Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Programming The Internet Education Stats

Women's Enrollment In Computer Science Correlates Negatively With Net Access 314

New submitter MoriT sends this excerpt from a post examining the correlation between women's enrollment in computer science programs at college and their access to the internet. "There is currently a responsibility-dodging contest between industry and academia over who is to blame for the declining enrollment of women in Computer Science and declining employment of women in software development. I hear people in industry bemoan the 'empty pipeline,' while academics maintain that women aren't entering their programs because of perceptions of the industry. I have compiled some data that may help resolve the question by highlighting a third factor common to both: access to an Internet-based culture of computing. ... I conclude that in the last 10 years among many Northern European nations, rising Internet access is correlated with falling interest in computer science relative to other professions among women. The group of Mediterranean nations that show a positive correlation should be a fruitful area for future research, but seem outliers from the Northern cohort."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Women's Enrollment In Computer Science Correlates Negatively With Net Access

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:15PM (#40376391)

    We can't confuse correlation with causation. While this might be a third factor, what other factors may be involved?

    • by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:18PM (#40376471)
      Putting up with creepy neckbeards in the CS major? I've certainly seen it with the scant few women that were CS majors at my school.
      • by Tanktalus ( 794810 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:42PM (#40376933) Journal

        scant [...] women

        Pics or it didn't happen!

        Oh crap, I think I just proved the point. :-P

        • by Tsingi ( 870990 ) <graham.rick@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:52PM (#40377109)
          As soon as I got hold of something I could program my career was set. I don't see what the fuss is about, women rarely (never as far as I know) catch the bug that men do when they discover that they are natural hackers. It's the way it is, men and women are different. Sue me, it's true.
          • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @06:17PM (#40377505) Homepage Journal

            My experience with my daughter and her girl scout friends is that once the get to middle school, a lot of pressure is put on them not to like math. From TV, to parents, to other kids.

            Now, I don't stand for that nonsense, and my daughter(11) is learning algebra through summer.

            Yes, I am a mean dad that has actual summer goals for his kids. Fear not trolls*, it's only an hour a day in the mornings for math and Spanish, and an hour for electronics in the evening.
            My kids have plenty of time to goof off; which is important. And frankly there more you know about science, math and electronics, the more interesting their goof off time is anyways.

            *Not necessarily the person I am replying, to, but to a bunch of people who don't have kids but a wealth of stupid advice.

            • by Gilmoure ( 18428 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @06:38PM (#40377803) Journal

              Yup, my daughter's (11 yr old) also into Lego robotics and starting middle school next year. She's learning welding, helping to tear down a big block Chevy, and video editing this summer. She already has the "I'm a geek and don't care what you think" attitude so hopefully, will stay on her current tech/science track.

              • And if you keep her BMI between 19 and 23 you'll need to add martial arts to that and send her to school with a stick to beat off all the men who'll propose to her on the spot.

                p.s. She wouldn't happen to have a sister with similar interests about twice as old would she?

            • by Tsingi ( 870990 )
              I have a daughter and a son. My son is a developer. My daughter is an artist who will eventually go into polysci. They are both brilliant. :) I'd be happy to be wrong about what I said, if it's a matter of peer pressure, that I could understand, but I've seen no evidence of it myself.
              • by jythie ( 914043 )
                You are not looking in the right place. Try the mirror.
                • by Tsingi ( 870990 )
                  I've always encouraged my kids to follow their interests. I'm a geek, my daughter's mother is a geek. My son's mother is an idiot, but he turned out OK.
      • Creepy? Just because I offer to share my tentacle hentai?
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Two things happenned, and they either both increased or decreased or didn't.
      Surely they must be related!

  • by djnanite ( 1979686 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:20PM (#40376507) Homepage
    Has anyone bothered to ask women directly why they chose not to do Computer Science?

    You know, rather than just guessing...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:22PM (#40376543)
      Quiet, sweetheart. The men are talking.
      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        Whoooooo there buddy, this isn't womens' health, abortion or birth control we're talking about; women might understand computer science!

