Computer Science is an academic discipline which underpins most computing technology. At present, in Western countries, women represent a small minority of computer science graduates.
Overview and numbers
A 2008-2009 US-based survey found that only 12% of computer science graduates are women. The number of women in CS is shrinking, compared to around 40% in the 1980s.
The following articles show some of the main issues resulting from these low numbers of women in CS:
- In computer science, a growing gender gap (Boston Globe)
- Women in Computer Science (O'Reilly Radar)
- Wikipedia - Women in Computing
- Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research
- Women in Computer Science Academia
Numbers are higher in some other parts of the world. For instance, the figure of 52% of Malaysian CS grads being women is commonly cited. (See: In Malysia women are 52% of CS graduates. So what? on the Geek Feminism blog.
- The low numbers of women in CS can lead to them being ignored or treated as invisible, which compounds the feeling of not belonging.
- Women in CS may be held up as exceptional examples, and this special treatment adds pressure for women to represent their entire gender.
- Women entering computer science undergraduate and postgraduate education frequently do not have the previous exposure to computing tools that some of the male students will have due to strong encouragement from parents, teachers, etc not to spend all their free time (or any of it) messing around on computers.
Margolis and Fisher's Unlocking the Clubhouse describes a study and subsequent efforts to increase the number of women in CS at Carnegie Mellon University. Some of the methods they used to increase women's participation include:
- Promote CS by explaining how it is used in the real world, describing jobs that real people do with CS, etc, rather than treating it as a purely theoretical field
- Ensure that programming exercises used in class are not gendered (eg. don't expect students to understand the rules/scoring of football)
- ... (someone please fill this in?) ...
Other opinions on solutions include:
- Women in Science (Philip Greenspun on increasing women in academic careers)
- Links to many articles on the subject
- General/international/broad-based groups
- Local groups
For students of computer science and women in academia: