More Women Taking Up Roles In Computer Science

| April 28, 2015

Women in computing science is starting to pick up compared to the 1970’s when there was little computer science taught in schools. Now programming in schools makes up a major part of the curriculum. Girls are becoming increasingly interested in writing code, and programming hardware. There is still a gender gap though, but what else can be done to promote computer science to women?

Women's Movement

Women’s Movement

Computer Science Industry

With ongoing efforts to shrink the gender gap in the industry of computer science, we need to first understand who actually purses this type of career and why. Students over a 40 year period who had an interest in computer science were analyzed for the research paper “The Evolution of Women’s Participation in Computer Science”. The report found changes in the interest of computer science between 1971, and 2011, but one thing that remained true was the underrepresentation of women in the industry. The report favours a focus on promoting to girls the link between computers, and creativity. The reason is thought that because women are more artistic or akin to social activity learnings, they haven’t yet made a definite link between these interests and computer science.

Decline of Women in Computer Science

Many of the findings from the study came from the responses of 1st year full time students who were studying at the University of California in Los Angeles. The survey asked about the students intended majors. The amount of majors that were made of computer science with women, has been in decline since the early 1980’s. Women represented about 15% of computer science majors taken in 2011. General interest in computer science spiked for both men and women in the early 1980’s before falling back around a decade later. In the late 1990’s the interest in computer science bounced back, but it was mainly among men. A survey was conducted in 2000, and about 9% of the computer science majors were male, compared with only 2% with women.

Computer Science Resurgence

There has been a large rise in women taking courses related to computer science in their local community colleges. These colleges have acted as a stepping stone for many women changing careers,and entering the fields of engineering, technology and mathematics. All generally experiencing declines of women taking them up. This could be the start of a whole new grassroots movement of gender entering these industries. Its thought that confidence in mathematics has played a key role with women taking up computer science. In the 1970’s the reason that women declined to take up computer science because of mathematics was at 79%. In 2011 it was down to a more reasonable 13%.

Upward Trend

There is a positive trend upwards for the bridging of the gender gap. Many of the top 10% of math SAT takers were made up of women, and this has grown steadily. The research was found to show that women who see themselves as artistic and creative are less likely to be deterred from taking up a career path in computer science. Women tend to focus their career path more on helping others, and thanks to the measure that have been taken by educational institutions, this perception has led through to computer science and technology industries being a possible route in helping people too. Its widely considered that there is still work to do in the promotion of computer science though.

Appealing to Women

There are more methods that administrators, government, and policy makers can use to focus efforts on helping women and girls understand about the creative possibilities that stem from pursuing a career in computer science. Simple steps we3re recommended from the report such as faculty members involved in the recruitment of students should be writing curricula emphasizing the social aspects related to taking up a computer science degrees in their course titles and syllabi. Also encouraging course speakers from companies such as Google and Microsoft to discuss what sort of cutting edge work their involved with. The design and graphical communication of stationery such as posters and course work clipart featuring more women, is also another mechanism that colleges and universities have to promote the cause.

The Future Of Women In Computer Science

The way that the computer science field brands itself has to change in general. To make students more aware of the possibilities of a career in computer science there are a number of initiatives that have started to take place globally, and locally. One such promotion is the BRAID initiative. This was launched by Harvey Mudd College combined with the Anita Borg Institute to increase the uptake of computer science by women in 15 univities. The initiative was promoted by Hillary Clinton in 2014 during her address at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). BRAID has been supported by funding from the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Intel over a 3 year commitment.

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