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Girls not Going into CS 1095

An anonymous reader writes "The Times has an article about what you already know: few girls go on to be IT women. For example, the 2001 AP exam in computer science drew 19,000 boys and just 2,400 girls. Information technology, despite its relative youth, has been far slower to approach gender equality than law or medicine, fields which decades ago overtly excluded women. The problem is not lack of smarts: Girls statistically outperform boys overall in grade school and make up 57% of college graduates, margins that are growing to the point that some colleges are toying with affirmative action for men."
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Girls not Going into CS

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  • by A Gremlin In Kremlin ( 634248 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:21PM (#5066726)
    few girls go on to be IT women

    I can assure you the guys are even fewer in this case...

    • Re:I can assure you (Score:5, Interesting)

      by destine ( 109885 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @03:11PM (#5067684)
      I am one of those ultra-rare cases. ;) Life is interesting. Out of 40 people at my previous job with a programming consulting company I could count the number of women there on one hand. One was the secretary, one was an accountant, one was in marketing and web design, one was our tester, and the last was a programmer. It's a bit alarming transitioning from male to female in a workforce dominated so completely by men. I watched, my friends position in the company and how she dealt with things and it came down to that she really had to be forceful to get anyone to listen to her. And she was good.

      Most of my girlfriends just would rather not be thought of as geeks even with the positive meaning it now has. It would be incredibly hard to put into words what I've observed since starting my transition, but it is incredibly interesting. I wouldn't have ever actually believed it if I hand't lived it.

      A lot of what I'm having to do is start over. Currently where I live, the computer job market has completely fallen apart. I just hope my future in computers isn't dictated so much by my gender.

      And for the sarcastic person who remarked on how "hard" it was to tell the difference between a transsexual and a born woman on site, take it from me, it's not always as easy as you would think. I've never been clocked. ;)
      • by Ho-Lee-Cow! ( 173978 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @06:25PM (#5068711)
        The problem is that this whole stupid article makes the blanket assumption that 'gender equality' in the field would somehow make women more interested in IT.

        They had this same stupid idea about welding after the movie "Flashdance" and unsurprisingly few women want to lift heavy things all day or turn wrenches in auto shops.
    • Well, I worked with a guy, a C programmer, who started as the father of four children, and ended up as a woman(snip, snip) who was in a lesbian (???) relationship with another transexual in the IT industry. I, therefore, have personally made the acquaintance of two men who went on to be IT women.
  • by nikko ( 158280 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:23PM (#5066732)
    No chicks and your job will be outsourced to India. Any wonder that all the tv shows are about lawyers and not geeks?
  • that the article in question is about girls not going into CounterStrike and not Computer Science ? Damn those titles can be confusing at times :x
  • Girls in CS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bencc99 ( 100555 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:23PM (#5066734) Homepage
    Worth a look is this article [] written by a girl doing CS at the university of kent.
    • Some one needs to tell her to use a bigger font.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Worth a look is this article [] written by a girl doing CS at the university of kent.

      From the article:

      Now, half way through the second year I struggle to think of 5 other girls who've made it this far on the CS (computer science) course. The rest just faded away throughout the first year including one young, exceedingly tall, blonde and shapely girl from Sweden whose disappearance was mourned by the lads for months afterwards.

      I'm on this course and I (plus a couple of hundred other guys) know exactly who's she's talking about!

    • Re:Girls in CS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RickHunter ( 103108 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:07PM (#5066970)

      I'd say that doesn't just apply to girls. I'm in the third year of a CS degree (though taking some time off to work) and I'd say that a good 80% of the class has no idea why they're there. And had no idea of what CS was about when they signed up for it, but were probably expecting something like the bird courses from high school, or possibly an easy route to a three-figure salary.

      Lets face it, most of these people shouldn't be in CS. CS entry rates should be a lot lower than they are, at least if we want the job market to get better and the field to advance. And most of the women who do get through tend to be the ones who like coding, software design, etc. and are good at it.

      • Fair assessment (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SideshowBob ( 82333 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @03:33PM (#5067812)
        I'd have to agree with you. While it's been over a decade since I graduated with my degree in CompSci, even then the majority of my classmates didn't belong in that degree program.

        At my Uni. (at that time anyways) the business school offered a degree in Information Systems Management that would have been far more appropriate for most of the CS students.

        More schools should offer MIS undergrad degrees (if they don't already, I really have no idea) and they should be promoted as credible alternatives to CS degrees for students that want to pursue careers in IT rather than 'pure' CS.

        (I may be coming off sounding elitist here and I really don't mean to.. I think IT is a perfectly valid career path and universities should be adequately preparing students for that. Simply put, the knowledge and skills needed to design and manage a database system (or whatever) are a lot different than the skills and knowledge needed to write the database software itself)
        • Re:Fair assessment (Score:3, Interesting)

          by RickHunter ( 103108 )

          An excellent point, and probably one I should've considered. A lot of the co-op jobs (basically an internship, for those who don't know) offered at my university weren't programming jobs. Most were tech support or IT (management) jobs, which the CS department offered no training for.

          Of course, this is completely apart from the issue of whether or not CS should be doing this at all. The idea of universities being for "job trainign" is a bad one, and the idea that CS is "programming job training" is even worse. That's part of most CS programs, but most don't do a very good job of it. IMHO, CS needs to be separated out from Software Engineering, too.

      • Re:Girls in CS (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anitra ( 99093 ) <slashdot@anitra.fastm a i l .fm> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @04:03PM (#5067960) Homepage Journal
        I agree. In many of my earlier CS classes, there were guys & girls who were just in it for the money, and didn't really care that much about what they were learning, or why. Most of those tended to get weeded out by the sophmore-level classes, though. (CS is harder than it originally looked to those people.)

