Women Need to Fall in Love With Computer Science ASAP
Last month, Google revealed, for the first time ever, just how big the company’s gender gap is. Only 30 percent of Google’s overall employees are women and when looking specifically at tech-related jobs, the number drops to 17 percent. As it turns out, Google isn’t the only tech company with alarmingly low numbers of women.
(Photo Credit: Luiza Ferreira/Flickr)
It’s proven to be an industry-wide problem. Statistics on gender from other popular tech companies are even more dramatic than Google’s. For example, at Mozilla, only 8.6 percent of engineers are women. To Google’s credit, they did have the courage to openly share their numbers on gender and race, whereas some of the other big companies, like Facebook, still haven’t gone public with that information. Click here to view Google’s company profile.
(Image Credit: PBS Newshour)
According to PBS contributor Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and Stanford academic with an interest in Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity, the low number of females working in technology can be attributed to the way jobs are described and the atmosphere projected in the hiring process.
Wadhwa writes, “A common problem in Silicon Valley is that interviewers for technology jobs are usually young men, and that the job specifications are geared towards finding young nerds. The hiring process is like recruitment into a fraternity.”
The technology gender gap currently traces itself all the way down to high schools, where last year, just under 19 percent of students taking AP Computer Science were girls. College data on females in computer science is equally disheartening. In 1984, women represented 37 percent of all computer science graduates. Today, they represent only 12 percent.
(Image Credit: Exploring Computer Science)
The reasons given for the lack of females pursuing computer science in high school and college are much the same as those given for the lack of women in the industry itself. Computer science has never branded itself towards women.
In an interview with U.S. World & News Report, Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, says “Research shows that teenage girls think that disciplines involving programming and hardware like CS and EE are boring, that they won’t do well in these courses, and the majors are mostly geeky guys with no social life.”
Under Klawe’s leadership, Harvey Mudd College has been working to reinvent the way it presents computer science to make it more fun, less intimidating, and to show that “lots of kinds of people have careers in CS,” in hopes of attracting more females to the program. In the past six years, the school has quadrupled the number of females graduating with computer science degrees.
Women interested in pursuing a computer science degree can use the Payscale College Selector to find a ranking of colleges offering those degrees.
Last week, in response to its large gender gap, Google announced a new initiative called Made With Code, which will work to promote coding skills to high school girls. The program includes partnerships with Chelsea Clinton, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of the USA, The Office star Mindy Kaling, MIT Media Lab, and more.
Initiatives and programs to change the way computer science approaches women and the way women view computer science can’t come fast enough. By 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates there will be more than 1.4 million computer-related job openings. At current rates, only about 30 percent can be filled with U.S. computer science graduates.
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Tavia Tindall is a freelance writer and elementary educator who really does tell tales out of school. Her experiences working in the fields of law, medicine, and education have provided her with an endless supply of real life anecdotes and insights to keep her writing about the workplace for all of eternity. To maximise use of her journalism degree, she also spins yarns about food and travel on her personal blog and other social media. These dalliances with the digital revolution will, however, NEVER force her to break up with No. 2 pencils, felt tip pens, and steno pads.