Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.

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

13468919

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

  • pittsburghscribepittsburghscribe Registered User Posts: 457 Member
    There is definitely sexism, but beyond that career goals have to play a part. Look at the rise in women going into biomedical engineering. It's certainly not because the degree seems easier or less STEM like in some fashion. It's because females tend to be more attracted to careers where they feel that they are helping others. And men more attracted to prestige and money. Overly generalized and simplistic I know, but definitely plays a role.
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 2,495 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    This thread is getting off on a tangent. Most CS grads don't end up working at FAANG in product dev positions. Most non-CS grads don't become an equity partner in big law or a managing director in IB.
  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 Registered User Posts: 2,996 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    The salaries listed a few posts above are way off kilter, even in Silicon Valley. Those might be the most senior person at most places, but not averages.
  • kiddiekiddie Registered User Posts: 3,383 Senior Member
    Chess and engineering have always been all male and that isn't going to change. Was the rise in women in CS in the 80s a blip or did something turn it around and if so what? That is what this article and thread is about.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 75,426 Senior Member
    oldfort wrote:
    First year law associate is at $190 and $350 for 8th year plus token bonus.
    IB after 5-7 years is 250K+ base and 500K+ all in
    anesthesiologist is at 350K

    However, those career paths are much less accessible and much more elitist in general. So a student who does not get into the dozen or so targets (undergraduate for IB/MC, law school for big law) or get through the gauntlet of pre-med is not going in those directions. Also, the law and medical school paths involve enormous debt unless the student has a wealthy generous family.

    CS has fewer of these types of elitist barriers to entry.
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 1,385 Senior Member
    ^ And the I-banking numbers seem low - at least at bulge bracket places - even 20 years ago. But who cares? As someone pointed out, we are talking about only a small subset of students who have a legitimate chance at these sorts of positions.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,783 Senior Member
    Not everyone just looks for the job that makes the most money. My son at Google with stock options makes almost twice what dh makes in academia. He has never had to work overtime either, unlike dh who pretty much works all the time. But as oldfort points out most CS majors aren't working for the big names.

    Most of the lawyers I know do wills and real estate closings. They live comfortable lives, but they aren't making big bucks.

    I think we have to change things at all levels. When my kids played chess most teams were mostly boys except at one elementary school where the teachers in charge of that chess team were women. They had lots of girls and they did very well in competitions.

    The NYT article talks about how Dads would learn computer programming with their sons, but much less so with their daughters. The point of the article was that in the 1950s women were pioneers in programming. It was assumed they'd be good at it because it was like knitting or reading a recipe. Then in the mid 1980s it became a boy thing to do. I think it may have happened sooner than that. I graduated from college in 1978 and knew a lot of Applied Math majors (which was where the CS courses were housed). I can only remember one woman.
  • cfsnowycfsnowy Registered User Posts: 116 Junior Member
    There was a time when women in technical fields heard, "software is for women; hardware is for men." I'd like to think at least some women are no longer limited to software and are indeed working in those hardware "mens" jobs.
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 822 Member
    Very interesting thread. I'm not sure how we can get more girls interested CS. There are quite a few programs out there that are specifically designed to get more girls into STEM and specifically CS. In our own experience (both parents in tech: Me MSCS wife MSEE) we have not seen anything in schools to discourage girls. If anything it seems like the schools actively advocate for girls in STEM. I wonder if social pressure from other girls may actually be a factor. Also, the draw to medicine/pre-med seems very strong with or D (HS freshman) and her friends. But that may change as she moves through HS.
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 1,385 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    I wonder if social pressure from other girls may actually be a factor.
    Bingo. This is exactly what we've seen. Talented girls in middle school succumb to social pressure not to hang out with the "geeks" in the math club, and they are totally gone from the club by high school. Personally, I do not think anything can change this dynamic. Perhaps single sex schools at the high school level should be considered by parents concerned that their daughter might be susceptible, because there WILL be social pressure.
  • MSNDISMSNDIS Registered User Posts: 244 Junior Member
    I asked my D about her thoughts on this. She took AP Calc AB, BC/multivariable, and CS in high school. She and her friends had to get enough student signatures to force the school to have an AP CS class senior year. Her best friends were male (she did have some female friends but more male friends) so being in mostly male classes didn't bother her too much.

