Despite gains in the early 1980s, the number of women in the computer science field has been in a free-fall for decades. Today’s successful women graduates often pursue careers in fields that were once male-dominated. However, computer science remains a field with few women. As early as the 1990s, researchers recognized that women weren’t entering computer science and that some programs were even seeing a decrease of females enrolled in university programs.

The Numbers Show Declining Female Involvement

A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggests that only 13% of computer science PhDs went to women. Factors influencing the lack of female participation in computer science programs were listed as:

  • Methods used to raise boys versus girls
  • Workplace biases
  • Lingering stereotypes of females in “masculine” industries, like engineering
  • Problems that occur in a work environment dominated by one gender

Although that report was created over two decades ago, those issues remain valid today since the number of female computer scientists has all but stagnated. Recent numbers suggest that only 23.5% of Stanford computer science graduates are female and that UC Berkeley has only 16.2% female graduates in computer science.

Incredibly the numbers used to be much higher in the 1980s and over the past 30 years have tumbled incredibly fast, despite other industries showcasing strong female numbers. About 37% of computer science graduates in 1984 were female. As of 2011, further statistics revealed that number had dropped to 17.6%.

Oddly, women have seen their numbers reach equality or improve significantly in the past several decades in many other technical, science, and math-related fields. Unfortunately, computer science has remained an industry with few women.

Reasons for the Drop in Female Computer Scientists

There is little agreement regarding why fewer women have decided to become computer scientists, but there are some popular theories. One suggestion is that women aren’t taught from an early age that they can succeed in science or technology. Their early childhood learning isn’t as technical as that of their male counterparts and so they grow up with a preconceived notion that science and technology are for men.

With this opinion formed early in life, women must then overcome a notion that should never have been implanted in the first place. Instead of asking women to believe that they can do anything a man can do, they should be taught when they’re young that there’s no reason to overcome anything in the first place because everyone is equal and they are fully capable of pursuing a computer science degree and career.

Solutions to Equalize Gender Participation

One solution to improve the participation of women in computer sciences is through the encouragement of personalities and talents in women that demonstrate interest in technology at an early age. An early interest in subjects like math and music, as well as the tendency to analyze situations and objects may indicate a girl’s natural talents in technology that need to be encouraged in grammar school.

Only time will tell whether efforts to improve female participation in technology and computer science will improve in the next decade, but it’s clear that efforts must be made while women are young to encourage participation in computer science. Improving the number of women in the computer science field is a project that hopefully will see more women entering important management and executive positions in technology.

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