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Where the Ladies At? Fewer Girls Going Into Computer Science

The number of girls interested in computer science peaked in 1982. Yes, 26 years ago, before people even had computers at home. After a sharp decline, it held steady until 2000 and now it’s at an all-time low — back to where it began in the early ‘70s.

Why? That was the funny part of the New York Times article "What Has Driven Women Out of Computer Science." Nobody actually knows. But everybody speculates! Here’s what was said:

  • Before the male subculture of gaming, women felt more comfortable pursuing computer science.
  • The girls game movement of the '90s backfired: It made girls think computers were boy toys and girls didn’t play with computers.
  • Women went into web design so it all evens out. Nope. Web design and other “nontraditional” forms of computer science don't count to the people counting. The pay is less and the work is less influential on how computers are used.
  • The perception of being a “geek” or “nerd” that comes with majoring in computer science The theory? Girls don’t want to be that person. I know a geek who would disagree!

The one thing everyone can agree on is that the younger girls are when introduced to computers, the better. Expect to see video games for newborns soon!


imLissy imLissy 8 years
our CS department was 90% guys and I liked it that way :P Made it easier to find a job too.
geebers geebers 8 years
Interesting- my major was Comp Sci for two years in college but it was so programming focused rather than software design that I dropped it- that does not mean I don't like computers and don't enjoy fixing bugs myself. I think that nerds for females differ like someone said. Just because less women go into field doesn't mean they are not smart in other fields that men are less likely to go into (health policy and epidemiology come to mind).
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
well - i know several girls who are computer science types and i think that it's something that more girls should do. i'm not computer/tech savvy to the level that i would need if i wanted to pursue the field, but i think that there's something to be said about it. it's interesting to see how things evolve over time. how it was 'cooler' 20 years ago even to be in the field as a girl and now they are moving away from it. i think that it'll all come full circle though - just wait and see.
Meike Meike 8 years
"The perception of being a “geek” or “nerd” that comes with majoring in computer science The theory? Girls don’t want to be that person." That's pretty shallow...but I guess I know a few women who actually think that being called a nerd is derogatory. I remember talking about my hubby and referring to him as a 'nerd'. My friend then tries to correct me by telling me not to call him that because nerds are inadequate, socially-inept, awkward, etc. And, I refuted, "Uh no...Nerds have owned up to their label in a positive way. Times have changed. What era do you live in?" I don't see what is so wrong with being labeled a nerd/geek for pursuing a career in computer science. I would think the $100k+ salary and growing field would make enough people (girls in particular) ignore the image that comes with being regarded as CS/EE nerd. The people who think negatively of that image don't matter and aren't worth my time. My husband and I are respectively CSEE & CS graduates. Ultimately, I agree with zeze that male and females aren't created equal 'upstairs'. A lot of it may be genetic. A lot of it may be environmental. But whatever it is, general interests among men and women have always been different and there is no way to equalize it.
zeze zeze 8 years
I dont think it's the geek label, I think there is just some weird way we haven't discovered yet about how men and women think and what they like to do - for example women hate chemistry but dominate biology - women love some liberal arts - like Literature and Psychology, but are there is a considerable dip in the number of women in Political Science and (I'm not really sure about this one) philosophy. It may mean the shape of computer science has changed over the years and the new product does not appeal to most females. I don't really put much stock into women don't want to be geeky or that gaming made them think it is for boys - that stuff seems minimal when you are picking a career, i doubt if a woman is seriously into something she will walk away from it b/c it is for boys - it is computer science after all, it's not auto mechanic!
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 8 years
compared to being labeled a geek for studying entomology, physics or *cough* chemistry? Please. The "geek" stereotype is old news. Maybe computer science is just boring to some of us..? Seems like there isn't a shortage of computer science women here! I don't think our society should be striving for every profession to be an even 50/50 split. That's unrealistic. Let people pursue whatever they want, and if more men end up doing something than women, whatever! It's ok! It's totally fine so long as women still have the opportunity to pursue the careers available to the opposite sex -- if they want them. Let's take a look at how many RN's are men, shall we?
Colleeninator Colleeninator 8 years
I'm a Computer Science/English major (weird, I know). My school has a Women in Computer Sciences organization that puts a LOT of effort into getting young girls interested in computers. Computer Science has the lowest female enrollment in our school, and most of the girls of computer science are upset about that. Just cause geeksugar, myself and others like us are okay (in fact, happy) with being labeled as nerdy, that doesn't mean all women are. I think another thing causing this is simply the way computers are presented to women. A lot of the things computers are used for (especially gaming) are aimed more towards men. I don't mind. When you're one of 5 girls in a class, people tend to remember your name.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
My hubby is in IT school right now. Class of 24 No chicks.
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
Dream, are they cute?
dreamsugar dreamsugar 8 years
So that explains where there are so many men in my office.
cynthiasolc cynthiasolc 8 years
Wow, this is so sad! I'm 30 and I have a Masters in Computer Science and I love it! I love being a geeky girl who is really into programming. Each day brings a new adventure or problem to fix, it's never boring. I actually see being a girl in the field as an advantage. If you're a good programmer, you tend to stand out more in the crowd which often leads to more opportunities. I wish girls could see how much fun it is, and I'm not complaining about the $$$ either!
kranky kranky 8 years
I just looked up census info here, and the numbers hold steady between 1990 and 2000 that about 30% of computer programmers are women. The field is rapidly changing, but my guess would be that the introduction of the PC probably had a lot to do with the situation. Mainframe programming was a very different animal. When an occupation becomes more popular, it does tend to get polarized - meaning that in the 1970's a very few people got into the field, and those were the best of the best - be they women or men. These days 'computer science' could be anything from helpdesk to systems architects. I can't wait to see the 2010 census data!
margokhal margokhal 8 years
That's weird. I love computers (though I'm really hating programming, I don't like detail), and the research field I hope to go into is pretty much a psychology/sociology/computer science hybrid. Maybe more women are going into these new hybrid fields?
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