        I am an odd case - I switched into CS, and I am a woman. My original major was in the management department; when I decided I wanted to learn more about computers, I could have easily switched to an MIS degree. But I want to be taken seriously. So I became a CS major. It's been a long, hard year since I switched, but I don't regret it. I'm doing research on creating an adaptive website using a genetic algorithm [], and I'm only one class short of graduating on time. I plan to go on to grad school in CS - I want to get a M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction.

        I switched after the dot-coms tanked, and I knew it. The important thing for me is not whether I get a job in IT (not likely right now anyway), but what I've learned about how computers work. I can open up my PC and muck around with it now, if I wanted to. I can hold an intelligent conversation about the pros and cons of a language. I know how to customize a Linux kernel.

        People always told me college was about becoming an educated person, not about getting a job. I didn't understand them until I became a CS major. For the first time in my life, I'm studying something simply because I enjoy it (although I might not agree while doing some of my assignments). I think my study of computer science has made me a more well-rounded person.
        • Re:Girls in CS (Score:4, Interesting)

          by sonali ( 619788 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @11:39PM (#5070086)
          I'm a geek and proud to be called one. I am a CS grad student and yeah I also switched my career to CS! Like a girl already said this, I am glad I learnt how computers work(compared to getting a job in IT though that wont be such a bad option ;) ) On a side note, my bf is in CS too and I enjoy working on projects with him.

          And as for the statement that

          Girls do not like doing anything that involves concentrating on one single thing for long periods,

          all I can say is oh my gawd such total BS. No one really belives that right? I did my undergrad in India in an all-women school and we used to compare ourselves with guys from other schools in our university and you know what we always came on top.

      • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @06:20PM (#5068685)
        possibly an easy route to a three-figure salary.

        I remember reading on slashdot that CS folks were working for peanuts, but I didn't realize things were that bad.

    • by ToastedBagel ( 638204 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:10PM (#5066987)
      The article was mentioning something about THE IMAGE of IT industry and I think that it is one of the biggest reasons why not many women go into IT. Ms. Fiorina does not fit into the stereo typical image of IT person, but I look at her as a businesswoman (good sharp one, of course) not as an IT person; many others, I'm guessing, view her as a businesswoman as well. So the image of IT industry (mostly geeky looking pale extra thin or chubby men) hasn't really changed much. Hmmm... yet another reason why we have to think about what Mr. B. G. is doing to the whole IT industry.
  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:24PM (#5066740) Homepage
    And why is this a bad thing?

    Girls are okay. Programming is more fun. Guys are more fun. Geek guys are the most fun.
  • So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chrisseaton ( 573490 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:24PM (#5066741) Homepage
    If the girls are smart enough to get in, but just don't choose to, why do we want to persuade them? All descrimination is bad, positive descrimination is included.
    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GroovBird ( 209391 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:34PM (#5066791) Homepage Journal
      > All descrimination is bad, positive descrimination is included.

      True, but you might want to investigate why this is so. Perhaps there is something inhibiting them to make a free choice.


      • Re:So what? (Score:5, Informative)

        by neuroticia ( 557805 ) <neuroticia@ y a> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:51PM (#5066866) Journal
        Let's put it this way. Within one week of taking my first day of a "basic" programming course in HS, I had dropped out and switched to art (And I'm totally non-artistic). The teacher a.) refused to shake my hand when I introduced myself b.) never called on me when I had my hand raised for a question or for an answer c.) only called on me during the two times I was not paying attention, d.) argued with me when I had given a perfectly acceptable alternative workflow that would half the work, and e.) Refused to reccomend that I be put in a more advanced class, despite the fact that I knew more than 20% of the students in the more advanced class. I decided I'd MUCH prefer taking a lousy class I had no interest in than taking a lousy class I was absolutely interested in.

        Flash forward. Another HS. They stuck me in "typing classes" and "word processing".

        And what do I do today? I'm an IT person.

        I'll NEVER take another IT class in highschool (because I'm too old) or in college without first speaking to the teachers in-depth and deciding if a.) taking the class will teach me anything b.) the teacher will be willing to teach me anything and c.) if the class is equal to or above my current level of knowledge.

        I've found that it's beneficial to introduce myself with a full list of my creds, experiences, and a categorical list of what I do and do not know. I seem to get a MUCH better education/reaction from tech guys that way than if I tried to be a modest lil' girl. The problem with most women is that they're either so timid, or they lie about what they know to come across better. Fools.

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:03PM (#5066934)
      If the girls are smart enough to get in, but just don't choose to, why do we want to persuade them? All descrimination is bad, positive descrimination is included.

      Indeed. This is politically incorrect, but it is no less true. There are NO barriers to women entering IT or Engineering. Indeed, when I was at UCL (incidentally, the first University in Britain to admit women) there were even special scholarships open only to women studying in the Faculty of Engineering. There were a few females in my class, but only 10-15%.

      And you know, females outnumbered males in English and Speech Therapy and a bunch of other subjects too. Why was there no outcry from the "national organization of men" about that?! And while I'm here, why is there a minister for women in the government, and not one for men?

      Men and women are different. It is a fact that men's brains are optimized for spacial awareness, and women's for language processing. We should be celebrating differences, not trying to force everyone into the same mold!
      • Re:So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
        We should be celebrating differences, not trying to force everyone into the same mold!


        I wonder when the "equality by statistics" thing gets jettisoned. The gender ratio shouldn't be used as a test to prove inequality, I suspect it is simply because it is easier to explain in 15 second TV interview sound bites, so in short, it is political manipulation.

