As businesses and universities are beginning to make important progress towards involving more women in in science, engineering, and mathematics fields, one problem is stubbornly persisting: the lack of women in computer science and technology. As a study by the National Science Foundation shows, the number of women receiving bachelors degrees has went up in all other STEM fields since 2002 besides computer science. And while the number has decreased in computer science degrees for women, the numbers of men studying computer science has risen.
In total, women earn around 18% of undergraduate degrees awarded for computer science. As the New York Times wrote: “Computer science actually is more male-dominated today than it was two decades ago: Women received 29.6 percent of computer science B.A.’s in 1991, compared with 18.2 percent in 2010.” Even more alarming is the fact that minority women only attained 4.8% of these bachelor’s degrees in computer sciences. So why are we advancing in these other fields when we seem to be going backwards with women across the board in computer science?
While there are many theories on why this underrepresentation persists, many believe that the lack of women in computer science is the result of societal conditioning that may start as young as elementary school. As this generation approaches a technology driven world, it is essential that teachers, family, friends, and peers, make it clear to girls early on that they are capable of studying and pursuing a successful career in computer science. Whether it is enrolling in a coding class, creating graphics for a school event, or simply understanding how the gadgets around them function, creating an environment where young girls and women feel welcome and capable of joining in the industry is key.
The reality is that technology is currently a central influencer in the workforce and around the globe and we need all hands on deck. Having women’s skill set and hard work in the development of computer technologies not only encourages a better democracy, but a greater future impact. We need to support young girls to envision themselves as tech leaders and college women to pursue computer science degrees. We need more women in the technology businesses and startups and for those women to strive to be CEO’s and CIO’s. We need to realize the pressing need of fostering gender equality and break these stubborn paradigms enforcing the underrepresentation of women in tech.
As Saadia Zahid, Senior Director and Head of Gender Parity at the World Economic Forum wrote: “Women make up one-half of any nation’s human capital, and when half of the population faces obstacles to achieving their full potential, there is an immense waste of talent and subsequent losses in competitiveness.”
Amongst top tech employers such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Apple, around 70% of the workforce is male. This needs to change. If we are not utilizing women and girls valuable potential and talent in the computer science industry, we are not only missing out on a vital opportunity, but we are missing out on creating a better world.
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