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Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today. What went wrong?

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Replies to: Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today. What went wrong?

  • comptechmomcomptechmom Registered User Posts: 87 Junior Member
    edited March 14
    @Rivet2000 I actually disliked the 60 minutes article and was not a fan watching it on tv. I'll explain.

    I'm a woman - BSCE (87) MSCS (90) and D: BSChemE (soon) and S: CS major and from a line of other CS majors in the family (dad, grandfather).

    What struck me as odd with the 60 minutes article was the failure to recognize what has really caused what the industry is seeing? Why are girls not pursuing CS degrees? And to understand that means you have to do some research. Interviewing a company like Microsoft isn't going to shed light on the problem of 'what really happened'. Microsoft has a very specific agenda it pushes for very specific purposes. So let's travel back in time 18 years....

    We had an enormous technical downturn that started end of 2000 with massive multiple layoffs and dot.coms going belly up throwing thousands of technical workers out of work all at the same time. Job interviews were few and far between. The number of actual positions available was ridiculous. Companies weren't hiring. They were hoarding their money and not opening any recs. Unemployment was rapidly increasing and they were actually extending unemployment since so many were out of work. Contract positions were popping up but pay was half of what salaries were. Developers were changing jobs and getting out of tech careers. I was in that downturn just coming back from maternity leave. Interviewing for any opening was one of the worse experiences in my life.

    So how many of these people do you think - decided to encourage their kids growing up to go into the very industry that kicked their mommy or daddy out when they were young? I specifically told my own daughter to NOT go into the CS industry.

    For those women who did decide to stick with CS - Why aren't we seeing more women in the workplace?
    Because the very industry that NOW wants them - did nothing to retain them. The industry actually caused their own problems.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4279242/

    I had a good friend who told me when he was a hiring manager (software development) he would typically come across major differences in pay to the point where raising the woman's salary by 20% wasn't even enough.

    So when you consider the very big picture - that 60 minute piece was really just some self serving Microsoft media piece. It never discussed the 'REAL' issue. It can't. It doesn't want to scare girls away.

    I asked my daughter this very question:
    If I get up in front of a classroom of high school girls (going for STEM) and tell them everything they will have to do during high school, the college application process and maintaining a high gpa in college, and what it takes to find an internship and the job interview process and the entire day written test whiteboard problems - what percentage of girls will wish to do this? She said I would scare them all away.

    The best of the best are getting the internships.
    The best of the best are getting the job interviews and offers.
    **Only a small few at each college can be the best of the best.

    While our college engineering/stem classes are 40% women - we are seeing only 10% at internships and at job interviews being called in. I can still remember my daughter saying only 6 girls out of 60 mom.






  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    edited March 14
    The best of the best are getting the job interviews and offers.
    **Only a small few at each college can be the best of the best.

    While our college engineering/stem classes are 40% women - we are seeing only 10% at internships and at job interviews being called in. I can still remember my daughter saying only 6 girls out of 60 mom.
    Based on previous posts, I'm guessing you are talking about UT Austin. After graduation, 90% of UT Austin CS majors report either finding immediate employment or attending grad school. The employment for the most part was in quality, higher salary jobs. According to the most recent public salary survey, CS was the 3rd highest median salary major at UT Austin. It has likely moved up to at least 2nd since then, now that petroleum engineering is not as hot.

    According to BLS statistics, the national unemployment rate for software developers (the closest grouping they have to CS) is under 2% due to a high demand compared to the number of positions. They project a 24 to 31% increase in available software developer positions over the next decade. This low unemployment rate and large number of quality jobs in relationship to graduates has contributed to US News ranking software developer #1 on their 2019 best jobs list -- https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/software-developer .

    From personal experience, I know many people (both men and women) working in quality CS jobs who were by no means "the best of the best" during college. Many were more mediocre students at a directional state type college who got some C's in relevant courses, but did well enough to exceed 3.0 GPA type resume filters.
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    @comptechmom I had two take-aways from the 60 Minutes piece that seem reasonable. First is that there are concerted efforts at many levels to get girls interested in STEM. Second is that there is demand. Maybe the demand part needs more discussion.