        I am content, as long as there are no real systematic or organizational barriers. Simple ratios do not prove a barrier. I would like to see a slightly more complex ratio, such as how many of each sex apply, and how many get accepted. Even then, that would not be real proof of a barrier, I suspect that that would be ignored by the lobbies _because_ it the results are inconvenient to their aims. It must be checked to see if the standards were or were not met by particular applicants.
      • Re:So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kcbever ( 607337 )
        yeah, men and women are different. maybe physiological differences account for this, but i dont think thats the main reason. something in the fundamental way that kids are raised ingrain the idea that women should go into art or communications or whatever, and boys into computer related fields. but think about it: girls are supposed to play with dolls, boys get video games and toy robots. i think there are barriers against women in engineering, and thats that theyre never encouraged to go into the field, starting at a very young age.

        i had a number of people ask me why i, as a girl, was a computer science major in college, and i think it had a lot to do with the fact that was i playing games on an apple IIc in kindergarden and had science-minded parents telling me i could do it if i wanted to.
        • Re:So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pb ( 1020 )
          Well, that's an open question, and until someone solves the nature vs. nurture debate, all we can do is guess. I personally think there could be some good experiments specifically designed to target this question, but it's a tricky issue nonetheless.

          But do you think that over time, parents have been more encouraging to their female children, or less? Because if they've gotten more encouraging, then the statistics don't back up your theory, since increasingly less women have gone into Computer Science.

          Anecdotally, I think I ended up in Computer Science due to a natural aptitude and interest for it. As a child, I grew up with little exposure to technology, and liked to read comic books a lot. I first really discovered that Apple IIc in Third Grade, and I was hooked; I was hunched over that computer with two of the other guys who were equally fascinated.

          No girls expressed any interest, even though we all used the computers in the lab as well once or twice. I asked my parents to get me a computer, and I spent tons of time on my Commodore 64, learning what BASIC I could from magazines; it grew from there. My fascination for computers was completely disporportionate to both my background and my exposure to them.

          Note that I'm not saying that nurturing doesn't make a difference; it probably wouldn't have in my case anyhow, but maybe it did in yours. But nurturing alone does not begin to explain my experiences, so I think there are other primary factors at work here.
        • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @03:06PM (#5067655) Homepage
          Girls WANT different toys than boys. I have 2 boys and a girl. My daughter is surrounded by "boys" toys all the time. She likes to play with some of them (some video games, occasional lego, cars when she was little, hates board games), but when its time to pick a toy for a birthday or christmas she wants "girl" toys: dolls, clothes, play dishes, art supplies etc...

          She does play with her Barbies with her brothers - a bad guy action figure kidnapps barbie, then the good-guy action figures rescue barbie. My daughter uses a giant teddy bear as one of the good guys, and barbie escapes on her own power frequently.

          Girls and boys are different, and its not just the upbringing. Even when given the opportunity to do things generally "boyish" or "girlish" there is a real tendancy to pick the traditional stuff. They just enjoy the traditional stuff more. If fact I would say there is much more pressure on boys to do "boy" stuff han there is pressure on girls to do "girl" stuff.

          • Re:So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by silhouette ( 160305 )
            Girls WANT different toys than boys.

            I've heard that before, even from one of the most nurture-over-nature people I know (once she observed her nieces/nephews).

            But I still don't buy it. Yes, you are the parent. Yes, your actions affect your child's development most of all, but your child does not live in a vacuum. Do your kids watch TV? Do they have friends? Then they interact with an outside world that teaches them things, especially subtle things, that you may not be teaching them - but they learn it all the same.

            That's why I see pointing the finger at biological differences as giving up. It's "oh well, there can't be any other explanation for it, so it's biology." And once you say it's biology, you don't have you explain or justify yourself any more, because honestly nobody really understands it anyway.

            Sorry about the rant. That being said..

            If fact I would say there is much more pressure on boys to do "boy" stuff han there is pressure on girls to do "girl" stuff

            I definitely agree with you on that. Maybe not "much" more, but yes, more. And that's a sad thing, really. As Oscar Wilde said in The Importance of Being Earnest:
            "Every woman becomes like her mother. That's her tragedy. No man does - that's his."
    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:15PM (#5067016) Homepage Journal
      I don't buy the "girls inherently aren't interested" line, and here's why: at both the school where I got my Bachelor's degree [] and the school where I'm currently studying for my Master's [] the CS programs are close to 50% female. Not quite, but close, especially in the first case. And I believe that last year, the CIS program actually graduated slightly more than half women -- granted, my opinion of CIS is that it's a field for people (of both sexes) who "want to work with computers" but don't have the brains for a CS or Math degree, but that's neither here nor there ...

      So what makes the difference? Well, both schools are located on an urban campus and cater largely to working adults. Very, very few students at either school, in any major, are 18-year-olds who are attending with money from The Bank of Mommy and Daddy. These are people who have been out of high school for a while, have an idea how the real world works, and are a lot less vulnerable to social pressures that say, "Girls aren't good at ___" or whatever. (NB: the sex ratio on campus overall is also a lot closer to parity than the generally female-dominated college campus population -- which also, I think, has a lot to do with slightly older people of both sexes having some experience with the real world.)

      In high school, you learn that girls aren't good at math and science, and boys don't really need to go to college, and a lot of other bullshit. As an adult, you learn very quickly how things really work -- and that what really matters is doing something you want to do and have the talent to do, not whatever your friends think is cool.
    • 1. Why do you say "smart enough"? Do you believe that CS people are, by definition, smarter? Than what?

      2. Look around. If you were a women, would you want in? Remove the obsession with computing, and what's left? Long hours, stress, insecurity, etc.

      3. Perhaps this says something about how non-geeks perceive the happy world of IT -- as a boys club.
  • Well, Counter-Strike does seem like a boy-ish game.
  • by Roosey ( 465478 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:24PM (#5066743)
    To quote Triumph the Insult Comic Dog:

    "I mean, you've got your veritable pick of the litter. You can choose from all kinds of guys who have no idea how to please you!"

    "She said pretty much, yeah!"
  • 57% is misleading (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The 57% figure is mostly for women who get liberal arts degrees. Now, not to badmouth those degrees, but the academic rigor for my CompE degree was (just a touch) higher than for the average elementary education major.
    The smart women usually end up in med school or law school, but society (not necessarily even the 'evil' white males but women's groups too) seems to push girls more towards law and medicine rather than engineering.
    • I agree that women are more biased towards law and med. Mainly because it is these majors that are much more high profile than engineering. I think people with the disposition for engineering get it from having curiosity in the way things work fostered as a child, something that is probably not as likely for girls unless the curiosity is very strong. On the other hand, if a child is highly intellegent, media will encourage medical and law educations, (you see alot more hospital and law office dramas than you do engineering... and for good reason).

