Tech & Work

Number of women entering IT field drops

According to statistics, the number of women choosing to major in computer science dropped 70 percent between 2000 and 2005. With new programs implemented to encourage young girls in the areas of science and technology, why is this happening?

According to statistics, the number of women choosing to major in computer science dropped 70 percent between 2000 and 2005. With new programs implemented to encourage young girls in the areas of science and technology, why is this happening?

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It's a depressing statistic. According to Computerworld magazine, the number of women choosing to major in computer science dropped 70 percent between 2000 and 2005. And there's more:

  • In 2006, only 15 percent of girls took Advanced Placement exams for computer science, the lowest female representation of any AP exam.
  • Of all the computer science degrees awarded in 2007, only 19 percent went to women.

There are lots of theories as to why women make up a smaller percentage of men in the IT field — there is a scarcity of female role models already in IT, girls tend to veer toward careers that offer more social interaction, etc. What I don't understand is the drop in the last few years when the issue was finally being recognized and addressed in programs specifically geared toward young women.

For example, the Girl Scouts offers a program of weekend and weeklong technology camps called Technology Goddesses that aim "to keep young girls engaged in computing and technology, especially through those dicey middle-school years when girls' interest in computing begins to decline."

I ran across another organization with the same goal that calls itself "Nerd Girls." (The name itself might highlight part of the problem. In a time when young girls are subliminally encouraged by the media to be "sexy," I'm thinking the nerd tag might not be too appealing. Hello PR department!)

So what's going on here? I can't bring myself to believe that girls' brains have undergone some kind of evolutionary redesign in just six years. Is Hannah Montana to blame? (Just think if we could get her to stop writing songs and start writing code!)

Seriously, though, I'd like feedback from men and women in IT. I'd really like to get some insight from women who have left the world of IT for various reasons.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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