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:28PM (#40376643)

      Has anyone bothered to ask women directly

      Yes, they did ask. But the women got all in a big huff, and snapped back, "You SHOULD know that already, and SHOULDN'T need to ask. You're simply don't CARE about us, or pay us any attention."

      If it was computer geeks taking the survey, they probably wouldn't get any answers from females anyway, so they might as well try to create some abstract association.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geekoid ( 135745 )

        And that kind og joke is why women don't go into the field.

        OTOH, you think women are your's for the herding, so I shouldn't expect you to be civil.

    • No. For one of two reasons: (a) It's more fun to guess, or (b) If we ask, then women have to be involved, and that's just not fun anymore.

      Seriously, though, how do you ask 1/2 the population why they didn't choose something when, realistically, it may not have even been a conscious choice? Why didn't you choose to be a rocket scientist, seal trainer, glass blower, welder, photographer, astronomer, musician . . . . . .

      • I don't really buy this. While obviously, any survey of people to find out why they didn't choose to go into any random field is going to be of dubious usefulness, it'd still be better than simply guessing, which is what's going on here.

        For instance, I can give you answers to all the above.
        Rocket scientist: no jobs in that industry when I was in college (early 90s). We used to joke to our Aerospace Engineering buddies about how they'd be unemployed.
        Seal trainer: no real interest in marine animals to that

        • while some women will just say "little interest", others who have considered it

          That was actually my argument. It's not that they choose to NOT be in CS. It's that the choice isn't ever considered because of the state of the internet/culture. It's not that I didn't choose this thing, it's that I was conditioned by forces out of my control to never even think about it as a valid option for my future. Sexism/discrimination isn't (usually) overt.

          • I can't tell if you're a female, but your writing implies it. But I agree with the other responder, this is pretty dumb. If someone asked me "why didn't you go into [female-dominated field]", I'm sure I could come up with an answer better than "I didn't even consider it", with no information at all beyond that. For instance, primary school teaching: I don't get along that well with small children, plus these days any man who goes into that field is assumed to be a pervert and treated as such. Or how abo

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:29PM (#40376671)

      I wonder if maybe Men and Women have different interests?

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        I think the short answer is that women are more social than us, and I think it's more nature than nurture. Even at a very young age girls will play more social games with dolls, boys are more interested in action. Fast forward 20 years and you have women that want to work with children and in health care while men want to be engineers and software developers because one is about people and the other about things. Of course that's a gross over-generalization, but you see the same split here in Norway which h

    • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:54PM (#40377137)

      Has anyone bothered to ask women directly why they chose not to do Computer Science?

      You know, rather than just guessing...

      I know you're probably going for the laughs, but if X% decide to go into almost entirely female nursing or early childhood education or mostly female education, then you're going to have a hell of a time convincing an extra X% to go into CS just to balance it out.

      You're really screwed (uh, metaphorically, although it worked out for me practically) if there are more female nursing students than your entire engineering school. You need quotas, not so much to keep the boys out of engineering and CS, but to keep the girls out of ed and marketing and nursing.

      I'd be unholy pissed off at the world if I were forced into early childhood education just to "get the ratios correct", and I'm sure the chicks being forced into neckbeard-land would be equally pissed.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        I would be pissed if someone was forced into a position as well, but that doesn't mean we should ask why women , or any group, chose one field of another.

        It is a very male competitive industry.

        • It's one thing to ask, but most of these come with the implication that the current ratios are wrong and need correcting. Sexism is wrong and shouldn't be tolerated, but that goes both ways. Are women really too stupid to figure out what they want to do? I don't think so.

          The person who got me into CS is a woman - one of my highschool teachers. Every nerd needs that person that takes the interest and focuses it into something concrete - and she was that person for me. I couldn't have more respect for women i

    • I signed in just to say ^^, but you beat me to it. I'm pretty sure most of the comments on this page are pretty much a good motivator for any high school senior reading this not to enrol in a CompSci program if she has a vagina. Affirmative action and quotas don't work, but the hostility that comes out against women in tech is just crazy. It might never be fixed.
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        It will correct, but not until it starts to return to actual engineering, and not some ad hoc crap fest.

