Fact: There aren’t enough female Computer Science graduates. Well under 15% of CS graduates are female. Even more troubling, female CS graduates declined between 2009-2010 and 2010-11 from 13.8% to 11.7% nationally. This is in stark contrast to the 1980’s, where up to 37.1% of CS degrees were awarded to women. What’s puzzling about this is, unlike in the 1980’s where access to a computer wasn’t terribly commonplace (apart from the TI-99 that a more well off family might own or the Apple II you might get time on at school), a majority of teens today have a computer in their pocket.
So why has there been such a decline in female CS students (and hence female software professionals)? Is it the ‘geek factor’–the idea that software professionals are introverts with little to no social skills that spend their days focused solely on a computer and shun social interaction? There is some evidence that introducing a team problem solving environment into coding challenges–such as the Windward Code War–can make computer science seem more compelling to prospective women programmers.
There is also evidence that university programs may be biased only toward ‘supergeeks’. Many university CS programs have had ‘weed out’ courses in the first year which tend to exclude students that are not already hardcore. Certain schools are moving to change that–and seeing promising initial results.
So, tech industry readers: Talk back. What have you seen/experienced? How can we get more women interested in technology careers?