Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Women have lost ground when it comes to some geeky professions.
A study released Wednesday by the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology found a decline in the share of computer science jobs held by women in a recent 20-year period.
In 1983, women held 30.5 percent of the jobs in the category of computer systems analysts and scientists, programmers and postsecondary computer science teachers, according to the commission. That figure declined to 27.2 percent in 2002.
On the other hand, women have increased their share of jobs in the natural sciences and in engineering, according to the commission.
The report comes in the wake of other concerns that have been raised about the U.S. science and engineering work force. Enrollments in leading computer science undergraduate programs are declining, the number of doctorates in science and engineering produced in the United States has dropped in recent years, and critics have argued that research in the country is not as bold as it could be.
According to the commission's study, 44 percent of all jobs in the United States were held by women in 1983. By 2003, that level of participation had risen slightly, to 47 percent. The proportion of women in scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical jobs in 1983 ranged from 16 percent to 19 percent, depending on how such professions are defined to 23 percent to 26 percent in 2002, according to the commission.
Women increased their representation in all the natural science professions, especially medical science, where they accounted for more than half of all employment in 2002, according to the report.
When it comes to engineering, 10 percent of the jobs in 1983 were held by women, according to the commission. That figure rose to 14 percent in 2002.
In 1983, women held 30.7 percent of the jobs in the category of mathematical and computer scientists, programmers and postsecondary math and computer science teachers, according to the commission. That figure declined to 29.9 percent in 2002.