    • Asking people directly why they made the choices they did isn't always as illuminating as it seems - the human brain is more than capable of coming up with after-the-fact rationalisations to explain why a choice was the logical thing to do, when in fact the real decision-making was done on an instinctive/emotional level.
  • And the conclusion? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YodasEvilTwin ( 2014446 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:22PM (#40376525) Homepage
    The summary doesn't mention why the internet might be responsible. From TFA:

    The first hypothesis I propose is that Internet culture supports a belief in a meritocratic environment [9], which has been linked, ironically, to an increase in biased behavior [10] as it provides moral cover for prejudiced beliefs. Encountering overt, covert or benevolent sexism undermines both women’s performance and interest [11]. Even if such beliefs were prevalent in professional spaces before the Internet, as masculine gender performance is common, aggressive and publicly visible in online forums [12] women no longer have to be the target of such behavior themselves before college in order to associate it with the industry and choose an alternative career.

    The second hypothesis is that the Internet encourages a sense of belonging [13] to the masculinized culture of software development [14], which alienates many women [15] by causing them to feel excluded from a camaraderie-focused profession [16]. Again, while this culture may have existed before the Internet, women with Internet access are likely to encounter such attitudes earlier and more frequently. To the best of my knowledge, whether the Internet has changed the culture of computing itself, either in America or internationally, is an outstanding question.

    TL;DR The internet is dominated by sexist men, which discourages women from getting involved in related fields.

    This is a pretty interesting idea, and one that I'm inclined to ascribe some level of truth. I'm not too sure what we can do about it, though, other than continue the push for people to stop being so damned prejudiced.

    • Easy, give Ada Lovelace the credit she is due and stop giving Turning all the credit. He certainly deserves some but not all of it.
    • I propose alternative idea, and it's the same reason why we see more male Ph.Ds than female Ph.Ds in the sciences:

      - Women recognize a deadend, inherently unsocial job when they see one.

      I know if I could turn-back time I'd choose a different career. Ph.D is extremely low-paying relative to the amount of work to get it (assuming you don't just flunk out as many do). And programming is high-paying but is basically a dead end career with long hours & little social interaction (except with your computer).

      • by rmstar ( 114746 )

        - Women recognize a deadend, inherently unsocial job when they see one.

        While that theory is nice to women, the fact is that they tend (for reasons that have yet to be understood) to have their own brand of dead-end, crap job. There's a high concentration of women in liberal arts, history, biology, and languages, as well as architecture, and they do get their PhDs there after being properly exploited, and then go nowhere.

        I am dismayed at how the 21st century has turned work into a pointless hamster wheel for

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      Or less developed countries have more women in sciences.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      This is a pretty interesting idea, and one that I'm inclined to ascribe some level of truth.

      Ask yourself, did (almost entirely female) schoolteacher blogs scare me away from being a kindergarten teacher? Uh, no, I think a lifetime of wiping snotty noses scared me away.

      In retrospect my social life would have been more fun in a "mostly female" major. Yet another "what was I thinking" moment from my youth. Imagine a 25 person marketing class consisting of me, and 24 lonely future booth babes.

    • TL;DR The internet is dominated by sexist men, which discourages women from getting involved in related fields.

      That is exactly what I was planning to comment here, you just were faster at it. Men should just see the insane amount of flak and belittling us women get whenever anything even remotely technical is discussed, not to mention the awkward sexual advances even before they've even seen how you look like. Similarly, the better you look the more flak and belittling you're bound to get.

      I'm not saying this is the primary reason for declining enrollments, but I am saying that this is definitely one of the biggest r

  • Every chart I look at in TFA looks pretty flat, as far as the M:F ratio. It looks like both men and women tried to jump on the dotcom bandwagon, and we've normalized back to early-mid 90s levels.
    • My interpretation of the charts is that less women enrolled in comp sci programs during both of the large influxes of students? I'm not sure what to gleam from that.
    • I think I failed to read the graphs. I get it. The men's participation levels are higher now than circa 1995, but the women's participation levels are the same.
    • This seems likely. I went to college in early 80s and there was a big demand in programming or computer science (not the same things). There was an impression by parents that this was the way to get your kids into a reliable job in a growing field, and that's the most important thing most parents look at. Today it's different; computers are ubiquitous and not as mysterious, and the job market is glutted and full of low level service oriented jobs (IT) that are steadily being outsourced. It's just not th

  • "There is currently a responsibility-dodging contest between industry and academia over who is to blame for the declining enrollment of women in Computer Science

    Women are. Or are we still forwarding the lie that women don't make their own choices, and need to be coddled/cajoled/hand-held into taking jobs in industries they don't care about?