      On another note, elementary teaching is a whole 'nuther kinda hard from engineering. I can build a circuit board but God help me if I'm trusted w/ teaching grade school children. What it lacks in technical knowledge requirements (my mother who teaches gradeschool was unable to help me with my sophomore HS math homework), it makes up for in phychological requirements, (having to deal w/ 30 something separate phyche's of pre-pubescent and pubescent children).

    • society ... seems to push girls more towards law and medicine rather than engineering.

      Well, that's the whole point. Society's stereotypes are self-replicating.

      Regardless of what major they choose, women outperform men among applicants and graduates, and in high school.

      Liberal arts degrees and untapped talent are no proof of weaker intellect, which your comment implies about women. Liberal arts were simply much quicker to welcome them in the days of "finishing schools" -- so they could entertain -- while they were until very recently actively discouraged from studying math. Recent experience has shown that women can conquer these "hard" subjects, and it is partly thanks to this improvement that women recently and for the first time, surpassed men in college degrees. As the article quotes one instructor, the number of high school girls skyrocketed once the disparity was addressed.

      One strong factor rarely experienced by men is being isolated in a male-dominated environment. Who wants to be the trailblazer? The only parallel example for men that comes to mind is nursing, which still draws few men despite its increasing prestige. By way of analogy, there are numerous examples of people crossing the color barrier to take jobs for which it had been assumed they were not qualified. Among minorites the gender gap increases: For blacks, a community with strong gender issues, the ratio of women to men obtaining degrees is 2:1.

      Margaret Atwood has commented [] that when she was graduated from high school in the 50's, the guidance book told her she had 5 options: homemaker, nurse, secretary, teacher, or stewardess. Can you imagine being presented such a barren palette? By deciding to be a writer she broke the rules, and it wasn't easy or endorsed. But as she puts it, she realized she didn't want to be a writer, she was a writer.

      Math became the last vestige of male-dominated fields, aside from the military, and then the math-related fields of computer science and engineering. Experience suggests that women will penetrate these fields as well, given support and not discouragement. I'm not sure that's happened yet.
  • Yeah... (Score:5, Funny)

    by kien ( 571074 ) <> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:28PM (#5066757) Journal
    I wonder why [] women haven't embraced IT?

  • Well DUH (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jethro ( 14165 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:28PM (#5066759) Homepage
    The problem is not lack of smarts: Girls statistically outperform boys overall in grade school and make up 57% of college graduates,
    That's it exactly. Girls are way too smart to go into a field where everyone is overworked, overstressed and underappreciated.

    Hell. I can't even tell my parents what I do for a living. I have to dumb it down so much that it means absolutely nothing. "I work with computers" doesn't cut it because everyone does nowadays. "Computer Security" means nothing to them, beucase, what, the computer is going to get up and leave?

    Then there's weeks wehere I have to do The Work Of 10 People. I call those "Every Week". In my current job I actually get THANKED for that, which is an IMPROVEMENT over every previous job I've had. But do I get paid extra? Nope. Do I get a better computer to do the work on? Nope. Do I get a comfortable CHAIR? Nope. (please don't OSHA me. It's not that uncomfortable). Do I get a door I can close so people will stop bugging me when I have to build 10 webservers from scratch in 1 hour? Nope.

    If I had any kind of brains I'd get the hell out of this field so fast the Dilbert strips would fly off the cubicle walls.

    I'm suggesting girls have WAY too much common sense to get into this in the first place.

    (That said, the girls I do know who are in IT are absolutely great at it).
    • Re:Well DUH (Score:3, Funny)

      by Quixote ( 154172 )
      When Dijkstra started dating (like, 50 years ago?), he didn't tell his girlfriend's family that he was a computer scientist; he claimed he was a physicist.
      Looks like things haven't changed much, have they? :)

  • The problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by polyphemus-blinder ( 540915 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:28PM (#5066760)
    is that most women simply aren't intersted in IT. It's pretty obvious to me. How many of you found it beneficial to expound on the virtues of open source software or the beauty of TCP/IP structure during a date? Probably not many.

    That's not to say that they can't be good at it, though. It seems that women will study harder and get better grades, but its gonna be guys hanging out after class discussing the stuff in the pub because they have a genuine interest. Just my two cents.
  • umm.. Duh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by RiscIt ( 95258 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:32PM (#5066776) Homepage Journal
    Cars, excavating equipment, COMPUTERS. all examples of machines. Sure the computer is candy coated, but it's still a machine.

    Now tell me.. how many women do you know actually LIKE "playing with" machines? This is the same male-dominated issue to affects the construction industry, the auto-machanic business, and many others.

    The female gender doesn't generally WANT much to do with mechanical things (I'm not questioning their ability, just stating a trend in their apparent desire).

    More than that, computers usually don't allow them to demonstrate their great personal/social skills (which are more often then not, 1000 times better than men's).
    • Re:umm.. Duh? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Yokaze ( 70883 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:55PM (#5066889)
      "Computer science is as much about computers as astronomy is about telescopes" (Edsgar Dijkstra)

      Actually, in my experience, the large drop-out rate in CS is partly based on the expection of people. They think, they are going to play with computers, but they aren't. They are going to play with ideas and information.

      In other languages (French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish) CS is dubbed as "information science".
  • Girls in general just aren't as strong in analytical thinking as guys are. Simple as that.

    But most people are taught to pretend they don't know this (even though it's so damn obvious) because when we were all in grade school, our teachers taught us that "everyone is equal".

    Sure... and that's why the NBA is full of Black people.
  • by OldMiner ( 589872 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:33PM (#5066782) Journal

    As pointed out by some already, statistics tend to show that men do better in mathematics.

