Women in Computing May Face Declines: Study

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Women may only hold one out of every five computing jobs in the U.S. by 2025, according to a new joint study by Accenture and Girls Who Code (PDF).

The two groups arrived at that conclusion after conducting a large-scale survey of girls 12-18 years old, along with undergraduate college students and “other key stakeholders.” Only 18 percent of current computer-science majors are women, down from 37 percent in 1984, while just 20 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) computer-science exam takers are women.

“Our research suggests that universal access to computer science risks reinforcing—rather than resolving—these [gender] imbalances,” the report mentioned. “It also shows that exposure alone is insufficient to increase the proportion of girls pursuing computer sciences.”

The report’s proposed solution: programs tailored specifically to women, with an eye toward keeping them engaged through high school and beyond. Such a plan, its creators insist, could “help to more than triple the number of women working in computing in the U.S. to 3.9 million by 2025.” The rest of the text breaks down the details of that plan.

(One interesting side-note: the survey found that girls with early exposure to games “are 4x more likely to go into computing/coding.” Take that, everyone who insisted that gaming will get you nowhere in life.)

Those who’ve followed gender issues in tech know that many of the larger firms not only issue regular diversity reports, but have also pledged to refine their pipelines to ensure a more diverse range of applicants for various technology jobs. Google, for example, claims to have expanded its hiring programs to colleges, and made computer-science classes more widely available to schools.

But a new report by Fusion suggests that those companies may want to tweak their current job postings, as well. After running a selection of those postings through the Texio and Gender Decoder algorithms, the publication concluded that companies sometimes use terms such as “aggressive” and “drive,” which are considered more masculine and thus may appeal more strongly to male applicants.

“Our findings lend support to the idea that job postings for senior positions—statistically the most gender-skewed model—are coded masculine,” the Fusion report concluded, “because they emphasize domination and hierarchy as opposed to egalitarianism, collective thinking, or more ‘soft’ interpersonal skills such as listening.”

Whether or not you trust that analysis, it seems that tech firms from Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley are continuing their diversity efforts. But how much of an effect those plans will have in the shorter-term remains to be seen.

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One Response to “Women in Computing May Face Declines: Study”

November 04, 2016 at 1:19 am, John Doe said:

“Universal access” embodies the highest American and universal moral principles and rights. I think that attempts to restrict access to education, or the creation of educational programs, based on gender, ethnicity, or a particular non-disabling physical characteristic punishes innocent people. Boys have enough struggle and failure as it is, without chaining them down some more. These advocates seem to consider being female to be a disability.

Offer positive programs that offer something useful to people, and they will naturally attract people who need that thing. For example, if a company decides it really needs an aggressive person in a particular position (the terms in the ad were specifically intended), and some people who are otherwise qualified lack aggressiveness, offer effective training to those people in aggressiveness. If most of those people are girls, their progress will not be harmed by the presence of boys who also lack aggressiveness.

If companies are actually just writing sloppy job ads, on the other hand, that’s a whole different problem. If they don’t fix it, in time a new company will just take its place, with a little more experience.

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