Research Essay on Computer Science

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The number of women pursuing computer science majors in college has dropped almost 20 percent in the last thirty years. Even though many tech industries claim to have found solutions to fix the gender gap problem, this issue has not changed over the years. My contribution essay will analyze the reasons behind the wide gender gap in computer science. I will look at various scholars and their studies on what they think causes the gender gap in tech industries. I will then argue my perspective on how education systems in middle school or elementary school are key reasons why gender inequality in tech industries exists. A lot of scholars tend to focus on the education of women in universities and often tend to overlook education for young children. Studies have shown that girls possess the same mathematical and logical skills boys have. However, girls have been discouraged from pursuing STEM subjects as early as elementary school due to gender stereotypes. Other reasons that I will analyze include the role of social media, the work environments, and treatment of women in tech industries, and the differences in the perception of men and women in viewing tech jobs.


The tech industry has boomed tremendously over the years, yet where are the women? Computer science is not assigned to a specific gender and knowing this information is significant for resolving the gender gap. Over the years, technology has become a part of our everyday lives. Unfortunately, the level of women versus men in technology has declined nationally, as far as women acquiring college degrees and getting tech occupations (Stiffler, Lisa). Identifying the reasons causing the gender bias present in many tech industries is challenging. This is due to the difficulty in “recognizing whether the sexual orientation inclination is because of subliminal perspectives during the enrollment procedure, or from the progressing cycle that sees women getting lower pay and less advancement”, putting women below men (Buser, Thomas). Multiple reasons cause a wide gender gap; however, I believe that the most contributing factor causing gender inequality is largely due to the education of the youth.

Gender Stereotyping in Youth Education:

A key root causing the huge gender gap in tech industries can be traced back to schools. Studies have shown that girls possess the same mathematical and logical skills boys have. However, girls have been discouraged from pursuing STEM subjects as early as elementary school (Friendenberg, Michael). Partially because there are not enough female role models advertised in the computer science industry. “I think for girls, you cannot be what you cannot see,' Reshma Saujani, CEO and founder of Girls Who Code claims. A study done in 2016 discovered that only twenty-one percent of STEM professors were female. If girls do not see female role models in the tech industry, they will most likely not strive to work in technology. John Locke states that breaking down the stigma in the youth can have positive impacts on decreasing the gender gap in tech industries. According to Figure 1, women have always been the minority in pursuing a computer science degree (Lemons, Mary). Girls learn to associate computer science with men, and therefore, an industry that has no place for females, decreasing their interests.

Gender studies professor Janet Shibley Hyde at the University of Wisconsin believes that another reason why not a lot of girls pursue STEM subjects is due to other interests and not the lack of role models. Young girls have other interests based on their strengths in verbal skills and are given the same opportunity as young boys to pursue their passions. However, if girls possess the same mathematical and logical skills boys have, then would there not be an equal amount of boys and girls pursuing the same career?

This is why I believe that gender stereotyping for children is a huge problem that demonstrates that boys and girls are expected to be different and have different interests. For example, toys for girls are mainly associated with dolls or the color pink, whereas toys for boys are usually cars or construction objects. The difference in toys encourages boys to focus on machinery and engineering at a very young age, giving them an advantage in their careers. By not diversifying the types of toys available for girls and boys, children are taught that certain interests have gender stereotypes, whereas engineering and computer science are associated with boys. This is also applied to other things like clothes or jobs that are marketed for a specific gender despite recent developments to stop the trend.

Impact of Social Media:

This gender inequality is further expressed through social media and the press. Women are not promoted to the same extent men are in the news (Hempel, Jessi). When people found out that I wanted to study computer science in university, they would be surprised and say something along the lines of “Isn't that for boys?”. This shows how not only is the gender gap known to society, but it has also become “normal” for computer science to be a male career. Often computer scientists are represented as “nerds”, or people who do not go out. They are called terms that young females do not want to be called. Furthermore, the income difference between male and female computer scientists is clear on the internet. As a result, many women do not want to go into computer science because they already know that they will be paid less no matter what. Once an industry has the connotation described above, it is extremely hard to get rid of it. Considering that the tech industry is already very male-dominated, jobs in computer science are already only targeted to men on social media because businesses already assume that women will not apply.

In any technology area, for example, video games, the majority of them advertise only to males. Commercials online only depict young boys using or playing a new video game. When was the last time a video game was created that only targeted girls? Eighty-five percent of characters in video games are male (Bhardwaj, Prachi). If a female character is included, the majority of the time, they are represented in a sexist way. The representation of computer science and technology in social media greatly impacts the way females view the technology field. The depiction of women in video games makes females feel unwelcome in the industry.