    In addition, I've also seen some state one reason for this gender disparity is that fields such as law and medicine have much more human involvement. Computer science, however, is frequently detached, sometimes to the point of seeming human hostile. And, you'll pardon the stereotypical thinking, but it seems that women tend to gravitate towards jobs which involve significant human involvement. An emphasis on human factors engineering and interface design might make computer science programs more attractive to those looking for a more human-centered job, male or female.

  • could it be .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ltwally ( 313043 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:34PM (#5066785) Homepage Journal
    ... that there might also be fewer girls interested in CS?. Just because fewer girls apply for CS degrees does not automatically mean that there is some sort of bias against women in CS programs. One possible reason for this could be that despite recent progress, CS/MIS/IT work is still seen as relatively geeky. And in my honest experience, females (especially younger ones) seem more influenced by social pressures 'n wut-not than guys are. It could be that this geeky image that still surrounds our job field is also hampering the influx of women into the field. Just a hypothesis... but it feels true.

    At any rate... I know very few girls in the CS program at my skool []. But those few girls that enroll are treated as well, if not better, than the guys in the program (we're all happy to have women around... duh!).
    • Let's go further than that... CS is geekier than IT when you look at what the two subfields really mean. Since most schools have now broken CS and IT into seperate majors, usually in seperate departments altogether, it make sense that girls are picking IT instead of CS, causing CS enrollment to show a loss.
  • Humm, so having all of the opportunity in the world and choose not to join a field is somehow bad, or at any rate, is cast as not good?

    This mangling of the language seems to be resulting in a mangling of ideals too. If women want to be in CS, fine, if the make a different choice that should be fine too.
  • by moertle ( 140345 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:38PM (#5066801) Homepage
    I go to a relatively small tech school and I would kill for a 44% male population as opposed to the ~70%.
  • by rkent ( 73434 ) <rkent&post,harvard,edu> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:39PM (#5066806)
    Hm. It's a damn shame; girls not going into computer science are missing out on endless opportunities. The opportunity to enter an already glutted job market. The opportunity to have your skills derided or just plain ignored by your superiors at work. The opportunity to join legions of online communities of their underpaid, lonely, insecure male counterparts.

    The point I'm trying to make is, there are very few women in the garbage collection or plumbing industries either. But almost noone considers this a terrible sign of gender inequity propagating itself through the ages.

    Computer science is ostensibly a highly-skilled profession which can lead you on to great pay and excellent opportunities, but I think we're approaching (may have already hit) a reckoning in the field: we're being viewed more and more as an essential service, not a "core competency." That is, just like electricians or others who are also technically expert but whose use is minimized to keep expenses down. And who get very little respect within the organization except for the 15 minutes after they fix a problem.

    Anyway, I'm not trying to make this a huge polemic against the treatment of information workers, but the point is, maybe it's becoming a field women don't WANT to be a part of, and for good reason. Maybe the college girl who pursues sales or marketing or preps for an MBA isn't afraid of the tech jargon and male braggadocio in CS; maybe she just thinks it's a boring field leading to crappy jobs. And that's maybe not a horribly innaccurate way to think anymore.
    • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:23PM (#5067063) Homepage
      The opportunity to enter an already glutted job market.

      Look, as long as CS/IT wages are above average there is no glut out there, much as you like to play the victim. This is simple economics.

      Granted, times are not as good as they were a few years back when a DeVry dropout could make over $60-70K in a dot com, but the market for CS is still above average.

      Get a degree in arts to see what a glut in the market really is (do you want fries with that?)....

  • by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:40PM (#5066811)
    granted, there might be a lot of jobs doing bugfixes or something in isolated projects, but it appears the future of science and engineering lay outside the borders of the USA.

    go scan the classifieds in any major city. it ain't 1997 anymore. (this is where you say "no one hires from the papers anymore") okay, go look at dice, craigslist or some major corporation's website. looking pretty sparse.

    my brother was working for one of the large corporations that helped push the h1b program through congress several years ago. they had a website full of programming jobs...hundreds. yet the company was laying off people? they were getting hundreds of resumes every month, and hiring no one. a scam to show an artificial shortage...big business and congress looked each other in the eye and winked.

    adios, CS careers.
  • Why is this NEWs? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by pauljlucas ( 529435 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:42PM (#5066818) Homepage Journal
    This has been true for quite some time. This isn't "new"s. Before CS, it was EE.
  • IT != CS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tshak ( 173364 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:45PM (#5066829) Homepage
    What are we talking about, CS or IT? CS is the study of computers. IT is the study of Technology when related to Business and Information Systems. Of course the two disciplines share some commonality. For example, IT requires certain aspects of CS because many IT positions require programming proficiency. However, I don't expect someone who is in IT to code up a simple OS or a basic language and compiler just as I don't expect someone in CS to design and develop a solution for a national call center's contact management.

    So, are girls not interested in CS, IT, or both?
  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:46PM (#5066840) Homepage
    I know two women who majored in CS -- one's a good friend and the other one is my sister.

    The real problem, IMO, is that there seems to be a couple of guys in any given CS class who seriously cannot handle women, and who one way or the other make life hell for the women in the class. Some are just plain creeps, some are always trying to upstage them, some seem convinced that women in CS get through just because they're given preferential treatment. My sis used to get comments like "Geez, you're smart for a girl" at least once a semester -- that's a pretty shitty thing to say; if you think it's a compliment, it's not.

    Then there are the usual stalker types who get their jollies sending out creepy emails and eyeballing girls in the class -- my friend decided to work rather than go to grad school at Madison because this happened *twice* (on the level of restrining order), fer chrissake.

    Granted this is just anecdotal and two people does not a study make. But say what you want about societal pressures on girls not to be scientific or a predisposition against math, what I've seen drive them away is a hostile environment that doesn't seem to exist in most other fields.

