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Gender Gap in Computer Science Growing 1027

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the supplies-are-limited dept.
EReidJ writes "Looks like finding a compatible girl geek in the computer profession is becoming even harder, as an already wide gender gap among Computer Science majors is becoming larger. From the article: 'A Globe review shows that the proportion of women among bachelor's degree recipients in computer science peaked at 37 percent in 1985 and then went on the decline. Women have comprised about 28 percent of computer science bachelor's degree recipients in the last few years, and in the elite confines of research universities, only 17 percent of graduates are women [...] The argument of many computer scientists is that women who study science or technology, because they are defying social expectations, are in an uncomfortable position to begin with. So they are more likely to be dissuaded from pursuing computer science if they are exposed to an unpleasant environment, bad teaching, and negative stereotypes like the image of the male hacker.'"
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Gender Gap in Computer Science Growing

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  • Good! (Score:4, Funny)

    by JPamplin (804322) on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:53PM (#14292190) Homepage
    Who needs yucky girls anyway. Cooties! ;-)
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:54PM (#14292200) Homepage Journal
    Like how many male computer geeks lack the social skills to interract with the opposite sex and mistake friendly interraction by female coworkers as "interest" in something more.
    • As a geek girl... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:59PM (#14292248)
      Like how many male computer geeks lack the social skills to interract with the opposite sex and mistake friendly interraction by female coworkers as "interest" in something more.

      As a geek girl myself, I'd put it a bit above half. sucks.
      • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:04PM (#14292319)
        As a geek girl myself, I'd put it a bit above half. sucks.

        As a geek guy, I'd put it a bit above 95%. You only hear from the ones brave enough to come forward.

        Speaking of which, what are you doing Friday night?
      • by Total_Wimp (564548) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:35PM (#14292626)
        As a geek girl myself, I'd put it a bit above half. sucks.

        So how many, after you politely say no, persist in their pursute? I can understand why a woman would be upset by persistant unwanted attention, but I've never understood why women so often are upset by unwanted attention that goes away as soon as a negative answer is given.

        Yeah, the guy is creepy/ugly/smelly/whatever. But what on earth is wrong with him asking, "will you go out with me," even if he does so ineptly while looking at his shoes the whole time? Unless women want to turn things around so they do all the asking, they're going to have to put up with saying "no" evey now and then to someone they don't like. They should get a grip and not act like it's their right to not be asked in the first place.

        Put another way, if a good woman wants to get the attention of a good man, why would she be surprised when every one else pays attention to her as well?

        TW
        • Re:As a geek girl... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:44PM (#14292707)
          The problem is, they don't ask. They stalk you. They hang around drooling, mumbling into their smelly tshirts. They pester you. You ask them to go away because you are trying to get work done, and they don't.

          It's repulsive, harassing, and beyond irritating.
          • Re:As a geek girl... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Total_Wimp (564548) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:00PM (#14292916)
            The problem is, they don't ask. They stalk you. They hang around drooling, mumbling into their smelly tshirts. They pester you. You ask them to go away because you are trying to get work done, and they don't.

            It's repulsive, harassing, and beyond irritating.


            Yeah, stalking and harrasment suck. I appologize for my gender and peer group. My comment was just meant to point out that I've seen many women interpret plain ol' interest by a guy as harrasment and not even have the guts to tell the guy to go away.

            Sure, it sucks for the dude to be told to back off by the girl. It sucks far worse if his boss has to tell him the same thing and he never even knew there was a problem. But if you already told him to take a hike and he didn't, maybe he needs to learn the hard way. Speaking as a boss myself, if I knew someone was told "no" and they persisted, I'd have no problem showing him the door.

            TW
            • by guaigean (867316) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:52PM (#14293393)
              Speaking as a boss myself, if I knew someone was told "no" and they persisted, I'd have no problem showing him the door.

              There's a big difference between persistence, and crossing the line to pyschopathic behavior. Persistence can pay off, so long as it involves a respectful interaction between the participants. More than one marriage has formed after the guy being turned down first, but often we geeks lack the social skills to notice the difference between a "Get the hell away from me you creepy smelly dork!" and "I'm saying no, but I just want to see how much you like me." Don't try this at home (or work) if you aren't fully aware of the difference.
        • Re:As a geek girl... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:03PM (#14292943)
          It makes my day when a man shows interest in me, no matter how creepy/ugly/smelly/whatever he is. A compliment is a compliment regardless of who it comes from, and I certainly don't think any less of the guy for asking me out. Any girl who acts digusted or angry is putting on a show.

          However, it's interesting to note that, of the men in my engineering classes who asked me out or asked me to have sex with them, 100% ended up pestering me day after day, or tagging home after me like a little lost puppy, even though I reminded them every time that I had a boyfriend. I had to resort to being mean and nasty in order for them to leave me alone. I probably just attract the weirdos, but it seemed like the male geeks were either too shy to do anything or went way overboard.

          Now that I'm working, the male geeks still ask me out but politely drop the subject when they find out I'm not available, and become great friends in spite of it.

          So I chalk it up to guys maturing at a slower rate than girls, geeky or not.
          • and become great friends in spite of it.

            That's because he's hoping to stand in line as a friend, thinking that he may have a chance later. Unorftunately for him, and most of our geek brethren, it will only ensure his future failure by placing him in the friend category.
          • Re:As a geek girl... (Score:5, Informative)

            by lonesome phreak (142354) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:00PM (#14293986) Journal
            uh-huh. Never heard of the Ladder Theory, have you? read it here [laddertheory.com] then tell us what you think off all the guys hitting on you!
      • by guaigean (867316) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:41PM (#14293300)
        As a geek girl myself...

        Is this a Turing test in action?
      • Re:As a geek girl... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by RevRa (1728) <kate@@@loux...org> on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:46PM (#14293840) Homepage Journal
        As a geek girl myself, I have to disagree with you. I think there are entirely too many factors to consider when making this kind of statement. A lot of the situation depends on where you live and what kind of environment you work in.

