Women in Computer Science: Closing the Gender Divide

Women in Computer Science

There are few women in computer science, despite the fact that the computer science field boasts an array of rewarding employment opportunities. According to an article in the New York Times titled “Why So Few Women in Silicon Valley?” women now outnumber men in elite colleges, medical schools, law schools, and the overall workforce. Nevertheless, the gender gap continues to persist in computer science and information technology.

Some interesting findings pertaining to women in information technology were published in the 2007 National Center for Women & Information Scorecard (NCWIT). According to the report, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tracked the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science since the 1960s and found that the number of bachelor’s degrees in computer science that were awarded to women between 1985 and 2004 dropped from 37 percent to 25 percent. Furthermore, the NCWIT reports that women currently hold 56 percent of professional positions in the US workforce but hold only 27 percent of professional computer-related positions.

Why Are There So Few Women in Information Technology?

There are several social and environmental factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in information technology, and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in general. One finding in a report published by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that girls do better on math tests and are more likely to say they want to continue studying math in the future if parents and teachers encourage them by saying that their intelligence will expand with experience and learning.

Research has also shown that the stereotype that boys are better at math than girls lowers girls’ test performance. These negative stereotypes affect girls’ aspirations to pursue careers in computer science. However, the difference in test performance disappears when test administrators tell students that girls and boys are equally capable in math. This goes to show that learning environments have a significant impact on girls’ achievement in math.

Bias also limits the progress of women in computer science. Most people associate the humanities and arts with women and IT and computer science with men. Furthermore, women who work in “masculine” jobs like computer science are often considered less competent than men in the field, and if they’re successful on the job, they’re considered less likable. It’s important to raise awareness about bias, which is often unconscious, so people can make an effort to halt the thought processes that lead to it. It may also be helpful for women in information technology positions to learn how to counteract bias in the workplace.

Why More Women Ought to Obtain an Information Technology Degree

Getting an information technology degree has never been more convenient, owing to the variety of flexible degree programs available, from online computer science degree programs to part-time programs that offer classes on evenings and weekends. Information technology continues to be a great career choice in the United States, as it is well-paid and provides an abundance of job opportunities in both private business and government.

Another reason why more women ought to pursue a degree in information technology is that women are a dominant power in the information technology marketplace but are underrepresented in the creation of the very information technology products and services they consume. When President Barack Obama was senator, he said that locking women out of information technology is like having “one hand tied behind our competitive backs.”

The first step to increasing women’s participation in information technology is to dispel harmful stereotypes and biases. Additionally, if we continue to learn about why there is a lack of women in computer science and encourage women to pursue careers in computer science and IT, women are likely to play a more prominent role in the world of computing in years to come.