Search the FT Search. World Show more World. US Show more US. Companies Show more Companies. Markets Show more Markets. Opinion Show more Opinion. Personal Finance Show more Personal Finance. According to NPR , personal computers were marketed almost exclusively to men and families were more likely to buy computers for boys than girls.
Computers are now commonplace, especially in classrooms. While it's hard to pinpoint a single reason for the lack of female computer science majors, researchers are finding that introductory computer science courses play a big role in discouraging women from majoring in computer science. According to the American Association of University Women , we can reverse this trend by removing negative connotations around women in computer science.
Educators and parents must work together to help girls maintain their confidence and curiosity in STEM subjects. Professional women already in the field can become mentors, while men can help create a more inclusive workplace. Due to the marketing strategies of the last three decades, many women have developed misconceptions about computer science. While the notion of the geek coder is alive and well, many young women are unaware of the myriad jobs and opportunities available in tech.
The University of California at Berkeley experienced a revolution in their introductory computer science classes after changing how they marketed the course. What used to be known as introduction to symbolic programming is now called the beauty and the joy of computing. As a result, in women outnumbered men in the class for the very first time. Discrepancies in overall male-to-female pay rates have remained stalled for the last decade, and women are greatly underrepresented in computer science fields.
Increasing the inclusion of women is a sound business strategy.
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Though it is still commonplace to find boards and project teams without a female member, the integration of female perspectives will naturally lead to higher revenues and a better understanding of consumer marketplaces. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, many tech and computer science companies are at the forefront of progressive workplace policies.
Some of the most innovative tech company benefits are included below. In a report by the New York City Economic Development Corporation , researchers found that women working in tech companies -- particularly start-ups -- are much more likely to have a healthy work-life balance.
Many tech companies support non-traditional work procedures, including videoconferencing and working from home.
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Furthermore, many of these companies offer flexible hours, allowing employees to work around their personal schedules to complete projects. While the average length of maternity leave in America for salaried employees is six weeks, many technology companies provide substantial paid-leave policies for new parents. Some of the best examples of parental leave policies as included below. Facebook continually strives toward creating a better work environment for its employees.
Facebook allows employees six weeks of paid leave to care for sick children and family members, which benefits women because they are often the ones who take on this role. Facebook also offers four months of paid maternity leave. Apple also offers excellent maternity benefits , including 18 weeks of paid maternity leave and nine weeks of unpaid maternity leave. This is higher than the industry average, which is 11 weeks of paid maternity leave and nine weeks of unpaid maternity leave. It's no secret that Google is a trendsetter in the tech community.
When it comes to paid maternity leave, they set the bar high. Google offers mothers 22 weeks of paid maternity leave.
The Current State of Women in Computer Science
Parents also receive a cash gift after having a child. SAS offers benefits for both birth and adoptive mothers. SAS employees receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and eight weeks of paid adoption leave. SAS believes in providing mothers with time to bond with new children. Now that historical misconceptions have been overturned, it's time to think about how to get more women involved in computer science and foster a lifelong passion for computer science in young girls.
With the number of women studying computer science near an all-time low, it's clear that we need to take action, and early childhood education is the root of the problem. According to recent coverage from The Journal , two-thirds of elementary-aged children indicate an interest in science; however, as they enter middle school, the percentage of interested girls falls dramatically.
By high school, many girls who previously took advanced scientific courses drop them. Two-thirds of elementary-aged children indicate an interest in science; however, as they enter middle school, the percentage of interested girls falls dramatically. The above statistics are corroborated in an extended report from Florida Gulf Coast University and The University of Colorado, which theorizes reasons for the drop in female interest.
In secondary school, less emphasis is placed on developing computer science skills in girls compared to boys. As a result, women who study STEM-related topics in college often lag behind male counterparts. Furthermore, female students lack role models, as most leaders in the field are men.
Historically, scientific fields have catered to men. While the geek-programmer stereotype has become less popular, there is still a belief that STEM-related professions are narrow, impersonal, and unsuited for those who wish to work on a human level. In reality, computer science careers touch every part of modern human life, and many computer science positions require interpersonal skills. Beginning in the mids, the number of women studying computer science and similar fields fell into decline. Some of the ways educators and parents can work to increase girls' interest in computer science and STEM-related subjects are addressed below.
While boys tend to be more verbal in class, it's up to educators to engage female students and bring them into class discussions. This will increase girls' interest in the subject matter and better prepare them for college-level courses in computer science. Girls entering the field of computer science are likely to face more resistance than in subject areas more heavily populated by females. Adults can bolster their resolve by providing examples of strong, successful females thriving in their careers.
Whether by creating a mentorship program at the secondary or postsecondary level, bringing in speakers, or using female leaders as case studies, educators and parents can instill confidence in girls who pursue careers in historically male-dominated fields.
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As discussed in the previous section, the number of women in computer science and related degrees dropped sharply in the s in response to male-focused marketing for home computers. In the interim years, women have shifted to subjects typically classified under humanities or liberal arts, as explained by Forbes. Rather than pure programming, its introductory computer science course has been reworked to focus on creative problem solving and opportunities within the field.
The school also made classes less intimidating by splitting the course into two sections based on incoming students' prior programming experience.
As the push to encourage more girls' to work in computer science gains momentum, a number of programs have been created to help foster interest. Some of the most innovative include:. Whether operating at the middle school, high school, or collegiate level, these groups can be pivotal in encouraging and sustaining girls' pursuit of computer science careers. Outside of the organizations mentioned above, there are a number of other initiatives to engage girls in computer science.
Whether it's a competition, summer camp, science fair, massive open online course MOOC , or government program, the resources below help parents and educators think outside the box when encouraging girls in scientific pursuits. This organization hosts a computer science and technology competition in which middle school girls develop a project to solve a social problem, and includes a project mentor.
This global technology program emphasizes entrepreneurship. Girls in middle school, high school, or college can compete to create and launch a mobile app during a three-month curriculum. Students are matched with female mentors and get to present their apps to investors via YouTube. Maria T. Bailey is the foremost authority on marketing to moms.
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