        I live and work in Phoenix Arizona USA and I work in an organization with thousands of geeks from both ends of the spectrum. Hardcore nerds who write obscure code all day, to technical project managers who do mostly paperwork, fill out request forms, and assign projects to sysadmins.

        I work with, and talk to lots of nerdy/geeky guys and gals who seem able to differentiate between friendly chat and an interest in having a relationship. From what I've found here, there are plenty of nerdy guys around here who are capable of communicating in an effective manner, and are perfectly acceptable mates for nerdy women.

        There are lots of excessively flirty guys for sure, but most of them can take a subtle hint that you're not interested. They're socially stunted sometimes, not mentally retarded.

        Also, lets not forget that many nerdy women are the same way. I find it excessively difficult to relate to and talk with other women who aren't technical. I don't really have much in common with them. I find making small talk to be quite tedious when some non-technical co-worker wants to blather on about her -precious- toddler, and all I'm thinking about is the lan party tonight where I'm going to frag the crap outta' the guys in BF2.

        Lots of that social akwardness starts to fade away as we get older though. I'd say by the time most geeks hit 28-29, they're getting a better handle on life and have more experience with social situations. Just my observation though.

        ~k
    • by rocketsled (676050) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:00PM (#14292264) Homepage
      WHAT DO YOU MEAN LACKING SOCIAL SKILLS, my 20 sided die guides me with any social situation.
    • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@optRABB ... minus herbivore> on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:12PM (#14292402) Journal
      Like how many male computer geeks lack the social skills to interract with the opposite sex and mistake friendly interraction by female coworkers as "interest" in something more.

      As far as I can recall, they never offered "Etiquette for Geeks" as a part of the Comp Sci curriculum when I went college, but then again that was back in the age of the dinosaurs (the DEC-10).

      Social skills isn't that big a factor. I find very few of my programming peers who fit the "geek programmer" stereotype. Plenty of us are married, have houses and families. Mind you my wife is not a tech-head and we don't discuss my work in-depth, but she could probably understand it. Geeks aren't going to find women on the Comp Sci track anyway; they'll do a better job impressing the bubble-head peroxide blondes who talk into their mouses.

    • Unfortunately, it also goes the other way around -- if a male geek is just ineptly trying to be friendly, a female co-worker might misintepret it as interest. Because, y'know, if a guy is trying to talk to a girl as an equal or even as a friend, he obviously just wants in her pants! Especially if she's ugly and he's already found himself a cute geek girl. Yeah, really.

      Of course, if the girl has any kind of brain in her, she'll just talk to the guy, say "Sorry, I'm not interested" and whether he was ac
    • by Pxtl (151020) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:41PM (#14292684) Homepage
      Enough that a clever girl can get through a comp eng program without ever having to write a line of code if she plays her cards right - at least at the school I went to.
      • by sillypixie (696077) * on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:21PM (#14293640) Journal
        My experience while getting my degree was that first and second year girls were descended upon by third & fourth year geeks looking for dates and willing to do assignments for a girl would would go out with them. None of those girls graduated from the program I was in - they all flunked out on the tests because they didn't understand the material.

        I see equal opportunity blame in that situation -- a lack of intellectual pride both on the part of the girls and the guys.

        I have also had to endure the insanity of having a really smart guy ask if you want to be his partner for the year in a class, only to have him show up at the first meeting with a finished assignment and a picnic basket containing a romantic dinner. It is a really difficult situation to deal with. On the one hand, the guy has made a nice and very sincere effort to please you. Unfortunately, that doesn't measure much against the facts that (a) he never actually asked you out, so you didn't get a chance to understand what kind of 'partnership' he was really hoping for, (b) he obviously didn't then and never did think you were capable of doing the assignment, (c) he assumed that you were the type of person who would gladly get out of work, and (d) he didn't mind that fact, as long as you went out with him. And he wondered why I wasn't bursting with admiration at his display of programming prowess.

        Did you really see a lot of girls brazenly manipulating their way through a computer degree? It's hard for me to imagine. The women I graduated with knew their stuff, and would gladly prove it when challenged.

        Pix
  • Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gunpowda (825571) on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:55PM (#14292205)
    Looks like finding a compatible girl geek in the computer profession is becoming even harder...

    Does it help that the summary itself contains a male-point-of-view sterotype?

  • by precize (83096) on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:55PM (#14292210) Homepage
    "During my freshman year in the computer science department, there were more guys named David than there were girls."
  • Trinary (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:56PM (#14292219)

    Just as the hard-wiring of binary mathematics spun the entire twentieth century about a simple yes-no axis, the invention of the three-state switch promised to revolutionize twenty-fifth century computing. After all, with three states (negative, positive, and null charges) on nanoswitches, computers could now think in terms of yes, no, and maybe, greatly humanizing their internal logic.

    This would have brought many, many more female engineers into the field of computer science (hence accelerating the pace at which computers could do useful things besides transmit, compress, and enhance pornography), except that the same abbreviational logic that turned "binary digit" into "bit" turned "trinary digit" into "tit." This nomenclatural error set computing back nearly three hundred years, and two entire generations of promising computer scientists were lost trying to keep abreast of bad puns.

    -- The Tayler Corporation. "Plotting to take over the world since 1998"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:56PM (#14292221)
    Meet a bio girl, have her become a doctor, and spend your days changing diapers and compiling the latest ubuntu release.
    • Seriously good idea. Everyone wins. Too bad more people can't take it seriously.... Fanning the flames of the rat race to get a job so you can afford to put your kids in daycare is one of the silliest logical exercises I have ever seen people engage in.