    • Re:Women are (Score:5, Interesting)

      by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:42PM (#40376913)
      My undergrad EE department was told that the environment was driving women away, and that was supposed to explain why we had no qualified female applicants. Obviously they knew what sort of atmosphere our department had before they had even arrived!

      What amuses me is the number of feminists who criticizing the disproportionate representation of women in science and math who never tried to advance beyond a high school education in those subjects. The women I have met in engineering were tough, knew how to put down sexually offensive comments before things got out of hand (I do not think anyone can reasonably expect offensive comments to never occur -- but there is a point at which those comments become a problem, and the women I am referring could stop that from happening with a few well-chosen words), and hated the special status women receive during admissions to engineering schools (they felt it belittled their abilities).
  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:31PM (#40376725)

    >> who is to blame for the declining enrollment of women in Computer Science

    Blame? really? Last time I checked, people have a free choice as to what field they want to work/study in. If women choose not to do CS then its entirely their choice. No one is to blame.

    Why is the ratio of men to women in CS even an issue? Its not intrinsically wrong that it mostly attracts men. Can we end this sexist crap please?

    There are plenty of professions that have a significant majority of women: []
    I don't see any corresponding massive outcry about how to get more men in those fields.

    We just need to offer equal education opportunities to both genders and employ people based on merit not gender. Positive discrimination is still discrimination.

    If there's a shortage of CS grads for employers to hire then its a supply and demand problem not a gender issue. Employers will just have to suck it up and pay developers what they're worth in the free market. Oh noes! the horror! Who knows, that might even lead to more people choosing to do a CS degree. Problem solved.

    • I wonder if there are a bunch of "Why aren't there more men in nursing?" articles over on some Nursing message board.

    • Sure, end the sexist crap. Start with the Ruby and Flash developer conferences.

    • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:17PM (#40378249) Homepage

      You think CS is bad for sexism - try being a teacher, where you not only have to worry about society judging you, but also potentially lawsuits.

      The number of male elementary school teachers is declining exponentially, and a big reason is simply that men are worried (and rightfully so) that they could be subject to a lawsuit or a sex offense charge for any number of routine workplace occurrences.

      It is a very sad state of affairs. At least women in CS don't have to worry about being placed on a state sex offender registry because of their career choice.

    • Why is the ratio of men to women in CS even an issue? Its not intrinsically wrong that it mostly attracts men. Can we end this sexist crap please?

      In a nutshell, the more women participate in society, the better off society is. If women are avoiding the field because it's populated with slimeballs, then both society and the field itself suffers as a result. A situation doesn't have to be "intrinsically wrong" (whatever that means) to warrant rectifying... just suboptimal.

      There are plenty of professions that have a significant majority of women. I don't see any corresponding massive outcry about how to get more men in those fields.

      Fixing the gender imbalances among, say, waiters or garbage collectors isn't going to be a priority because those fields aren't influential or strategic. They're more like temporary o

    • Your list gives essentially the equivalent of "construction work" for men. As well, it also reflects that many women don't care to be the breadwinner of the household, and are only interested in taking jobs with flexible schedules. The why of that should be fairly obvious.

      The other thing I want to point out is that though there may be an overall societal discrimination against women going into math and engineering fields, there's also the fact that these are relatively introverted professions. As women tend

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        >> As well, it also reflects that many women don't care to be the breadwinner of the household, and are only interested in taking jobs with flexible schedules. The why of that should be fairly obvious.