    It appears that (at least) Microsoft is actively looking for female talent, but I can extend that by experience to at least two companies: my ex-place of work (retired now) and my wife's. Both are Fortune 50 tech companies. Both companies actively seek female tech talent, and both have had fairly good success in hiring, and are working hard to retain that talent.

    The intern front is interesting to me because it can be very competitive. If you look at some of the most desirable CS internships the acceptance rates are in the low single digits, so students applying to those companies are competing against the best students from every college. That said, if you look at the intern classes at these companies they appear very diverse and girls appear to be well represented. Additionally, since the number of full time positions is greater that the number of intern spots, the prospects for full time hires should be better.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,602 Senior Member
    edited March 14
    I asked my daughter this very question:
    If I get up in front of a classroom of high school girls (going for STEM) and tell them everything they will have to do during high school, the college application process and maintaining a high gpa in college, and what it takes to find an internship and the job interview process and the entire day written test whiteboard problems - what percentage of girls will wish to do this? She said I would scare them all away.
    Why doesn't it scare the boys away? I get there was a huge downturn in 2000, but why would the boys come back and not the girls, or why would the boys continue to major in CS and the girls wouldn't?

    I only have boys, so I don't know that much about the supposed psyches of girls. My boy was 11 in 2000 and it never occurred to us to tell him to look for another field. And I had two brothers in the field and I knew they were feeling the pinch. It never occurred to me not to be an architect because it was a traditionally male field. If anything, that made me more eager to change the numbers.
  • comptechmomcomptechmom Registered User Posts: 87 Junior Member
    @Rivet2000 I believe there are many pieces to this large puzzle and all of these pieces are at different points in the process. So my take away from the 60 minutes piece was it was looking at one small piece.

    Here is an interesting read including the comments:
    https://danwang.co/why-so-few-computer-science-majors/

    The real question that should be asked is why do we have significantly more females interested in engineering and science vs being interested in CS? The 60 minute piece would have me believe the reason is to get more female children interested in coding at an earlier age. Perhaps there are other 'pieces of the puzzle' in the entire process to better explain what is really happening.
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    @comptechmom Interesting article, but I'm not sure it provided any more insight other than to identify multiple dimensions to consider. I really value the feedback from posters that have girls currently enrolled in CS (our D currently in high school). What are the top three issues of concern?
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    edited March 14
    The real question that should be asked is why do we have significantly more females interested in engineering and science vs being interested in CS?
    Specific rates of % female in STEM majors below. There is little difference in % female between engineering (22%) and CS (19%). Physics (21%) is also similar to engineering and CS. The larger difference more relates to biological (61%) and pre-med type majors, which have much higher % female than both CS and engineering. Women are over-represented in biology. Women are also well represented among med school applicants. 50% of med school applicants and 52% of matriculants were women in 2018-19.

    2017 Bachelor Degrees Conferred: Total
    CS -- 19% women
    Physics -- 21% Women
    Engineering -- 22% Women
    Earth Sciences -- 39% Women
    Math and Stats -- 41% women
    Chemistry -- 49% Women
    Biology -- 61% women

    It's not simply a matter of more quantitative vs less quantitative, as women also have decent representation in mathematics (41%), nor is a matter of women avoiding applied STEM, as women have a higher representation in applied math than theoretical. I also don't think it's simply a matter of stiffer competition and selection, as med school admission is probably more competitive and selective than both CS and engineering. Instead I expect that there is not a simple answer and are a variety of contributing factors, which have been well discussed in this thread.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    edited March 14
    Expanding on my earlier post, a more comprehensive list of how CS female percentage compares to other stem feilds is below. The CS % is lower because it separates CS (17% women) from Information Science (25% women).