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Melinda Gates states that universities are graduating fewer women technologists than in previous years, which is not good for society. Many universities claim that they strive to have an equal proportion of men and women in technological majors. Yet, in reality, only 18 percent of women are computer science majors (Bhardwaj, Prachi). This is concerning considering that 37 percent of women were computer science majors in the mid-1980s (Friendenberg, Michael). This raises the question of what happened over the years that caused fewer women to study computer science. However, these statistics hide the fact that the same amount of women earning computer science degrees was about the same in 2003 and 1987. The reason why the numbers do not show this is because the number of men who earned computer science degrees has grown while the percentage of women has remained lower (Hempel, Jessi). A lot of universities have shown significant improvement in accepting more female computer science majors. For example, 48.5 percent of computer science majors at Carnegie Mellon University are female. However, after college, it is extremely tough for these females to find jobs.

Treatment of women:

A study done by Kieren Synder found that women who get a job in the computer science industry right out of college tend to leave the industry seven to ten years later. One of the main contributing factors of women not wanting to come back to their work is due to the technology industries not being hospitable enough to women who become mothers. It is important to consider that when these women leave, they do not leave due to gender discrimination, they leave to find industries with friendlier sectors towards them (Stiffler, Lisa). Women leave the tech industries at more than twice the rate men do. Research has also shown that women are more likely to get interrupted at work meetings than men. Women are also evaluated on their personality in a way that men are not. These all result in women experiencing sexism and the feeling that they do not belong (North, Melissa).

The recruitment of new employees for businesses plays a major role in why more females are not applying for tech jobs when they get out of college. According to a paper by Alison Wynn and Stanford sociology professor Shelley Correll, some of the recruiting sessions taking place in college computer science courses directly discourage women from applying at all. Studies show that barely a quarter of women show up to recruitment sessions (Hempel, Jessi). The researchers discovered that these numbers were understandable due to the unwelcoming environment put forth, the sexist jokes made about women, and making fun of the absence of women engineers. These all contribute to women feeling intimidated or alienated. Companies complain that it is hard to fix a gender gap when they do not have a lot of women applying in the first place. The American Sociology Review study discovered that managers tended to recruit individuals who were culturally similar to themselves (Wynn, Alison ). When applied to the computer science recruitment world, it is understandable that men will recruit other men when trying to expand their business. Changing the way tech industries pitch their businesses at colleges could drastically change the tech field (Bhardwaj, Prachi).

Tech start-ups are supposed to be attractive to both men and women due to their high paying salary, however, studies show that women try to avoid working for a start-up tech company. As many as seventy-five percent of tech start-ups are destined to fail. Lower-income students try to avoid start-ups and work for stable tech companies where they are ensured a paycheck. Start-ups that are led by women are more likely to perform worse than startups led by men according to the Harvard Business Review (North, Melissa). However, this is because all-male venture capital firms tend to financially support start-ups. Therefore, due to the financial instability of startups, women avoid creating or joining tech start-ups.

Gender Differences:

Scott Jaschik believes that the reason for the gender gap present in the computer science industry is purely caused by the choices of women. One of his main arguments is that women are perfectionists. Programming can be very frustrating at times, which can discourage people from working if their code does not work the way they want it to work. He states that “confidence in programming is a huge factor that contributes to the gender gap” (SLU Contributor). Jaschik believes that women contain less confidence than men when coding, which, therefore, is a vital reason why women do not tend to go into computer science fields.

Kieren Synder contains a similar perspective to Scott Jaschik in terms of the levels of confidence in men and women affecting job opportunities. If a woman feels that she does not meet all of the requirements for a job, she will most likely not apply for the job due to the lack of confidence, and the feeling of not feeling qualified enough to take the job. Kieren Synder's findings found that men with the same qualifications as women are much more likely to take risks in applying for jobs (Lemons, Mary). This demonstrates that men and women do not view or take jobs the same way, which is a significant factor contributing to the gender gap.

In conclusion, multiple contributing factors lead to the gender gap in the computer science industry. Children exposed to gender stereotypes and a lack of education in computer science are the most significant factors. This creates a domino effect of all the other factors discussed. Children are taught at a very young age that boys and girls must have different interests than each other. They grow up with social media which only worsens their idea of what they want to study or do in the future. Having no female computer science role models or having social media not target women in job recreation directly creates a large gender gap. Social media plays a big role in influencing children in today's society. Not one factor directly is the cause of the gender gap. However, I believe starting to change the education systems and the way technology is portrayed on social media at the beginning of children's childhoods can tremendously decrease the gender gap over the years. Technology companies need to embrace gender equality by starting by including more women in their workforce and by providing women with equal opportunities and possibilities.


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