Closing The Gender Gap In Computer Science


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The days of male dominance in Computer Science are over

Some background on Computer Science education:

1944: IBM worked with Howard Aiken, a professor at Harvard University, to design and build the first running programmable computer, the Harvard Mark I, which was installed at the university in 1944.
Aiken set up a computing lab at Harvard and in 1947, established a degree program there.

1953: Maurice Wilkes, director of the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge University in Britain, established a computer degree program in 1953.

The first Department of Computer Sciences in the United States was established at Purdue University in October 1962.

As recently as 1985, 37 percent of graduates in computer science were women
By 2005 it was down to 22 percent.

The number of computer-science graduates stayed relatively flat from 1985 to 2010, at more than 39,000, while the number of women earning degrees in the field plummeted, from 14,431 to 7,306.

WOW: In 2010: 18 percent of students in computer science were women, a 50 percent drop from 1985. Contrast that with this: Women earn 57 % of graduate degrees overall.
Emblematic of the problem: Women earned only 8 percent of computer-science degrees awarded by Georgia Tech in 2012.

Why the gender gap?

1. The nerd factor is huge. According to a 2005 report by the National Center for Women and Information Technology, when high school girls think of computer scientists they think of geeks, pocket protectors, isolated cubicles and a lifetime of staring into a screen writing computer code.
2. This image discourages members of both sexes, but the problem seems to be more prevalent among women.

But there has been a turnaround:

1. 520,700 women in 2013 work in computer systems design and related services. That’s 42 % more than 2003 workforce U.S. Labor Department statistics.
2. Women entrepreneurs are launching tech businesses at 1.5 times the national average.
3. At Carnegie Mellon, the percentage of incoming women enrolled in the computer science program has been rising since 2008, and is at 32 percent.
4. M.I.T.’s figure is 30 percent.
5. The University of California, Berkeley, and a few other universities have also redesigned their computer science courses to be less intimidating.
6. Stanford is also working to make computer science more attractive to women. In 2012,  just under 21 percent of undergraduate CS majors, the school’s most popular major, are women. The school’s goal is 50-50, men to women in CS.
Experts on the gender gap in computer science believe a multi-pronged strategy is needed to close it. The tactics would include the following:

More-diverse programming activities, to seize the interest of middle-school girls, in the same way that role-playing video games are embraced by boys.
A revamped introductory course, whether taken in college or as an Advanced Placement course in high school, to provide a broad overview of the real-world applications of computer science.
Early exposure to research projects during the first year of college
Opportunities for undergraduates to interact with women who have enjoyed successful careers in technology.

Why CS Needs More Women

Technology companies with more women in management positions have a 34% higher return on investments.
Superstar Women in Computer Science

Jean E. Sammet (born in 1928): a mathematician and computer scientist; developed FORMAC programming language. She spent 27 years at IBM where she developed FORMAC, the first widely used computer language for symbolic manipulation of mathematical formulas. She was also a member of the subcommittee which created COBOL.
Marissa Ann Mayer is President and CEO of Yahoo! Previously, she was a long-time executive and key spokesperson for Google.

Ginni Rometty: Tapped to be IBM’s president and CEO in October  2011, becoming the first female chief executive in the company’s 100-year history.

Sheryl Kara Sandberg,  as of August 2013, is the chief operating officer of Facebook.
Diane Bryant:  Intel’s vice president and general manager of the Datacenter and Connected Systems Group. One of her roles in this position is overseeing the product development for the company’s “cloud server infrastructure,” Intel says.

Margaret Cushing “Meg” Whitman is president and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard
Carly Fiorina was a chairman of the board of Hewlett-Packard from 2000-2005 and CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999-2005.
Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology & Strategy Officer at Cisco Systems: “I always tell women to use the fact that we offer a different point of view in a room full of men to their advantage”

Shona Brown: Senior vice president of, which is the tech giant’s charitable group. Prior to holding this position Brown helped build the business operations at Google.

Anita Borg founded the Institute for Women in Technology. [She died in 2003]  
Kristin Titus, executive director of Girls Who Code, is leading the movement to close the gender gap in technology
Heather Payne, founder of Ladies Learning Code

Kimberly Bryant founded Black Girls CODE in 2011, an organization which aims to  “introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures.”


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