    She didn't enjoy being in Algebra 2 as a freshman though because one senior male, in particular, picked on her and the handful of other freshmen in the class. The teacher used to post test scores on the wall (using student numbers, and I assume grade levels) which I think is insensitive. A few months into the school year, after a test, the disgruntled senior asked the teacher why all the top test scores were from freshmen and she responded that they were smarter than he was (very mean) and that finally got him to stop being a jerk (at least to my daughter's face).

    All her math teachers in high school were female, as were all but one of her math teachers in elementary through 7th grade. She was put in advanced math in 4th grade. So she had wonderful female role models. She had a spectacular male geometry teacher in 8th grade who was also a great artist and very knowledgeable in many subjects. He taught them math concepts that my older daughter learned in college.

    She participated in Knowledge Bowl, DECA and a national economics challenge so she was used to competition. She also played sports. She liked video games but she didn't spend hours daily playing them.

    She didn't major in CS because she realized in college that she didn't enjoy programming enough to make that her career. She switched to systems engineering which allowed her to also take econ and business classes in addition to math, science and engineering classes. She did complain about a few misogynistic males in some of her college engineering classes but she was able to tolerate them. She is having a tough time getting a good job in her field though. CS would probably have been easier.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,776 Senior Member
    edited February 17
    The salaries listed a few posts above are way off kilter, even in Silicon Valley. Those might be the most senior person at most places, but not averages.
    The posted salaries are from Glassdoor, which is a website for employees to compare salaries at different companies. The specific numbers are similar to salary reports in post graduate college surveys for the listed companies. The numbers also are divided by job title, which is closely correlated with experience. For example Software Engineer II are mostly new grads with little experience. They are not "the most senior person."

    One might assume a sample bias, in that persons with higher salaries are more likely to appear on Glassdoor than persons with lower salaries. If you look at 25th percentile instead of average, then salary generally decreases by roughly 15%, so one might apply a 10% decrease as attempt to compensate for sample bias. I listed the full reported salary range for Google below, which includes the extreme outliers. There are a few outliers with as much as 40% decrease below the average, and there are also a few outliers with as high as 7-figure salaries after bonuses and stocks.

    Lower Job Title Levels -- Small sample Size
    Software Eng, II -- $89k to $155k -- Ave, = $111k base + 18k bonus + $22k stock +...., Max = ~$300k
    Software Eng, III - $76k to $184k -- Ave, = $132k base + $22k bonus + $40k stock + ..., Max = ~$800k
    Senior Software Eng, -- $101k to $236k -- Ave. = $165k base + $31k bonus + $80k stock... , Max = ~$1.4 million
    Staff Software Eng. -- $153k to $253k -- Ave. = $203k base + $50k bonus + $172k stock +.., Max = ~$2 million
    Senior Staff Software Eng. -- $185k to $260k -- Ave. = $250k base + $70k bonus + $300k stock +..
    Higher Job Title Levels -- Small sample Size
    The numbers Data10 showed for CS are Google numbers. How many people work at Google/FB. I would say most CS software engineers work at insurance, retailer, banking, etc and their pays are a lot lower than Google and they do not get stocks or much bonus.
    Google is one of the 2 largest tech employers in SV, with ~20k employees in SV and ~100k employees across the full company. Obviously all are not CS. I'd expect Google employs tens of thousands of CS across the full company.. Among Payscale members, Google was the most common employers among all members who listed their job title as "Software Engineer." It's generally one of the ~2 companies with the largest sample size. Google is also probably one of the ~2 companies that has the most influence on students choosing to pursue CS as a career. Yes, there are a lot of CS employers besides Google, just as not all IB employees work Goldman Sachs or similar "elite" company on Wall Street.