    2017 Bachelor Degrees Conferred: STEM Fields
    Computer Engineering -- 11% Women
    Engineering Technologies -- 13% Women
    Aerospace Engineering -- 14% Women
    Electrical Engineering -- 14% Women
    Mechanical Engineering -- 14% Women
    Computer Science -- 17% Women
    Petroleum Engineering -- 17% Women
    Information Tech. -- 18% Women
    Physics -- 20% Women
    Engineering (+Eng Tech): Overall -- 20% Women
    Civil Engineering -- 24% Women
    Information Science -- 25% Women
    Chemical Engineering -- 33% Women
    Industrial Engineering -- 33% Women
    Geology / Earth Sciences -- 38% Women
    Mathematics -- 42% women
    Bio / Biomedical Eng -- 44% Women
    Statistics -- 45% Women
    Chemistry -- 49% Women
    Biochemistry -- 51% Women
    Environmental Science -- 51% Women
    Environmental Engineering -- 51% Women
    Cell Biology -- 56% Women
    Microbiology -- 57% Women
    Biomedical Sciences -- 61% Women
    Biology: General -- 63% Women
    Neuroscience -- 63% Women
    Marine Biology -- 70% Women
    Zoology -- 71% Women
    Animal Sciences -- 81% Women
    Health Professions (Overall) -- 84% Women
    Nursing -- 87% Women
    Nursing Science -- 89% Women

    Instead of tech fields, women were most likely to major in the following general fields. Nursing in particular seems to be popular. Comparing nursing and CS, they are both vocational STEM fields that likely have excellent career prospects and high starting salaries. If fewer women were in nursing, I expect some of those would be nurses would choose other STEM fields including CS instead.

    2017 Bachelor Degrees Conferred: Largest Portion of Women
    Health Professions: Overall -- 18% of degrees, field is 84% female
    Business: Overall -- 16% of degrees, field is 47% female
    Psychology: Overall -- 8% of degrees, field is 78% female
    Social Sciences: Overall -- 7% of degrees, field is 50% female
    Biology: Overall -- 6% of degrees, field is 61% female
    Communication: Overall -- 6% of degrees, field is 64% female
    Education: Overall -- 6% of degrees, field is 81% female
    Visual and Performing Arts -- 5% of degrees, field is 61% female
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    @Data10 Very interesting. Our D (Freshman HS) is certainly supporting this trend in her desire to pursue medicine. My W and I are baffled but supportive.
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    @mwolf showed your post to my tech mate who suggests you edit your script to: "Some Women" because while she agrees that she has encountered "some" misogyny and minor harassment it was nothing that would stop her from pursuing what she loves.
  • yikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikes Forum Champion U. Michigan Posts: 1,843 Forum Champion
    edited March 14
    Current senior here who has interned in software engineering roles, is becoming a SDE full-time after graduation, and has many close friends and family in the industry at various career levels.

    Widespread misogyny is prominent and sexual/gender-based harassment are real issues and pervasive in software engineering. I have seen it everywhere I have worked (internships, part-time work), and have yet to come across an organization of more than 15 people where it is not a serious issue. It is also present in our classes (at Michigan, course-wide emails have been sent out about males sexually harassing females during CS office hours).. Sometimes the misogyny comes from professors themselves. I remember a professor completing shutting down and belittling a woman asking a completely valid question in one of my intro CS classes. This was a lecture hall with probably 200-300 students. Women are socialized out of CS, and that is a fact backed up by empirical research data and from what I have seen first-hand.

    There is A LOT of work to be done towards realizing equity in the two industries have I had significant junior-level exposure to (finance and technology).
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    I guess different people just have different experiences. Good that you are entering full time as an SDE. Maybe you'll be part of the solution. Perhaps you should also consider lodging complaints against your faculty to make it easier to the students that follow you. Michigan? Wow, would not have thought that.
  • MWolfMWolf Registered User Posts: 546 Member
    edited March 14
    @Rivet2000 It's based on my wife's almost 30 years in CS/engineering, as an undergrad, grad, postdoc, professional, and faculty member. She's been active in Women in Computer Science for about 25 of those years.
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    @MWolf See #269
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