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The Lack of Women in Computer Science

In the early days of computers, women were enrolled in computer science programs more than men. Something happened in 1984, however. The number of women studying computer science plateaued and then fell dramatically. More and more women were beginning to work in technical and professional fields, but they were not joining the ranks of computer science professionals for some reason. What was it?

In October 2014, National Public Radio reported that the first personal computers were often just toys that were marketed mostly to males. These early computers were not very practical, and you could maybe play some basic games or type a letter on them. Women were excluded from the marketing for these machines, which made society think that computers were more for men and boys than they were for women or girls.

Consider 1980s movies such as War Games or Revenge of the Nerds. The protagonists in these movies were boys who were nerdy and full of excitement about technology. Boys got computers as gifts more often than girls did, and they had more exposure to them by the time college came around. Girls thus were at a disadvantage when it came time to choose a college major. Girls didn’t have the chance to play around with computers much, and it wasn’t considered cool for females to be computer geeks. So enrollment in computer science programs by females naturally fell.

Things are changing today, however. Discussion is out in the open about how many women study and work in computer science compared to men. The media is constantly talking about how girls need to learn to code or work in STEM professions. More and more scholarships are being established for girls to study in STEM careers. Nonprofit organizations are gearing coding classes toward girls, such as Girls Who Code, or training companies like appendTo, for example.

Female students sitting the Advanced Placement exam in high school is further evidence of the fact that girls are not enrolling in computer science college programs. For example, according to EdWeek.org, “[In] 2013 about 30,000 students total took the AP exam for computer science. . .Less than 20 percent of those students were female. . .” Hopefully the discussion around getting females into computer science will continue in the near future

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