    A similar trend of increasing salary over time among CS software engineers occurs at every large company I am familiar with -- not just Google. However, overall salaries do tend to be higher in SV, NYC, and other areas with higher cost of living. Google also averages higher salaries than the average SV company, although many other SV companies are in the same ballpark, in order to stay competitive for SV employees. Smaller start-up type companies can form a different pattern, where a newer college grad has the opportunity to become more invested in the net success of the company than would occur at Google/Apple/Microsoft/.... If the start-up takes off, stock options might be worth a fortune; and if the start-up fails, stock options are likely worthless.

    In any case, almost none of the available information supports the idea that women as a whole aren't entering CS because the salary is too low. As mentioned in my earlier post, during periods when the portion of female CS majors decreased, the field that had the largest corresponding increase in portion female majors was Education. Visual and Performing arts was 2nd. Both of these Education and Visual & Performing Arts are not associated with a higher salary than CS, so it doesn't suggest they women as a whole were leaving for higher salary fields. There is also ample evidence that the gender divide in CS starts well before college, even before HS. At this level few kids are likely to be concerned about CS salary being too low or lower than banking.
    D1 is 7 year out in IB and she works 60+ hrs.
    I'm guessing 60+ hours is an example of hours being low for IB? 60 hours sounds quite high to me. Most employees at the tech company where I work average ~40 hours per week. It's difficult to generalize from 1 person samples. Some software engineers work few hours. Some work many hours. It depends on both the specific company and personal decisions/choice. One survey of hundreds of CS workers found an average of 41.5 hours per week. CS tends to be more flexible than most fields, with possibility of work at home or working limited hours, at many companies. Some also choose self employment through various Internet short term employment and/or consulting.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 75,426 Senior Member
    MSNDIS wrote:
    She didn't enjoy being in Algebra 2 as a freshman though because one senior male, in particular, picked on her and the handful of other freshmen in the class. The teacher used to post test scores on the wall (using student numbers, and I assume grade levels) which I think is insensitive. A few months into the school year, after a test, the disgruntled senior asked the teacher why all the top test scores were from freshmen and she responded that they were smarter than he was (very mean) and that finally got him to stop being a jerk (at least to my daughter's face).

    Seems like it should be fairly obvious that the best-in-math students in algebra 2 are likely the ones two grades ahead (frosh) while the worst ones are likely those a grade behind (seniors).
  • yucca10yucca10 Registered User Posts: 1,043 Senior Member
    I think there are many factors on different levels here, and it's hard and probably pointless to nail a main one.

    As somebody who've met a lot of very smart people over the years, I tend to believe that when we're talking about high achievement levels like winning math olympiads, being a math researcher or inventing the Internet there are more boys who naturally have the ability and inclination to go into the highly abstract areas of math and CS, and girls on average prefer real world-oriented ones like biology or Earth sciences, and also gravitate to jobs that require more people and/or writing skills. Plus boys are more likely to be narrowly focused on one area, and girls tend to be more well-rounded. The last part is important, because when a person is equally good in several areas, societal pressures can push them a lot more towards some of them.

    However, if we're talking about regular programmers as opposed to highest paid tech people at Google, this work can be done by any reasonably smart person, and I don't think abilities play a big role here. (Personally, I think being a teacher is much harder and requires more talent than being a programmer.) It's very hard to separate natural inclinations from societal and parental pressures at this level. There are many people who in high school are not sure what they want to do, and their parents, friends, role models, or just random events may push them in one direction out of several possible ones.

    I think the current hype around CS degrees and computer jobs isn't sustainable or healthy, and I don't think we should try to specifically bring more women in CS. I think we should encourage all kids to explore various areas and make their decisions based on their inclinations and economic prospects, while, of course, avoiding any discrimination or disparaging comments. Naturally, this includes encouraging girls to explore math, CS, and other fields they may feel are "boys only", especially if they show promise.
13468919
Sign In or Register to comment.