Why Women Aren’t Thrilled About Computer Science Careers [REPORT]

about 50% of girls feel STEM is not a typical career path for girlsLast week we wrote about she++, an organization founded by two Stanford students that aims to encourage women to participate in computer science fields. The organization is becoming increasingly active, hosting conferences on the subject and screening their documentary worldwide. This makes the time ripe for answering this question: why aren’t women joining computer science-related fields at rates similar to men?

she++ answers this question through a series of interesting infographics hosted on their site, which are shared with you below. When you look at the data, you see that it’s not a lack of interest in computers that keeps women out of computer science industries; rather, a disconnect in the way girls perceive computer science courses prevents them from starting on technical career paths.

About 50% of all girls feel that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are not typical career paths for women. Considering this makes it easier to understand why girls who’ve completed the necessary pre-requisites for computer science courses do not enroll in computer science classes. Though 49% of calculus classes are filled by women, only 20% of computer science classes are filled by females! What’s more, few schools give this handful of girls who admit their interest in computer science the opportunity to explore their passion, as only 5% of high schools offer AP Computer Science. Could this be one reason why, in 2010, only 15% of computer science undergrads were female?

The lack of women in computer science has a severe, negative impact on the American workforce. By 2020, U.S. businesses will need 1.4 million computer scientists but, based on today’s graduation rates, American-trained scientists will fill a mere 30% of those jobs. Involving women in tech is essential to increasing the profit-making of the American workforce in the near future. Additionally, though about 46% of the American workforce and more than 50% of college students are female, women represent just 35% of startup business owners. Sadly, as of Marissa Mayer’s appointment to CEO of Yahoo, only 19 Fortune 500 companies are run by women. It’s apparent that we need to work harder to inspire women to seek training in STEM fields and gain an entrepreneurial spirit – but how do we accomplish this?

about 50% of girls feel STEM is not a typical career path for girls

Percentage of girls in Calculus courses severely drops when students enter computer science courses

Only 5% of high schools offer AP computer science

Only 35% of startup founders are women
Graphics via she++

The organizers of she++ are all too aware of the systems currently in place that hold women back from joining STEM careers. In order to raise awareness of the obstacles women face on their computer science-related career paths and to help break some of those obstacles down, the organization has made she++: The documentary publicly available on Vimeo. If these issues strike a chord with you, I suggest you watch their 12-minute video over your next lunch and think about how you can help inspire women to play a greater role in advancing the country’s technology industries.

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