Did you know that in the early decades of computers, more women were studying computer science than men? In 1984, however, the number of women stagnated and then did a nose dive. Even though more and more women were working in other technical and professional arenas, they did not work in the field of computer science nearly as much. Why? We asked the team over at Develop Intelligence for their feedback.
National Public Radio reported in October 2014 that early personal computers were mostly toys that were marketed just to boys and men. You could do some basic games or maybe type a letter on these computers, and that was about it. The idea caught on that computers were for males, not for females.
Think of movies from the ‘80s like War Games and Revenge of the Nerds. The main characters were nerdy, tech-oriented boys that were trying to get the girl. Boys were the one with computers in their families. This was much truer than it was for girls. When these kids got to college, boys knew a lot more than girls about computers, and that likely played an important part in girls not majoring in computer science.
Today, however, people are talking about the disparity of men and women studying and working in computer science much more than they did thirty years ago. News articles constantly appear that discuss the need to get girls coding or interested in science, technology, engineering, and math professions. The New York Times ran an article on the topic of girls and coding, for example, in October 2013. Organizations like Girls Who Code offer two-month camps that provide programming instruction to middle and high school girls have begun to pop up around the country.
Let’s hope that the talk around computer science in general and especially about females in the field continues. The more talk there is, the more likely it is that programs will continue to arise that will encourage and support women and girls to study and work in not only computer science, but other STEM subjects as well. Computer science has not exactly been the most glamorous subject to study in recent years, but the more people discuss its merits and the job growth that is occurring in the field, more and more students will enroll in computer science in college and then go on to work in it.
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