Where My Girls At? Lack of Women in Computer Science
The modern age is slowly becoming dominated by computers. We have access to personal laptops, smartphones, and self-driving cars. While these are just a few of the recent technological advancements, as we continue to modernize, the number of computer science jobs are expected to grow.
Although the job opportunities are increasing, the number of females in the computer science field is significantly lower than the number of males in the field. This male dominance can be observed in Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers. More girls take Advanced Placement exams, but males outnumber girls 4:1 in computer science exams. In 2014, no female from Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming took the AP Computer Science exam. This raises the question “Why are there so few females in this field?...Where my girls at?”
The percent of females in the United States that obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science increased from 1970 to 1984. However, after 1984, the percent of females who obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science declined from 37.1% to 17.6% in 2011.
Shockingly, one theory for this decline was the invention of the home computer. A study from 1985 claimed that computer games were designed to attract males, so males tended to spend more time on the computer. Eventually, the computer programmer began to be associated with a nerdy and introverted male outcast. This stereotype may deter women from joining the field. Of course, this is only one theory and there may be a lot of other reasons for the decline.
One way to increase the number of women in the field may be by introducing scientific inquiry and computer programing at a much younger age. This may help to decrease the disinterest, stereotypes, and fear associated with computer science.
Also, many women may be unaware of the multitude of jobs within the computer science field. It is a versatile field that can be applied in different STEM fields including healthcare, research, and engineering. Some jobs include Software Developer, Web Developer, and Information Security Analyst.
Additionally, the issue of gender discrimination can be found in any field. It occurs when a person is treated differently due to their gender as opposed to their merit. Gender discrimination may influence the “pay gap.” A recent study, conducted in 2012, stated that only 19% of women major in computer science, while 81% or males tended to major in that field. In the study’s analysis, they state “Our analysis finds that engineering, health care fields, and computer and information sciences are some of the best-paying majors for women one year after graduation.” Interestingly, the pay gap is less noticeable in the computer science field.
Another benefit of a tech jobs is that they may sometimes allow for a greater work/life balance since they sometimes permit “non-traditional” procedures. Some of those procedures may be working from home and flexible hours such as leaving once a project is completed. Companies like Facebook, Apple, SAS and Google also provide favorable parental leave after the birth of a newborn.
Hopefully, a snowball effect will occur as more females join the computer science field. There will be more representation within the field, which will encourage young women to major in computer science. A job in this particular field will seem less daunting, so young girls will feel more empowered to join this growing field.