The fields of computer science and information technology (IT) have traditionally attracted a predominantly male audience, but recent reports have shown that these trends are shifting, with a notable increase of female students choosing these academic routes. Having more female representatives in the fields of computer science and IT studies will provide a more diverse workforce that will ultimately lead to varying perspectives and skills. In addition to greater mental diversity, a higher female population of these professionals can help dispel stereotypes regarding gender roles in the workforce.
Bridging the Computer Science Gender Gap in Higher Education
In 2005, one academic institution featured a student body of 750 students, one-third of them female. Despite this substantial representation, the percentage of women graduating with a computer science degree hovered around the single digits for years. In an attempt to improve the rate of female computer science graduates, the president of the college collaborated with her faculty to make the program more appealing. As a result of this endeavor, an outstanding 40 percent of computer science degrees awarded from the school this year will go to women graduates.
Although this success is certainly worth recognizing, this influx is more of an outlier when compared with other institutions across the country. However, though the increase of women majoring in computer science and IT may not be dramatic, there is a gradual increase of women in these fields that is worth pointing out.
Factors Contributing to Greater Female Interest in Computer Science
Academic programs and faculty outreach to students have made a tremendous impression on the attractiveness of computer science and IT programs, but the greatest influence on increased female interest in these majors is happening on a much larger scale. With the growth of technology and with more students interacting with modern devices on a daily basis, these formerly intimidating academic concentrations now seem within reach.
According to the New York Times, companies like Facebook, Yelp and Zynga have put coding and computer science in the spotlight. These social networking tools, along with the proliferation of electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers, have worked together to make computer science and IT “hip” for many young students today. Cultural sensations such as “The Social Network” have also increased general public interest in computer programming, which likewise has an influence on female college students.
The Future of Women in Computer Science
The trends witnessed thus far, though gradual, lend themselves to a greater outlook for the future of female representation in IT fields. A greater female population in these fields will lead to more diverse thinking and a more all-encompassing approach to solving the problems that affect the industry today. And more women choosing these fields sets an example for upcoming female college students, who may have felt intimidated by the previously predominant male workforce in these fields.
With a greater representation of women, the industry can enjoy a more balanced workforce than it has in the past. As a result, the development of computer science and information technology can occur at an even more rapid pace than it has enjoyed thus far.