  • by zubernerd (518077) * on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:57PM (#14292237)
    I've noticed whenever I hear about a gender gap study or story, the gender gap is a about a shortage of women in good, clean professions with upward mobility and high pay. I've never hear or seen a story about a shortage of women in garbage collecting or ditch digging, or other lower pay and often "dead end" jobs. I've only seen one female garbage collector ever, out of dozens of male garbage collectors, in the various places I've lived.

    P.S. I have nothing against garbage collectors... they just happen to be the most visible "down and dirty not high paying" job I can think of. They do a great service for us, I'm not putting them down. I would like to see more women going into CS as well. I'm just pointing out something I've noticed.
    • Garbage collectors also get paid pretty well, probrably (depending on municipality) comprably to most custom business software developers.

      -Rick
      • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:13PM (#14292413) Homepage
        Garbage collectors also get paid pretty well

        They also have one of the most dangerous [wasteage.com] (your garbage collector is much more likely to be killed on the job than a cop) and important (along with your plumber, your garbage collector is more responsible for increased life expectancy than your doctor) jobs around.

        Somewhere around here I have an old Fenton [wikipedia.org] comic strip with dialog like this: "Did you know a garbage collector makes more than I do?!" "Then get a job as a garbage collector." "Are you kidding? You couldn't pay me enough for that kind of work!"

    • I'm not sure if you are aware or not but here in PA, A "Waste Engineer" - read garbage man - makes a comparable salary as me... a Network Administrator for a mid-sized bank. They even have better benefits. You'd be surprised at the average garbage man pay, I know I was when a buddy of mine went into the business straight out of High School and is a rich bastard while I have student loans and a stressful job.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:21PM (#14292495) Homepage
      Also, they rarely ever talk about the lack of men in female dominated jobs. Some of these fields are pretty stable, and growing. Think of nursing, daycare, and many other female dominated professions. Maybe it's just that women aren't interested in computers, just like men aren't interested in taking care of children.
  • Money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mumblestheclown (569987) on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:58PM (#14292241)
    Is it sexist to mention that as computer science is no longer the gateway to financial riches that it was once seen to be (new motto: "we outsource you") that more people who would not otherwise be drawn into it, well, don't and that this might have something to do with it?
  • by Chemisor (97276) on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:58PM (#14292244)
    28%? Come on! Which university did they go to? Some girls college, no doubt. In my graduating class there were two women and a about a hundred men, so that works out to two percent or so.
  • Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oman_ (147713) on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:59PM (#14292250) Homepage
    Think this might have to do with the fact that after the dot com crash computer science was no longer viewed as the way to ensure a profitable career?

    I have met VERY FEW women who actually LIKE programming among the women professionals I've met.

    • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zordak (123132) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:26PM (#14292539) Homepage Journal
      That point of view is sexist, politically incorrect, and probably absolutely true. All of these "gender gap" studies (in any field) seem to start with the premise that every field of work should have basically a 50/50 gender split. I think that is patently absurd. The differences between men and women extend beyond just plumbing. My personal experience is fewer women enjoy computer science -- not because they're uneducated or incapable, but because they simply prefer to do something else. Should we be trying to force them into a field they don't enjoy just because it conforms to the way we think things should be? I think our loftiest goal should not be to promote a 50/50 gender split at all costs. Nor should it be to exactly match the demographic for any other group. It should be to make the profession available to anybody who cares to pursue it. If that means that only 1/4 to 1/3 of the profession is composed of women, as long as that reflects the actual number of women who wants to do it, there's nothing wrong with that. If we try to artificially inflate the number to 50% just because we arbitrarily decide that's what it should be, we end up with a lot of women in the field who would really rather be doing something else.
      • by lrucker (621551) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:39PM (#14292663)
        Maybe my experience wasn't typical, but I'm female and I never got any sense that I wasn't wanted in CS.
        • by TheLink (130905) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:26PM (#14293169) Journal
          Personally I think people are making a big fuss over the wrong thing. If someone is really interested in something they won't get discouraged that easily.

          I'm not in the US, but from what I hear it seems that in the US, it's common for male geeks/nerds to get discriminated against in high school (even physical abuse). But they still go do geeky stuff anyway.

          Still, if this is true, it's not a good culture to have. Over here if you're a member of the chess club, or computer club it's not something you'd need to hide from anyone. People who do well in exams/tests don't get picked on negatively etc.

          Avoiding a "loser" culture is important, since nowadays one has to be competitive with the rest of the world. Not just the rest of the class.

          Nowadays the barriers of entry to the IT world are much lower. Computers and internet connections are much cheaper nowadays. Even if you don't have a formal CS or IT degree, if you're good enough you can prove it. I doubt most developers in the OSS projects care whether you're male or female.

          But similarly that means a programming or CS-related job is easier to send to another country than a nursing job.

          So it may be a smart move by girls to avoid Computer Science!
          • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:35PM (#14293756) Journal
            Personally I think people are making a big fuss over the wrong thing. If someone is really interested in something they won't get discouraged that easily.

            Part of the experience of a high-school education is discovering what interests you. That can't happen if you're discouraged from even looking. And I think that young women may be discouraged from doing so in many ways.

            I'm not in the US, but from what I hear it seems that in the US, it's common for male geeks/nerds to get discriminated against in high school (even physical abuse). But they still go do geeky stuff anyway.

            Hmm. Perhaps because a boy geek is perceived as a mildly eccentric target for ridicule, whereas a girl geek is an anathema to her peers at that age. Or maybe a boy's rising levels of testosterone make him feel better than a girl would about doing stuff alone.

            The real tragedy here is that many crucial career choices can be made at this age, including ones that determine whether a student can pursue a career in mathematical or physical fields or not. For example, the perception that mathematics is a "boy's" subject can discourage girls from continuing to study it in high school. And that closes many career doors. Probably forever.

            (I have heard that this perception does not exist in some parts of the world. For example, in Iceland: at the risk of grossly over-simplifying the picture, mathematics is actually perceived as a "girl's" subject, whereas the boys want to finish high school so they can go out and help their fathers on the fishing boats.)

            I think the solution is to debunk the perceptions that young people can have about these fields, to warn them about "closing doors" to their future, and to encourage them to discover their aptitudes, whatever they may be.
      • Re:Uhhh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by PureCreditor (300490) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:57PM (#14293434)
        Affirmative action is just the same way to artificially inflate different demographics to pursue a 100% match between student population and general population, regardless of the qualifications.

        Look at UC Berkeley's admission stats. Once affirmative action was struck down, percentage of whites stayed just about constant, blacks went sharply down, and Asians shot up, indicating that that gap of Asians (or any other group) has been artificially suppressed in the name of affirmative action and anti-discrimination.

        And there's no such thing as over-represented minority. If asians represent 20% of the best talent pool, then let their performance and achievement speak for themselves, not their ethnicity.
      • Re:Uhhh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CAIMLAS (41445)
        Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: the people (women and stupid men, mostly) that bitch about "gender gap" do not want equality.

        If they wanted equality, you'd see studies like this done about fields like plumbing, carpentry, construction, and other "unskilled" jobs. You don't see this kind of thing about a (technical) field like massage thearapy or salon duties (both of which pay pretty well) - because women already have the majority in fields like that. What the bitches that trump stuff like this really
  • Stinky-pants (Score:3, Insightful)

    by visionsofmcskill (556169) <vision@getmp.PLANCKcom minus physicist> on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:00PM (#14292257) Homepage Journal
    Maybe the thought of an exciting career working closely with balding, over-weight, potato-chip eating, diet dr pibb drinking, socially inept, 12 hour funk from working without moving, and red-stapler asking, porn addicted 90 pound eye-glass wearing (weird foreign accent too?) wimplings isnt exactly the ideal or "cool" environment with mass appeal to the females.

    Im sure there's always that 19% whose intrests in computer science balenced with their ability to tele-commute are powerfull enough to overcome any obstacle. Even being harassed into wearing their hair like Leia.

    --not that programmers are ALL like the above, but its a pretty tough image to beat, mainly because theres is a substantial segment of programmers who do unfortunately fit the bill.

    • Re:Stinky-pants (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rary (566291) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:44PM (#14292712)
      In my experience, what you just described is actually the minority of cases in professional IT. The guys who fit that description are largely the basement-dwelling 1337 h4x0rz, whereas the guys who actually find employment in industry tend to (have to) have social skills.

      Don't forget that thanks to the dot-com boom, working in IT became fashionable, so that everyone from all walks of life wanted to get in on it. As a result, the old school computer nerds now work side by side with the jocks who beat them up in high school.

    • by mathmathrevolution (813581) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:22PM (#14293135)
      Man, there sure are a lot of self-hating Geeks on Slashdot. Anytime the subject of "that other 50% of the population" comes up, there's invariably +5 modded comments about how pathetic all the Geeks are. If you guys spent the time you spend on slashdot beefing up your skills with women and exercising, you'd probably find some chick. Fact of the matter is: women over the age of 25, are desperate for intelligent, nice, financially stable men. Younger than that, women are still looking for traditional masculine stereotypes. If you're young, you may need to hold out for a little while. Sorry. In the mean time, you can 'comfort' yourself with the fact that men are declining in every subject other than computer science. This is leading to an over educated female population. And when these women move from college girls to yuppies, they're going to realize they want somebody more intelligent, less volatile, and more succesful. And when they don't find any of those guys, they're going to settle for you.
  • by datawar (200705) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:01PM (#14292276)
    There's still plenty of girls graduating in fields around computer science: communication majors going into human-computer interaction, science & technology studies majors studying the social impact of computing, etc. Information science and other "not-just-techie" graduate fields around the country are around 50/50 by gender. These girls may not care about programming the "best" distributed computing platform ever, but you can be sure they know more about what one means in society than the majority of techies.
  • MRS Degree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:01PM (#14292281)

    So they are more likely to be dissuaded from pursuing computer science if they are exposed to an unpleasant environment, bad teaching, and negative stereotypes like the image of the male hacker.'

    I don't know if the number is statistically significant, but from my own anecdotal experience I know a number of women who went into CS because of the gender difference and because they were more interested in finding a financially stable husband than in learning about computer science. I know several women who became engaged and/or married and then switched degrees or dropped out. I imagine the same is true, in reverse, for certain fields dominated by women. I know at least one guy who joined the cheerleading squad to meet women.

  • by vontrotsky (667853) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:02PM (#14292294)
    Open source software is even more heavily male dominated than academia. The Debian women project has some ideas about why this might be and how to fix it. (http://women.alioth.debian.org/faqs/ [debian.org])
  • Or maybe... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arthur B. (806360) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:03PM (#14292305)
    ... we could accept that men and women are different in nature, very different and that men perform better on technical skills than women, period. It's called specialization, it goes back to the beginning of life and there's nothing sexist to it. The social pressure justification seems a little far fetched, for the sake of correctness. Women perform much better than men in a wide variety of intellectual activities, I'm not implying any kind of superiority, I am just saying the obvious. P.S. Counter-example are pointless because this is of course a general trend and applies on average.
    • Re:Or maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by datawar (200705)
      It's both sexist and constraining to what it means to be a "computer scientist". You can't just break CS down to "manly" and "girly" parts because it is huge field with an incredible variety of things you can do. You don't even have to know how to program to be in a CS program (thought it's uncommon) -- you can be a theorist. Or you can be Anyway, there's so much to computer science that's it's just ridiculous to think it's something "masculine" or "feminine".
    • by Inoshiro (71693) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:49PM (#14292779) Homepage
      Essentialism is saying women aren't as good at math, or that all black men have big penises.

      Essentialism is still a lie. I don't know why intelligent people can let themselves be deluded into thinking it's true. Shame on you and shame on the moderator who gave your talk a mod point.

      "Essentialism and society

      Essentialist positions on gender, race, and characteristics, consider these to be fixed traits while not allowing for variation in the group or individual. Contemporary proponents of identity politics including feminism, equality for gay people, and anti-racist activists generally take constructionist viewpoints. However, these proponents have taken various positions including essentialist ones. Prejudices such as racism, sexism and anti-gay bias may be based on an essentialist view, such as the view that all people of a particular race inherently possess a particular negative characteristic.
      "

      Read more at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

      Do you honestly think that women are bad at math because they were built that way, or is it because of years of gender stereotyping, starting with what colour clothes the parents put on the baby right after birth?

      Essentialism is the lie that African Americans are born dumber than whites because they have a lower IQ, rather than looking at the distribution of income and social equality that those people have (Bill Cosby may be rich, but most black folk are still way below the poverty line; in Canada, replace African American with Native to get the same effect).

      "In feminism, Yashar Keramati understands that essentialism constitutes that women have pre-determined characteristics. This goes beyond simple body parts, those being the vagina and the penis. Rather, this means that women are born 'emotional,' 'inferior,' 'irrational' and so on. Therefore, essentialism could circulate false information about women which results in lowering their status. Though this necessarily depends upon the value judgements a society adheres to. It also depends upon the supposition that these qualities are negative and don't possess the ability to be sublimated -- just like the lower qualities in the male sex. Essentialism can also be taken to an extreme by characterizing different races in such a way -- though it is true that every school of thought is subject to distortion."

      Essentialism is what Hitler used as justification for putting Jews and Gays and other undesirables into furnaces. To say you support this point of view is carte blanche for a return to eugenics and all the other madness that implies.
      • The point is not here. The absence of women in CS and analytical fields it a fact. If you don't agree on that stop reading. I am offering the most simple explanation. I fully realize it might not be the only explanation, and it being simple does not make it true, but at least it is still a good theory -it's easily refutable -it provides a good explanation of the observed phenomena -it doesn't contradict other verified theories
  • by buddyglass (925859) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:03PM (#14292307)
    I'm curious to know whether the gap in CS degrees awarded mirrors the gap in mathematics performance at the high school level. Or, for a more direct comparison, the number of passing grades on the Computer Science Advanced Placement Exam per year awarded to men vs. women. Poor teaching and other college-related factors may be a contributing cause, but I think the bulk of the gender gap is manifested way earlier than the university level.
  • Respect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mister_llah (891540) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:03PM (#14292309) Homepage Journal
    Well, first let me say that I feel lucky, at my university, there is about a 10% female population in my CSCI classes.

    Now, that being said, I have seen most women being viewed as technically inept. I have a friend who is working towards her masters in computer science who complained, quite frequently, that her classmates (entirely male) were not taking her seriously.

    Could it be that our own geeky superiority complexes are keeping us from having the joy of female company? Something to think about before you suggest that a girl can't code.
  • MMmppphhh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU (19263) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:06PM (#14292341)
    Not to sound like a jerk, but lets throw it down like this.

    I'm a fairly successful person (so far), in computer science.

    People graduating from my current institution can expect to make about $70k a year with a Masters. A high number of people in engineering here leave to do something other than engineering, when they discover that they will be paid more in other fields (a friend of mine who is becoming a banker will start at $120K/year.

    So, while there is a gender gap, one has to ask if telling women to go into computer science will be at all good for their careers. Certainly a certain percentage of all people would like to go into computer science, out of a genuine love for the field. I fall into this group. I hope that all women who fall into this group, do so. I would advocate, however, that we stop trying to push our kids into this field out of a perception that it will somehow make them successful.

    Lets break down the facts. Even in the dot-com boom, the jobs that paid the most did not require degrees in computer science. It doesn't take a thick book of credentials to become a web hacker. Go to a web shop, and ask the people working there what their credentials are.

    Now, go to any business, and ask their IT people what their credentials are.

    There are a lot more of those people, and they only get paid marginally less than programmers. The programmers are in a very very tough job market, so mostly only good ones get jobs programming anywhere (though, there are notable exceptions, of course), and they're overqualified for networking.

    As a programmer, without a masters, I made $40k a year. Does it sound like your daughter couldn't make more with a degree in marketing or accounting?

    Now that we've got that one solved, you have to ask if pushing kids into the field is a good idea. Only a few of them actually like it, to the rest, even a bachelors is a hellish workload in a field that they dislike. Go ask your marketing student how many all nighters they pull a week. In the atrium here, students write things like "Why don't they let me sleep!!" on the whiteboards... and those are the undergrads, us grads are off in our offices or labs.

    So, fine... perhaps we need to make sure that the women who want to be here get here. I am a hearty, strong advocate of THAT, but before you send your daughter off to some brainwashing session that says that she needs to become an engineer, remember that it's a person with an MBA who will be her boss, not someone with a degree in engineering.
  • by xIcemanx (741672) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:09PM (#14292368)
    public cells woo(Girl g) {

    if (g.hotness > -10) {
      while (true) {
        hair.smooth();
        lysol.spray(armpits);
        mouth.stammer();
        mouth.tellJoke(lameBinaryJoke);
        if (g.noticesYou()) {
          return semen;
        }
      }
    }
       
  • by mclaincausey (777353) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:09PM (#14292375) Homepage
    Caveat: the following comes with a massive grain of salt, as it is speculation and generalization:

    I was thinking about the dearth of women in science just the other day. I think, as has already been concluded and probably supported, that the difference stems at least in part from the fact that women from a very early age are treated differently. This treatment includes not just how they are treated in the classroom, it also includes what is expected of them. Boys get mechanical toys, erector sets, legos, and other toys that encourage engineering and scientific tendencies. Girls get dolls and other toys that encourage maternal and domestic tendencies. It could certainly be looked at as a chicken-and-egg argument, but perhaps we could start to remedy this phenomenon by encouraging women to build and experiment at a younger age.

    It's also evident that girls and boys emulate the people around them, so a more stimulating, interactive and intellectual environment at home could be a boon for either gender.

  • by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb.gmail@com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:15PM (#14292440) Homepage Journal
    Excuse me, but when did the male hacker become a negative stereotype? Someone's confusing Slashdot's nerds for ESR's hackers, at great expense to available females everywhere.
  • A Bigger Tragedy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nate nice (672391) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:16PM (#14292448) Journal
    Is that there is a decline in men enrolling in Women's Studies degrees.

    The point is, often girls like certain thing and boys like certain things. It has nothing to do with a social standard or any other kind of garbage these people make up to get grants. It has to do with the same reason more men are found roaming around best buy looking at electronics than girls.

    Why do we constantly have this mission from some groups to force 50-50 on everything? Why is it that we have to take natural patterns out and force things on people. So now what, if a girl wants to study CS they make it free to encourage more girls to do it? Who cares who studies it! Race and sex don't matter!

    On these same grounds have you seen any studies advocating to get more boys in school? The numbers are going way down for males while females continues to rise. Why don't we see a coalition focused on getting boys into colleges. Especially white boys who are showing the sharpest decline in enrollment?

    Sure I'm going overboard here but my point is this: It's not a *problem* that fewer girls are going into CS. It's a fact. And that's all it is. They make guesses as to why and this is fine but do not try and manipulate things and make them unfair for everyone else to strike some unnatural balance. To me, it's irrelevant if fewer girls are going into engineering and CS programs.
  • by Hannah E. Davis (870669) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:19PM (#14292473) Journal
    One thing that I'd like to know is why there seem to be quite strong racial elements to the gender gap as well. I'm in Computer Science at UBC, and there are a lot of girls in my classes... but at least 90% of them are Chinese. It seems that among the Asian students, there's barely any gender gap, but female students of other races (eg. myself -- a white girl of British descent) are much more rare.

    The reason I'm asking this is that the Chinese (and the inhabitants of at least a few of the other East Asian countries) seem to have figured out something that us Westerners haven't. The only explanation that I can think of is that the Chinese (at least appear to) obsess less over what gender dominates what field.

    I don't know about other girls, but I get kinda irritated when people, be they men or women, exclaim "Good for you!" or "You go girl!" when I mention my major, as if I'm overcoming some incredible hardship by just -- get this -- interacting to guys and *gasp* doing my coursework without female encouragement!

    I also get sick of people going on and on about how comp sci is desperately lacking in women and it's masculine and discrimination is rampant and hard for girls to get into and blah blah blah... and then they wonder why the hell girls are being driven away from the subject "despite" all that advertising. I mean, seriously: do you think you could get more men into nursing by saying something like "Nursing: not just for girls anymore! Not girly at all! You won't be laughed at for doing it! Trust us!"? So why does anyone think that strategy would work on women?

    Oh, and incidentally, as a 3rd year student, I have never been harassed, excluded or otherwise treated in a negative manner based on my gender. I have never felt that I was intruding into any kind of boys-only club, and I have never found myself wishing that I had more female friends to talk to. Oh, and my grades are pretty decent too (with the notable exception of math, but I've always been weak in that area).
    • You rock.

      I think that the a big element of this is the era that we're from is a different era (I'm a male grad student at the moment).

      One of my advisors that I have been fortuate to work quite closely with feels that women arediscriminated against. I have to wonder how much of the difference, however, is the difference in experience between our generation and her generation (not quite 20 years difference).
    • by HungWeiLo (250320) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:47PM (#14292741)
      There are definitely racial elements to this. In most Asian cultures, education is of foremost importance. For many people (speaking from the Chinese perspective, but this also definitely applies to almost all other Asian cultures), majoring in a "slacker" major simply is not an option from the parents' perspective (art, music performance, history). The only accepted areas of study are the ones that have been proven to provide both financial stability and prestige (doctor, engineer, etc.) Of course, this effect is compounded by the fact that many first-generation immigrants are intimidated by language and cultural barriers, and professions like engineering (a decent living where possibly only minimal language skills are needed) are especially attractive. Of course, this is starting to change as more Asians are more assimilated into American and Canadian societies, there is a shifting trend of Asians participating in "less traditional" fields like law and politics (and music performance) as something to do for a living. I myself almost started at Julliard for music performance until I got sick of the competitive bullshit and went for engineering instead.
    • by enos (627034) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:52PM (#14292820)
      Just a random thought, but I wonder how much that has to do with communism. In the eastern european countries at least, the gender gaps were much smaller just because the communists did make things a lot more equal (everyone suffers equally, blah blah blah). The majority of the doctors I went to as a kid in Poland were women. Lots and lots of women scientists.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:53PM (#14292825)
      That's a great comment. I'm a Chinese guy, but US citizen now. All my cousins (all female) are still in China though. The way I look at it, it's a cultural thing. There is a HUGE difference in the fundamental career outlooks of Chinese people and Americans. The fact is, CS (and science / tech in general) doesn't get any respect in the US. I'm a CS major, graduating 2006. I've got a job offer for 85k next year. I'm not doing too bad for myself. But whatever your position is, as a CS person, you are socially classified as a geek. At my school, University of Virginia, being a rich frat boy and having a future in investment banking or law gets you a lot further status-wise even though you may not necessarily be paid more. It's just the way Western societies have been largely static for centuries now--people idolize artists, entertainers, businessmen. Rapid technological progress and the careers associated with it is a new phenomenon, and the Western mind hasn't really adjusted to that yet as far as I can tell. So CS people are relegated to nerd status.

      The difference in China is that as a new society (not in the sense that China is new, but in that the current Chinese society is the result of extreme social revolution) -- Chinese people are very much in tune with what is practical for getting ahead, both as a country and individually. There is a combination of old Confucian elements and government direction stemming from revolutionary ideology here. In China, there is no such thing as a 'nerd.' There can't be, because science and technology is considered the career path of choice, much like law school is in the states. In China, it's in fact the 'arts' majors who are looked down on.

      Look at where the politicians from the US and China come from. American politicians are mostly law school graduates who studied history or english or god knows what in undergrad. The top leaders of the communist party in China are almost all engineering graduates.

      So basically yes, the parent is right-on. Chinese girls are in fact much more inclined to study science and tech because that's what's expected of them. And in my opinion, if this trend continues, we will see the consequences a few decades down the line in the form of a growing East-West technology gap. A society which respects litigation and playing the stock market more than science and technology won't stay ahead too long.
    • by Quantum Skyline (600872) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:49PM (#14293365)
      I'm curious...what do you think about the attempts (in Ontario at least, I can't say for BC) to make engineering look more attractive to women?

      For example, the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers has the Go Eng Girl [ospe.on.ca] program that is supposed to reach out to girls in grades 7 - 10. One of the big things they want to do is lower math and science requirements because most women don't seem to like math and science (not my words, don't flame). Girls can then swap out a course they don't like for another, more 'softer' course when applying for university.

      In my experience (I'm a guy), every girl I've talked to who's applying to university doesn't want to go into engineering. They'd rather save the world by going into life science or take hybrid programs like biomedical computing [queensu.ca].

      • by Hannah E. Davis (870669) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:19PM (#14293626) Journal
        I'd rather see programs that reach out to kids in general, not just girls. Maybe I'm just weird, but the only time that I feel discriminated against is when somebody assumes that just because I have a vagina, I need some kind of special treatment and I can't possibly succeed on my own. It's like... "Oh, you're just a girl. Don't worry, I understand that you can't do that hard math! Here, you can do an easy course instead!"

        My highschool actually tried to set up an all-girls programming class one year. I doubt any girls signed up. The whole concept was incredibly sexist and smacked of segregation -- the implication was that us poor stupid little girls just couldn't handle having big smart intimidating boys around, and that we needed extra time and attention if we were ever to learn the terribly difficult concepts involved in programming "Hello World" in Pascal.

        If people want to reach out to girls, they need to reach out to boys too. You can't teach people about equality by treating either gender as if it needs special attention.

        Oh, and incidentally, I do hate math, I just don't think it would be fair for the powers that be to allow me to do softer courses because of my gender. I'd rather suffer through calculus, possibly even failing it (which is quite likely given how unprepared I am for my final tomorrow morning), than do a bird course and graduate with a degree that is somehow less valid than that of a male student.
  • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:25PM (#14292536)
    Since this is Slashdot, the bias is to be expected and I'm not bothered by it, but I want to point out that the gender gap exists beyond just CS majors. Look at electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering graduate statistics, too. I don't have any references, but it's easy to tell just from looking at my graduating class, which was about 80 percent male. And, of course, it's not just my school either. Attendence at ASME and SAE student and professional events is overwhelmingly male, too. And it shows at my job. There's probably about 30 people on my floor, including only 5 women, who I believe are mostly technical writers rather than engineers.

    We are told that this is a problem, and to some extent, I agree. Sexual harassment or gender bias is obviously out of line, and we should not be creating an environment such that our coworkers feel uncomfortable, but some work guys simply tend to be more interested in. If a woman is more interested in the workings of the human body than how to program computers or (in my case) build forklifts, let her go study biology, chemistry, or nursing (majors which seem to have as many or more women than men). We don't need to BS people into thinking they'll like spending 8 hours a day debugging code or playing with hydraulic oil, just so the statistics impress Oprah or Hillary Clinton. Some women will like CS or engineering, some won't.

    Of course, there is the question of why women often don't want to do the same things as guys, and any implication that women are fundamentally different from men different in their interests or the way they think will inevitably be called sexist by someone. Some times I get the impression that the thoughts of the politically correct mafia can be summed up as, "We have to have equality, and by golly, we're gonna get it even if the only way is to make everyone equally miserable."
  • You know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:32PM (#14292599)
    If someone avoids the field for idiotic and childish reasons likes the ones other posters are suggesting, the field doesn't need them. CS doesn't need people who are in it primarily for money instead of for the love of what they do, or who'll back off of it because "their coworkers are weird".

    One poster in a previous story about this said that a female friend had told him she wouldn't take CS classes because "the room smelled bad". Do you really think she was interested and would've made a contribution to science if something that little could push her away?
  • Two thoughts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by duffbeer703 (177751) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:36PM (#14292638)
    1. Americans don't take CS courses anyhow, and the asians and eastern europeans who do tend to come from male-dominated societies.

    2. CS degrees are less and less relevant to working in an IT environment or even as a developer. Most IT tasks and many programming tasks don't require the rigorous education in mathmatics that a CS degree gives you.

    Personally, I feel that CS enrollment problems says more about the relevance of the degree than anything else.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:41PM (#14292689) Homepage Journal
    Here's a response that'll tickle the feminists. Babies make IT a bad business for women.

    I own an IT company. We've hired women in the past. We've tried to get younger females with good brains to get into the computer science market and attend colleges and programs. Yet we've seen a very high quitting percentage over the past 10 years, and so have almost all of my competitors (who I'll get beers with).

    The number one reason why women have left my industry has been child-rearing. If you're a guy, try leaving the business for a year or two, and see how competitive you are when you get back.

    Many women I know today (younger ones, 18-25) seem to actually be thinking of babies, whereas when I was 18-25, most of my gal pals were thinking of becoming lawyers, doctors and, yes, even engineers. Maybe society is feeling a change back to the "old bad ways" of women raising kids and men working. I'm not saying this is the best or the worst way to live, but I don't have kids so it doesn't affect me, really.

    Expect to see fewer women in the market place for a decade, either way -- in IT our in other industries.
  • by cristij (910332) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:45PM (#14292719)
    I agree that more women should go into programming, but not because the current situation is unfair towards them. I think that personal preference and ability contribute more to the current situation than stereotypes or discrimination. However, I think design of software packages may suffer from the lack of input from women. I think that men and women interact differently with a computer. Currently since most of the coding is done by men, interfaces and features are probably written for a male user and women's productivity suffers when using those programs. A woman's touch to interface design could do a lot in making the program better usable by other women.
  • the obvious... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:15PM (#14293070) Homepage
    Not to point out the obvious, but the obvious in our world is sometimes overlooked for politically motivated reasons these days.

    The obvious conclusion is that there are less women in CS these days because the benefits are less than the penalty. In other words, the main reason there were more women in IT during the dotcom boom was because there was less competition amongst employees (in a mathematics-dominated field), and the field was seen as immediately beneficial and growing. Anyone with a modicum of technical or mathematic ability got into IT/CS because even those that were not the "best and brightest" in mathematics could get jobs in the field. (This is further illustrated by the supposed sallary gap between men and women in technical/CS fields: quite simply, the women pick the jobs that are less technically challenging, and thus pay less.)

    Women, being the sensical (and sensual! but that's something else entirely) creatures that they are when it comes to something as unemotional as picking a career, saw the obviousness of the situation: unless they really liked mathematics, there was little incentive to go into CS.

    There's also very little "staying power" in the skills acquired with a CS degree (theory aside - most employers don't seem to give a damn about anything but acronyms anyway), and for many women who were intent on getting married while they are still able to have children fairly comfortably, the payoff of a CS/IT degree was further decreased: you can't really jump back into the field after having and raising kids like you can into something that's less skill-based and more theory-based, like business or management.

    Anyway, flame on. FWIW, I'm a guy who happens to be not so mathematically inclined, and I've changed my degree from CS for this very reason as well (the technical ability reason, not the childbirth reason).
  • Stop obsessing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:27PM (#14293184)
    Everytime I see a story like this, the question is answered before the end of the article.

    Why aren't there more women in CS? Because they don't want to be in it. The question we may want to be asking ourselves is why we obsess about it. Yes, I know that we're all look for some way we can look "inward" and try and correct our "gender bias". That MUST be the only reason women don't want to be in this business. Just like I don't want to be a nurse because it's a "female" job. It has zero to do with low pay, long hours and changing bedpans. Nope. Not at all.

    The reason for women not being in CS is because of the pay, hours, and the social issues. It is, perhaps, possible that we could change the social issues by some introspection, but the question is: why bother? If we're doing it to gain a "female perspective" on programming, then the fact is that any benefit from that is going to be found and cause a change by itself. A change, I might add that would have little or none of the downside of being an "affirmative action" situation. Which is to say people with talent being looked down upon, and people with no talent looking for an easy ride. If there is a benefit to having women in CS because they are women, then someone is going to realize it and capitalize on it and when they are successful, others will follow suit or be left behind.

    If there are active harassment situations and artificial barriers to females who actually really like programming and want to be CS people, then that needs to be dealt with. But if we just want females because we think it's a good idea, then perhaps it isn't such a grand idea, especially if you have to prod females towards it with juicy incentives unrelated to a natural interest for CS. Never develop a program based on a nebulous concept about what has value without being able to demonstrate that value.
  • boys vs girls (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Starbreeze (209787) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:57PM (#14293435) Homepage
    These types of articles only seem to fuel the boys vs girls attitude here.

    I'm the only white chick on this whole floor in anything remotely technology related. I was the only girl at all in my 2000 graduating class to get a Bachelors of Science in CS or CIS. So what? Yes, some men get defensive about my presence, others couldn't give a rats ass what gender I am as long as I make shit work. That's life. I guess you just accept it, adapt, and try to grow a thicker skin.

  • by Anitra (99093) <slashdot.anitra@fastmail@fm> on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:08PM (#14293540) Homepage Journal
    I urge anyone reading this thread to buy and read Unlocking the Clubhouse [amazon.com], which containes analysis of a study done through several hundred interviews with Carnegie-Mellon CS undergrads.

    Lots of women drop out of CS because they feel like they need to be "perfect" to compete with the guys - even if they're already getting better scores than the guys. Most women in CS also don't have the same background with computers coming in to college that their male counterparts do. They probably had access to a computer, but most male CS majors already had their own PC for years before starting college.

    The "socialization" (if you can call it that) in the CS world also discourages women. Even if they're not being drooled on or ignored by the guys, they're often looked down on, as if they were stupid. (Because every guy knows that having a vagina means you can't understand electronics.) They also feel that they have to be geeks and talk about nothing but computers - they see that kind of passion in the guys and figure that they have to be just as single-minded if they're going to succeed. Some simply give up and slip back into the "expected" role of women: "I don't understand these 'computer' things, they're so complicated. Can you help me?"

    When I read this book, I kept saying, "That's me! I thought I was the only one!" In talking to the (few) other female CS majors I knew, I found that they felt the same way.

    In a perfect world, I imagine that there would still be more men than women in CS, but it would be a much closer gap (maybe 60/40 or so). I don't pretend that this field is interesting to everyone, but there are so many girls out there who would love to try it if they could do it without becoming a "nerd". It's not that the field intentionally pushes women out, it's just that they're wired differently, and express their interest in computers differently; and because there are so many men in the field, these views are in the minority.
  • by BethanyBoo (940031) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:14PM (#14293586)
    While I'm not a computer science student, I am majoring in Information Systems which faces the same gender gap. I'm actually in a scholarship program called Center for Women and Information Technology. I can definitely see why there's a gender gap. I'm doubted ALL the time by guys who think they're geekier/better programmers/whatever. I'm often the ONLY girl or one of very few in my classes. I can see how that could be intimidating for some people, however for me, it's just more incentive to kick ass in my classes.

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