    What can we do to fix it? I just don't know. When they bothered my sister, the solution was obvious but definately not constructive. My friend used the law to help her (restraining orders and all), but that didn't seem to help in the overall scheme of things either -- who needs that sort of pressure while taking 400-level CS courses?

    Anyhow, that's the problem as I see it. I don't have a good solution, but it's something we *must* work on.

  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:47PM (#5066845) Journal
    Computer science is lonely, i hate that feeling you get on a friday evening when your stuck in a basement lab debugging on your own. The only difference between boys and girls in CS is that girls realise that its going to be like this _before_ they choose their degree where as us guys dont realise until half way through the second year that actually, human company can be more interesting than assembly language.
  • Hopeless (Score:5, Funny)

    by S.I.O. ( 180787 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:47PM (#5066847)
    > 19,000 boys and just 2,400 girls

    Before you get ecstatic that you have a 10% chance to get laid, out of those 2400 girls 1000 are lesbians and 1000 are dating businessmen and lawyers. So it's more like 1%. Now go have a beer!

  • by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @12:48PM (#5066851) Homepage Journal
    I think part of the problem is that male geeks tend to have a bit of a superiority complex as a generalization, and that same is not true for female engineers, so they tend to feel like they are not as good as the guys simply because all the guys make them feel as such. It's not really inviting

    I would say that the environment is not one to be condusive to a female. Let alone the hormone factor.

    A very appropriate comic [].

    I think that much like females outperforming males in elementary school they also do so in engineering programs. I knew a few Engineers at school that could kick any guys but in what they did.
  • by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:15PM (#5067014)
    Information technology, despite its relative youth, has been far slower to approach gender equality than...

    Statements like that make me cringe... Generally such statements are soon followed by "investigations into discrimination" and "affirmative action policies".

    Of course, everybody on the planet ought to know by now that if girls don't feel like doing something (such as going into IT, with long hours, no overtime, etc) then all the policies ever written ain't gonna make them change their minds. And that's perfectly fine with me.

    What really irritates me are the idiots that set rules like, "you must employ equal ratios of men, women, white, black, yellow, straight, gay, able-bodied, disabled, etc", because rules like that can lead to companies being forced to lower job requirements to be able to attract the correct ratios.

    Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying that there aren't any "men, women, white, black, yellow, straight, gay, able-bodied, disabled, etc" smart enough to hold down good IT jobs, I'm saying that just because not enough minorities are employed may mean that the rules are fucked up... It doesn't necessarily mean that employers are deliberately discouraging minorities, or anything sinister like that.

    Of course, there are almost certainly some employers that do discriminate, but there are cases where that's absolutely necessary. For example, a person confined to an electric wheelchair probably didn't ought to be a liontamer... Similarly, a blind person might have a lot of difficulty working with microscopes in a lab...

  • My experience... (Score:5, Informative)

    by singularity ( 2031 ) <> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:22PM (#5067053) Homepage Journal
    I started as a CS Engin. student at Cornell University. My seconds semester (spring '94 semester), I took CS212, which was basically honors second semester CS.

    The class was limited to 75 students. The first lecture, three females showed up. By the next day, one had dropped, so we had 2 females and 73 males in the class.

    I became good friends with one of the two females. The female-male ratio in the class and in the CS departments together were a frequent topic of conversation. I got to know her as a very intelligent person, and someone who worked very hard (two requirements to stay in the class).

    In a situation like that, the other students, the TAs, and the prof are all going to look at the females differently. They are obviously not the norm in the class, and it is all too easy to expect then that they will act differently. They could do well (which my friend did - the two of us often got the highest scores on the exams) and people chalk that up to "She is female in an all-male field. Just surviving is hard enough, so only the really tough ones survive. It is not surprising that she is doing so well." If they do poorly you can chalk that up to "Well, it is rough for a female to survive in an all-male field. That does not excuse the poor grade, but the situation does have to be realized."

    My firned, of course, just wanted to be judged against the males in the class without a second thought about her sex. When you are the obvious exception, though, things you do normally are looked at with that difference in mind.

    I learned a lot about how rough it is to survive those sorts of ratios. I think it would be difficult for any female to walk into a program with a ratio like that.

    [Also, I am simply flabbergasted by other posts to this story that show an ignorance of the pressure that would face females going into a male-dominated field like CS. "Maybe they just do not want to" and "Girls do not do well at math" are just about as absurd a thing as I have read on Slashdot, and I have been here a *long* time. They demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of the full issues surrounding the topic.

    Also realize that I am a Libertarian and I am opposed to Affirmitive Action type solutions. Instead, I think that colleges could do a better job of providing better support systems for females that do enter fields like CS.]
  • by namemattersnot ( 469691 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:34PM (#5067140)
    Strange enough, but in Eastern Europe (particularly in CIS states) women make up half of all technical disciplines. Moreover, throughout high school I have never seen a single male math teacher.

    Having studied CS on one of Russian universities, female:male ration was almost equal. Perhaps (or most likely) that has to do with the society itself. Women have always been allowed and enoucraged to persue higher education, they have always worked "male" professions (i.e. painters, bus drivers, engineers) and hence is the high admission rate to technical faculties.

    However, having also worked for a number of Russian (Moscow) companies, I have rarely seen women occupying positions in their fields of study. Most women either get married and leave their diplomas collect dust, or take on a completely different job.

    It can also be said that a lot of people who take, for instnace, political science (I ended up doing just that), sociology and other disciplines, choose to persue a different career from what they have studied. My fellow "politicians" all but a few took MBAs and other business-related courses and ended up working for private sector doing radically different work from what they first intended.

    So if you're in school to merely obtain a degree, you would choose something easy and at least fun (frankly speaking, CS is hardly any fun for women).

