Pop culture depicts the stereotypical computer scientist as a bespectacled guy sitting in front of his computer, in a room full of countless other computer screens.
Proof is this Google image search result for the query “computer scientist.”
As such, it’s little wonder that Kathy Cooper, a master’s candidate in computer science at Stanford, is often told by people around her, “You don’t look like a computer scientist.” She adds in an article in The Muse on women in tech, “Most of my female peers just don’t imagine themselves as computer scientists, so they don’t do it.”
Women in tech - what the numbers say
The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) recently compiled some of the most interesting statistics on women’s participation in information technology via the infographic “Women in IT: By the Numbers”.
A few of the figures presented include:
- In 2015, women made up 57% of bachelor’s degree recipients in the U.S., 18% of Computer and Information Sciences bachelor’s degree recipients, and 16% of Computer Science bachelor’s degree recipients at major research universities.
- In 2016, women held 57% of professional occupations in the U.S. workforce, 26% of professional computing occupations, and 20% of Fortune 100 Chief Information Officer (CIO) positions.
These numbers underscore what has been painfully obvious for years: Tech remains very much a male-dominated industry.
Even more alarming, according to Dr. Judith Spitz, Verizon's former CIO and founding program director of WiTNY (Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York), of the STEM disciplines, tech is the only area where women’s participation has dramatically slowed down in the last 20 years - from 37% to 18%, a staggering 19% decrease.
Women in tech and gender diversity
Women’s dwindling participation in tech, therefore, constitutes a real problem:
- Economic. Tech workers are among the highest paid, with the median salary pegged at $96,370 per annum. Several metro areas have hit the seven-figure mark, and even contract rates and bonuses have risen between 2014 and 2015. [Source: Fast Company]
- Business growth. Research by McKinsey found that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to perform than those that aren’t. An NCWIT compilation of existing research on gender-diverse teams also found that gender diversity encourages superior team dynamics and productivity than their homogeneous counterparts.
What can be done
Society plays a crucial role in encouraging more women in tech. Fair treatment of women in the workplace is a start. But teaching our daughters - and sons, for that matter - that tech is all about skill and not gender assignment may just be the key to finally eradicating people’s preconceptions of computer scientists.
And because the pipeline for future women leaders in tech needs some serious work, as demonstrated by some of the stats above, it’s perhaps high time you considered upping your game in tech through NCU’s Master of Science in Technology and Innovation Management.