Thursday, September 23, 2004

Lack of Females in Computer Science - One Geek's View

As a female in computer science I often have puzzled over this question. Why does computer science seem to have so few females? As a graduate student, I see a higher percentage of female's in computer science than I do at the undergraduate level.

Computer science has many female role models (Grace Hopper, Lady Lovelace). There is even a company (Her Interactive) that specializes in computer games focused on the female market. So why the extreme lack of interest? I personally find the area to be highly rewarding and extremely fun.

Possible Reason #1: Old sterotypes still exist. Which I do think is true. There are some educational systems which still make females feel that math and science are not areas they excell in. Of course, those people are so totally wrong! Females can be just as good (or better) then males in math and science and gender has nothing to do with it! However, if the sterotype is seeded in one's mind at a young age, then it can be hard to alter or remove this incorrect information.

Possible Reason #2: Video games of the 80's were male focused. Ask any male computer science major why they decided to major in computers and most will give a similar answer: "I remember playing . I thought it was so cool! I wanted to know how to do that..." I dare you to try it out. Anyway, games are becoming more gender neutral in my mind. But without this important seed being planted in females at a young age, they have never wanted to find out how video games work.

Possible Reason #3: Don't want to be labled "geek". In a world were white teeth are the "in" thing, hoolywood role models are extremely thin, and the "in" clothing color is pink - geek just doesn't fit in. I know I have often stuggled with the two sides of my personality. I own more shoes than most of the male geeks I know put together. My thought - who cares if you are a geek? However, this takes someone who is not wanting to "fit in" with the sterotypes of society. I strongly believe that you can wear pink or the latest style and also be a geek - but, of course, that is just my opinion.

Possible Reason #4: They just have never thought about it. Really, I think most females never consider computer science as a major. That really we are dealing with a large group of people who do not really understand what being a computer science major is all about. Other science areas have been around longer and have a clear meaning. Computer science is an ever changing and evolving major. The area has made leaps and bounds in the past 20 years. So maybe by just getting the word out will help females become more interested.

Whatever the reason I am sure that one day computer science to will balance out as has the medical field and business. When will that happen? I don't know. One day female geek with be a tend and an "in" thing, until then those of us already in computer science will need to carve out what it means to be a female geek so that others may follow in our footsteps. If enough people slowly follow, the once light trail with become a well traveled road.

Thanks for stopping by. Join my blog another time for a new exciting blog. Happy Thursday everyone!

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