    Although, a person in charge of CS department in Carleton University (Canada, Ottawa) is a woman, a PhD in CS, and a rather attractive one :)
  • so... (Score:3, Funny)

    by stinky wizzleteats ( 552063 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:35PM (#5067145) Homepage Journal

    1. Convert institutions of learning into institutions of conformity and political correctness.
    2. Socially engineer maleness as a disease, which must be punished and medicated.
    3. Institute affirmative action for men.
    Ok, stop the machine, I want to get off.
  • by TerryAtWork ( 598364 ) <> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:46PM (#5067225)
    GIRLS can get laid.

  • by pi_rules ( 123171 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @01:46PM (#5067226)
    Girls statistically outperform boys overall in grade school and make up 57% of college graduates,

    I'd imagine the majority of the CS crowd were fairly high performers in school, but I honestly don't see too many of them being validictorians and such. They tend to put doing exciting activies above their studies NOT related to computer science. We're typically not a well rounded bunch when it comes to academics. Personally my home libary is greatly biased because of this. I've got books one:
    • Computer tech books.
    • Physics (Einstein, Hawkings, etc.)
    • Religion (Judiasm, Christianity and Islam).

    The ratio to tech books to other is 5:1, if not more lopsided too. Face is, CS people tend to only ever concentrate at one thing at a given time. Women just aren't wired this way, which is why hanging out with "CS creeps" doesn't appeal to many of them.

    Just my two cents anyway. My last job had 3 women in a company of about 16. One was a programmmer, the other to were hired as programmers but moved into management positions because they got so sick of programming. My current job has erhm... 2 women out of 25 in technical positions. It's just a different type of person that likes to do this stuff, and women don't find it appealing. Fine by me.

  • whatever... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrsmalkav ( 33086 ) <lisa2006@tra v i v i . n et> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @02:14PM (#5067356) Homepage
    i dunno. i'm female. i'm in IT. i'm a straight up geek girl. (and omg, i have a life)

    i started my love for computers and math on my very own when i was less than 10 years old. the largest influences on that were my engineer father who helped me with math when i was young and the purchase of our first computer.

    i knew it was what i wanted to do. i never questioned it. my relationship was with the computers and not with other people. especially since i was self-taught. i never felt that i was not 'allowed'. i never felt any different from any guy out there. computers were what i wanted to do and being around other women was not a big deal. oh, and the 'reputation' or whatever of being associated with computer geeks? so what. like i said, my relationship was with the computers.

    maybe it's because in grade school, instead of people telling me "no, you can't hack it because you're a girl," i got "no, you can't hack it because you're too young." (i had already skipped a grade and was taking courses a year ahead of my classmates.) all my administration fights in highschool were because i maxed out my math&cs&science courses junior year. not because i am female.

    frankly, it wasn't until reflection years later that i realized that i was the only girl in those courses. it wasn't until significantly after the fact that i realized (after being told) that i was the "only hot cs major in our class".

    after college, i managed the internal network and had three direct reports. all guys. i worked closely with the network ops team. guess what? all guys. it was never an issue.

    i don't notice. i don't care. my sex has never held me back. i knew what i was good at and i was going to do it. if someone is going to be an idiot and assume that i don't know anything because i'm female, well, too bad for them. as an aside, honestly, i've only been a victim of true sex-discrimination less than five times over the course of my life. ("no, listen *miss*, i need to speak to a *TECHNICIAN*") i just feel that when we stop thinking of ourselves as 'different' or deserving of more attention because we're female, we'll get the 'acceptance' that we're looking for. and as i've never felt any different from the guys i was taking these classes with or working with, i've always felt accepted.

    who knows? maybe it really is just a lack-of-interest thing that keeps women out of IT/CS, but i see that more starting from a very young age and not necessarily majorly influenced by highschool/college teachers. though, this is only my personal experience. i don't see a lot of the discrimination that i hear other women complain about...
  • by ChaoticCoyote ( 195677 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @02:49PM (#5067565) Homepage

    My wife and I are working on it; we have at least two of three daughters who are very much into computers and learning to program. The oldest is only 13, though, so no requests for dates -- Daddy and Mommy can be very protective ;)

    What do we present to our young women as role models? Britney Spears! Barbie! Sex in the City! Even TV sci-fi fails; women are either kick-ass warriors or love slaves. Even when a woman *is* an engineer (as in Firefly), she comes off as a bit odd and disconnected from her peers.

    Learning programming is critical to success in any scientific or engineering field. Office monkeys can get by knowing basic applications -- but to be involved in the leading edge of technology, understanding computers is essential.

  • Arrrrgh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Athena1101 ( 582706 ) <mikell.taylor@gm ... .com minus berry> on Sunday January 12, 2003 @03:07PM (#5067659) Homepage
    A lot of this discussion is extremely frustrating. There are so many stereotypes ("Girls aren't as good at math..." "They don't like computers anyway..." "They're just NOT INTERESTED") that are the precise reason that the ratios are so low. How do you know? How many women have you talked to that fit these stereotypes? And have you ever thought *why* some might not be interested? I never owned a set of Legos or an Erector Set as a kid -- plenty of Barbies, though. Computer classes at my high school taught word processing and spreadsheets (at an all-female school... clearly teaching us all we ever needed to know in our future careers as... secretaries?). I'm currently arguing with them right now about updating our technology AND math and science curricula after they drastically cut back on them, thereby screwing over anyone who had any desire of entering such fields in college. It's not encouraged at all. The only reason I'm in ECE (with a CS concentration) right now is because practically by accident my high school ended up with a FIRST robotics team and I fell in love with the programming and wiring. Without it, despite my ability and interest in computers, I probably would have ended up a humanities major just because it never would have occurred to me that engineering or CS was something I was really interested in.

    And don't make assumptions on what women do or do not want. I am perfectly willing to stay up all night coding surviving only on caffeine. I buy clothing based on whether or not I can carry my Leatherman in a pocket. I have attended many a Warcraft III LAN party with my boyfriend and his roommates. I build my own computers, run Linux, and for God's sake, I read Slashdot. ('Nuff said..) And I'm not unique -- I got to Olin College of Engineering, which has a 50-50 male to female ratio, and there are plenty of chicks there just like me.

