Why aren’t women staying in computer science?

Women at E3 2015
E3 Expo
It wasn’t always like this, you know. The tech scene wasn’t always a continuation of frat culture with more algorithms thrown in. Women weren’t always unicorns in the tech scene, comprising just 11 percent of engineers in the field (on a good day). And while men in tech jobs overall in the U.S. currently outnumber women seven to three, with a staggering 80 percent of software developers in New York being male, this gender gap wasn’t always this pronounced.

In fact, the sad truth of the matter is that when it comes to women in tech, we’ve regressed, and are regressing still. In 1984, 40 percent of computer science majors in colleges across the U.S. were women. 50 years ago, nearly half of the programmers in the field were women. Today, only 18 percent of college grads with a computer science degree have two X chromosomes. And in the workplace, it’s even grimmer.

The topic of gender inequity, particularly in tech, isn’t anything new, but the problem is that it’s really not getting much better. Even in pop culture, female computer scientists are quickly typecast in a way that reinforces this strange, almost fetishized sense of “otherness.”

Take, for example, Lisbeth Salander of the acclaimed Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. In Steig Larsson’s books and in both movie adaptations of his work, Lisbeth’s character is depicted in an almost masculine way. She is hard, tough, thoroughly anti-feminine (though fiercely feminist).

Then there’s Penelope Garcia of Criminal Minds, who, while technically gifted, is characterized in an almost clown-like manner. She provides the comic relief for an otherwise highly intense show, and ends up being taken a bit less seriously than the other characters.

So what happened? How did we lose so many women in the computer science field, and how did we create a brogrammer culture that all but prevents women from joining in? Whereas programming was in fact initially seen as “women’s work,” the early days of the ENIAC have long since passed us by.

Today, it would be ludicrous to read the following in Cosmopolitan Magazine, but in 1967, this was indeed a reality: “Now have come the big, dazzling computers — and a whole new kind of work for women: programming. Telling the miracle machines what to do and how to do it. Anything from predicting the weather to sending out billing notices from the local department store. And if it doesn’t sound like women’s work — well, it just is.”

But when personal computers became more accessible and more popular, they were branded as boys’ toys in the same way that Barbies were geared towards girls, and slowly but surely, women began to turn away from programming and computer science. And now, we’re stuck in a situation where, as per Stanford University studies, “women’s quit rate in technology exceeds that of other science and engineering fields — with a full 56 percent leaving their organizations at midlevel points in their careers.”

That’s the real problem — even if we convince more women to major in computer science in college, nothing will change if they enter the workforce only to be pushed out a few years later. In 2014, Kieran Snyder interviewed 716 women who decided to leave their jobs in the tech industry after an average of just seven years. The vast majority of them said that their decision ultimately came down to a discriminatory work environment. It didn’t matter how much they liked the work — at the end of the day, the climate was simply too toxic.

And this isn’t just a matter of being “oversensitive.” As Rachel Thomas, an instructor at Hackbright (a women-only coding bootcamp), a math Ph.D., and a software developer in her own right noted, “Investors preferred entrepreneurial ventures pitched by a man than an identical pitch from a woman” at a margin of 68 to 32 percent according to a study conducted by Harvard Business School, Wharton, and MIT Sloan. Researchers noted, “Male-narrated pitches were rated as more persuasive, logical and fact-based than were the same pitches narrated by a female voice.” Another study carried out at Yale found, “Applications randomly assigned a male name were rated as significantly more competent and hirable and offered a higher starting salary and more career mentoring, compared to identical applications assigned female names.”

Best of all, when 248 performance reviews of tech all-stars (both male and female) were examined, negative traits like being abrasive, strident or irrational appeared in 85 percent of reviews for women. Those same words appeared in just 2 percent of men’s reviews. As Thomas says, “It is ridiculous to assume that 85% of women have personality problems and that only 2% of men do.”

When it comes down to it, solving the problem of gender inequity in tech has to come from multiple levels. Not only should young women be encouraged to pursue their passions (whether they are technical or not) from a young age, uninfluenced by gender stereotypes, they must also be equipped with the tools they need to combat sexism in the workplace. And most importantly, management at tech companies must be made acutely aware of the problems that persist in tech work environments, and there must be proactive measures taken to address these problems.

Otherwise, tech will continue losing out on half the available workforce. And if those world-slaying companies really want to take over the world, that’s not a volume of talent they can do without.

Cars

VW may shift $56 billon in battery spending from Samsung over concerns

Volkswagen may shift some of its electric-car battery business away from Samsung over concerns that a deal with the Korean firm will unravel. Volkswagen plans to spend $56 billion on batteries to power a growing lineup of electric cars.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now (June 2019)

Amazon Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be a major undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Skip the sunshine this summer and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (June 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Small Business

Apple’s new website defends App Store from charge of monopolistic practices

Apple has published a new website about the App Store and App Store practices, in an attempt to demonstrate that the App Store does not operate as a monopoly. The website highlights that Apple allows apps from competitors, like Google.
Features

From GoPro to Lenovo, Trump tariffs would have raised prices on tech from Mexico

While the Trump Administration's efforts to place tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. have obvious consequences for American businesses and consumers, Trump's Mexico tariffs might have a much more immediate and significant effect.
Mobile

Sprint's 5G network goes live in Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, and Atlanta

Sprint is building its next-gen 5G network in preparation for a rollout this year, but it's taking a decidedly different approach than some of its competitors, including Verizon and AT&T. Here's everything you need to know.
Computing

These business machines can rival any consumer laptop in style and function

These laptops have the reliability, performance, and battery life you need whether you're at your desk or flying across the country for a meeting, letting you to revel in a function-first approach.
Mobile

Sorry fans, Blackberry Messenger for Android and iOS died May 31

The BlackBerry Messenger app, better known as BBM, for Android and iOS is shutting down, nearly six years after it launched. The consumer version of the messaging service will stop operating on May 31
Mobile

Mastercard’s Digital Wellness program uses A.I. to make online paying safer

MasterCard announced its Digital Wellness program with the goal of using artificial intelligence to make paying for things online a little easier. The new system makes use of "billions" of data points to authenticate users.
Mobile

Facebook bans its bloatware from any future Huawei phones

The U.S. Commerce Department has added Huawei to its "Entity List." Google, Intel, and ARM are all confirmed or rumored to be ceasing business with the company, which may have disastrous effects on Huawei.
Computing

Dropbox’s all-new desktop app wants to be your one and only workspace

Dropbox has unveiled its most significant update yet as it continues to move away from its original core service as a place to store files in the cloud, toward a virtual workspace solution that offers all services in-app.
Deals

IP Vanish unveils deals on monthly and annual VPN plans for Father’s Day

Now in a limited time Father’s Day deal, IP Vanish has slashed prices on its one-month, three-month, and one-year VPN plans, saving users up to 73%. Consider protecting your digital privacy and peace of mind with these priced-down plans…