGI, Php/MySQL, and C#. I already have the Php and Perl completed in my cert so I would only need the three C# classes to finish that particular track, otherwise it's 6 classes for the Java track. Their third track is C++/VB.net focus...

Oh decisions! LOL! Yeah, I do get that the learning never ends.

I would think that the 'open source' plan is probably more usefull, mostly because of databases. Once you know one of: Java, C++, C#, you can usually learn any of the others on the spot. There isn't any difference between not working on mobile development and working on mobile development to be honest. It's mostly just a difference in API, which again can be learned on the spot.

Try to find a few courses on data structures and algorithms if you can. Those are the basics of the language-agnostic tools you'll use to solve and break down problems.

Because I am way so much younger than the majority, I can't say much about my experiences in life. However, why worry about age? I thought humans are like fine wine, we get better with age :).