Saturday, November 22, 2008

Women and Computer Science

The NY Times ( reported this week on the noted decline of woman in computer science in recent years. As the graph in the right indicates, interest in CS for female college freshman has dropped from 4.2 to 0.3 since 1982. Recent trends are no better. "In 2001-2, only 28 percent of all undergraduate degrees in computer science went to women. By 2004-5, the number had declined to only 22 percent. ... at research universities like M.I.T.: women accounted for only 12 percent of undergraduate degrees in computer science and engineering."

The article goes on to point out that there is a little agreement as to the cause of the decline and therefore little agreement on how to reverse the trend.


Anonymous said...

re: Widening Gap graph provided, perhaps one place to begin asking these questions today would be in high school. For those of us with daughters esp. in public schools rather than private schools, this is an obvious answer. What are the freshman admission requirements in terms of math and science units and other requirements on standardized tests and then take a look at the City of Pittsburgh's PSSA (Pennsylvania State Student Assessment Scores) for Math--how are elementary and secondary schools failing both female and male young people today, even before getting to college doors? There have been some improvements, but across the board there are many other issues at work in public education.

Anonymous said...

my correction on the PSSA acronym is for Pennsylvania System of School Assessment , not Pennsylvania State Student Assessment.

Anonymous said...

Reversing trends?

2 recent projects and reports of further interest -

while not specifically addressing "computer science" however overarching Science, technology & engineering fields. Perhaps also the field of computer science has become less interesting to women for known economic outlook (jobs?) yet women have had a very high percentage of computer users as business entrepreneurs etc

Another thought: What do the stats look like at SIS for women in academic programs across the board? How long does it take them to graduate, how much support do they receive, what are their ages and where do they come from ? Has any assessment been done on this? How many women faculty are present as mentors ?

Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering
September 18, 2006

Running Time: 00:54:36Format: -0- (Requires free RealPlayer)

Webcast archive link at:

Eliminating gender bias in universities requires immediate overarching reform, as well as decisive action by university administrators, professional societies, government agencies, and Congress, says a new report from the National Academies. Women face barriers to hiring and promotion in research universities in many fields of science and engineering a situation that deprives the United States of an important source of talent.

Related Resources:
News ReleaseFull Report

DONNA SHALALA (committee chair), president, University of Miami, and former secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ANA MARI CAUCE, executive vice provost, Earl R. Carlson Professor of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle MARIA ZUBER, head of the department of Earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge


National Girls Collaborative Project
Advancing the Agenda in Gender Equity
for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Jon DMC Walker said...

Actually I think the article's author mentioned video games as the main reason for 'boys' going into CS and 'girls' staying out.

Anonymous said...

"Actually I think the article's author mentioned video games as the main reason for 'boys' going into CS and 'girls' staying out. "

Do people believe this to be true?
For those with daughters , and teen librarians at public libraries, how many young girls and teens are regular gamers too ?

I think this is a common image some might have, like of everything else.

Anonymous said...

What's also interesting is that the author of the NY Times piece, Randall Stross, is also the

author of a book entitled "E Boys: the first account of venture capitalists at work" 2001- !

Anonymous said...

on the same discussion of student science scores as early as 4th grade on standardized testing ...(not necessarily the best assessment either but...) by 11th grade it starts to really decrease among a growing number of high school students.

in todays news: Dec. 10, 2008

"Science not the best subject for American students "

"Wednesday, December 10, 2008
By Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"
"On a day when American students learned their science scores on an international test were flat, Pennsylvanians got results of a statewide test that showed more than four in 10 students are not proficient in science. "

"Yesterday was a big science day with the releases of the 2007 math and science results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study -- known as TIMSS -- and the science results of the spring Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA. "

"While Pennsylvania has tested reading, math and writing for many years, these latest PSSA scores are the first statewide science results. The tests were given in grades four, eight and 11. "