    Just keep in mind that it's very much a matter of exposure. For example, one girl in my class had never had any programming experience and only went into engineering on a whim, but loved our first CS class so much she soon after taught herself Perl in order to keep the college Quote Board organized. Another girl who had been considering journalism instead of engineering went crazy with her first introduction to CAD modelling and power tools. It's just that so many of the girls there had never seen any of this before, didn't realize it was out there, and only by some fortunate chance ended up finding it in college.

    But please don't assume that women aren't interested. Think of it instead is that a lot of them just don't know what they're missing.
  • Browsing through this thread should give anyone a pretty good sense of why women might not be going into the field.

    Could it be connected to the fact that anytime the gender disparity issue gets raised, the reaction on the part of men is to reply with old sexist jokes and pathetic rationalizations ("women just aren't wired for computers")?

    Then, if some amazingly brave woman actually has the courage to relate her experiences with sexism in CS departments (I noticed one -- thank you neuroticia), the thanks she gets is accusations of paranoia (becuase obviously some blowhard ./ guy knows what she experienced better than she does.)

    Even a man relating the experiences of a woman he knew in CS being stalked gets met with claims that women are just being too oversensitive.

    There isn't one simple explanation for why women aren't going into computers, but it might have something to do with men's total lack of restraint in making blatantly sexist and obnoxious comments whenever the subject is raised.
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @03:53PM (#5067912)

    With the gross swings in fortunes in the IT job market, overtly hostile actions of the US government towards the profession (ie H1-B and the Fair Labor Standards Act exemption for hourly paid programmers) and poor treatment by employers in general, why would any intelligent individual want to make a career of IT?

    The declining enrollments plus the rejection of the field by anyone with any ability to interact with others on a person to person basis (i.e. NOT INTJ Myers-Brigg) spell continuing turmoil for this as a profession.

    I have already told my children that there is no future in technology careers in the US... they are looking at humanities, not sciences as the road to a happy future.

  • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @04:36PM (#5068152) Homepage
    Mod me for being a pig.. but CS, Engineering and other "technical" fields have some serious issues if you are a single parent or the "homemaker" in home where both parents work. Why? Obscene hours, being on call (Jim, the server's down) and the lack of job stability make any project oriented job difficult for women who want to or are mothers. Hell, it's hard for us Dads...

  • by gte910h ( 239582 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @05:08PM (#5068332) Homepage
    I don't see why women NEED to be in CS jobs. I know it makes it a little harder to get a date, but other than that, who cares if women as a group go into CS? I don't hear the fashion industry decrying the lack of men? Or the press?

    As for anyone, if you'd like the flexability to go into any carrer, you need to be able to both handle sci/math issues and empathic/literatry fields. If many women don't strive to get the math/sci backgroud, then they won't have as much flexability. I see many men who do the exact opposite in shorting themselves in the empathy/literary vein. They couldn't write a understandable document to save their life, and they can't empathize what their co-workers are feeling.

    I personally will try to get all my children to excel in BOTH areas. But if they don't I'll point out what flexability that they are loosing and be done with it.
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @05:15PM (#5068371) Homepage Journal
    Actually, there are plenty of women in my CS classes. But they're almost all foreign, it seems like for non-westerners, CS is perfectly normal field for girls to go into. And to me anyway the ratio of male foreigners to female foreigners seems about equal.

    This doesn't help me much, though, because most of them don't speak English that well :(.
  • by AnalogDiehard ( 199128 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @07:48PM (#5069057)
    There are fewer guys going into nursing colleges than girls.

    • Re:In other news (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MacAndrew ( 463832 )
      No, the real news is that the number of male nurses is increasing [], gradually, and that there is a looming nursing shortage. More men would be welcomed, but many are turned off the inferior pay characteristic of female-dominated fields, and the supposed social stigma of being insufficiently masculine.. Maybe more men should be encouraged to apply?
  • And also... (Score:3, Funny)

    by loconet ( 415875 ) on Sunday January 12, 2003 @08:12PM (#5069161) Homepage
    "Girls not goin into CS"

    And I can assure you.. the number of CS guys going into girls is far less!
  • Hardware Problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kma ( 2898 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @02:51AM (#5070701) Homepage Journal
    Why must a gender difference be evidence of overt or covert discrimination? In my opinion, the CS gender differential comes from differences in hardware, rather than software. Drop me in the "nature" bin on this question: I think that women, on average, differ from men in such a way that they are less likely to be interested in computer science. I could get into why I believe this, but it's all anecdotal, and wouldn't convince anybody who didn't already agree with me.

    Note that this in no way justifies discrimination against women. This discrimination is still clearly a reality, and must ultimately be eradicated root and branch. It is wrong to prejudge individuals by the group they belong to, not, as extreme "nurturists" would hold, because there are no differences among groups, but because respect for ones fellow humans requires that we treat them as equals. I.e., equality of opportunity is a matter of ethics, and ethical principles shouldn't be held hostage to questions of animal biology.

    For those who wish to wring their hands about this gender discrepancy, must every field be split, 50/50 (well, 51/49)? Is the only possible "just" society one where soldiers, professional athletes, nurses, artists, even rapists, thieves and murderers, are exactly as likely to be male as female? What if the average woman doesn't care very much about computers, or artillery, or how to hotwire cars, not because of Barbie, or because their math teacher didn't call on them in seventh grade, but because she simply finds other things more interesting? If such women exist, discrimination "on behalf" of women in many male-dominated fields would ultimately make women less happy. It would, by definition, divert women who would otherwise be happier doing something else into male-dominated careers, to satisfy some sort of mathematical imperative of justice.

    That is why I'm very leary of those who would rush to affirmative action-ize CS. You might not side with me on the "nature" side of this question; but regardless, I think the nature/nurture debate in this case is too far from resolution to be sure whether such programs are a net benefit or harm to womankind.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes