Women In Computer Science
Why Have Women Been Receding the Computer Science Realm?
Many of the pioneers of computer science were women. They were a large part of the programmers for the world’s first digital computers, and have had a large presence in computer science programs in universities for decades.
But by the mid 1980’s, things started to change. Women no longer had a strong presence in this realm. Not only did the numbers plateau, they plummeted, while women in professional and technical fields continued to increase.
Why the change?
For starters, the proportion of women in computer science started to drop at approximately the same time as personal computers began popping up in US homes by the droves.
These machines were largely marketed as toys on which games could be played, and the marketing was largely targeted at the male population. The idea that computers are for boys became a mainstay, and even fueled the emergence of the modern ‘geek’ as we know it. The techie culture that we are accustomed to is now predominantly made up of men and boys.
Parents were more likely to purchase a computer for the boys in the family, even though many girls showed a keen interest in them.
This was important for kids as they approached their college years. And as PCs became increasingly common, computer science professors started to assume that their students had been raised with a computer at home, and have therefore long been exposed to them.
Any females that did end up studying computer science would find that the boys would be ahead of them in familiarity and knowledge, simply because they had a lot more exposure and practice.
While decades earlier professors simply assumed that all students – male and female – came into a course of study with zero experience in the field, this started to change by the 1980s. By that time, professors assumed the opposite, and would expect students in the field of computer science to have some level of knowledge and expertise with these machines.
With such odds stacked against them, more and more women dropped out of the computer science field, succumbing to the pressures of not being able to keep up with their males counterparts who had far more experience with computers than they did.