        Jeez if only guys had that option. And nope the why of that is not obvious at all, other than women want an easy life and many guys are stupid enough to put up with working all day to support them while they kick back at home.
        Women say they want equality but they actually mean favoritism. They generally

  • Practically all the disciplines that lean heavily on mathematical aptitude are affected by the gender gap: Engineering, physical science, computer science, and of course mathematics itself.

    I can't say I understand exactly why this is so, but it seems that women simply do not demonstrate the same level of interest and aptitude in mathematics as men do. Certainly I have never noticed any actual gender discrimination that goes on in these fields, or at least not by anybody who has any credibility. That

    • I can't say I understand exactly why this is so,

      No, but we can rule out certain things:

      1. The environment in schools and industry -- women are not failing to apply to engineering programs because they somehow know what the environment in those programs will be like. Women are not dropping out at a higher rate than men: []
      2. Genetics --there is just no evidence here. Find the evidence, then we'll talk.
      3. Lack of opportunity -- women are given more opportunities than men, recruited more heavily by
      • And many women do get these. Far more little boys are given toy trucks and guns to play with than anything electronic or computer oriented.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MoriT ( 1747802 )
      Women earn 45.5% of Mathematics degrees in the US. Engineering and Physics are only at around 25%, but they have been trending consistently upward. Computer Science, on the other hand, has declined from 38% to 25%. It is the only field with that dramatic decline.
  • Its (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:40PM (#40376893)

    ...because women and hard logic are such a natural mix.

    • ...because women and hard logic are such a natural mix.

      You're not making a great case for men and hard logic, either.

  • I believe there is much more logic in following article [] by Philip Greenspun from 2006 than in TFA.
  • While I'm sure the data quoted is accurate, I'm not seeing it here locally. In my group (20 of us, QA + development product group in a networking products company with about 2,000 employees), 9 are female, and an eyeball-survey says that this is about normal for the rest of the engineering organization. Same for candidates whom I interview; about half are female.

    Where are all these all-male companies? Could other tech-oriented industries (defense, etc.) be getting lumped in with Silicon Valley style compa

  • simply due to women in general realizing software is just a bunch of made up egotistical mindset crap.
    Don't believe me? wait a little bit and you'll see an article to the contrary, that there is an increase of women in software dev.
    And it won't be the first time this babel has happened regarding women in software decline/incline.

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @06:46PM (#40377919)
    There are already too many posts asking some variant of "what makes it so bad for women?" or "they have free will, if they're not in the industry it's their own choice." Well i suspect that incidents like this are part of the reason why. [] I really can't imagine why young women starting to consider their career options might see that and consider staying as far away from the internet professionally as they possibly can.(/sarcasm)

    There are also a number of comments about how the women who are in the industry know how to handle the macho bullshit that gets tossed around, implying that it's therefore okay i guess, since some women can put up with it and not all of them are being forced out of the industry. Well of course the women who are still around can handle it, selection bias much? That doesn't mean they should _have_ to handle it though.

    You know, every time there's a story about some company, or even most of an entire industry, doing something assholeish to its employees people pop out of the woodwork to say something about how the free market will correct the issue because all the good employees will find work at companies that treat them properly, and the companies abusing their employees will thus inevitable fail. I wonder how much that group overlaps with the group that think women ought to just suck it up when they're treated poorly.

    It's funny how when a company/industry/environment treats all their employees badly it's the company that's at fault. This libertarian/republican/conservative viewpoint is that it's up to the employees to fix the problem, but at least the company is still clearly designated as the problem in the equation. But suddenly when the company/industry/environment is specifically targeting women for bad treatment, whether that's intentional or not, and the women choose to go elsewhere, it's not the free market responding to the fault of the company, it's the fault of the women for not being willing to put up with the shit they're dealt.
  • by Jiro ( 131519 )

    TFA didn't even consider the most well known explanation, which others here have mentioned, more or less: women are, by and large, more likely to take jobs for job satisfaction rather than to maximize their income to support their family (sometimes because they expect their spouse to be the primary breadwinner). Someone who acts like that is not going to want to go into the computer field, which is notorious for long hours and overtime (but high pay) and low job satisfaction.

    And of course, the more interne

  • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:38PM (#40380167) Homepage Journal
    Maybe women just aren't as likely as men to leave India.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?