Those Who Code is an all-in-one resource for computer engineers and computer scientists. We come in all shapes and sizes, but our minds and mantras are the same: we like to program and we like to do it well. But one thing that still seems to divide us all is the gender gap in computer engineering and computer science (further abbreviated CECS). To decrease this gap, many different websites, programs, scholarships, and more, have been created to encourage more young women into engineering. Those Who Code is a website created to congolmerate these resources and also provide commentary of why girls or women might not be choosing or staying in CECS and what you can do to help.
So please go ahead and explore as you wish and never stop doing what you love.
Some studies think that this drop may be due to the release of the personal computer in the 1980s which then led to the stereotypical 'computer geek' in mainstream media. Other sources have pointed to problems existing in both the recruitment of these girls/women into the field and also the retention of them. Women seem to face adversity starting with culture at a young age, the media's depiction of engineers or computer scientists as they grow older, and then factors in their higher education through one to many years in the industry. There is not just one problem to solve, there are many, and I hope to enlighten readers to some of them here.
There have been a variety of studies focusing on how cultural factors affect women that may be interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and MATH) field.
There are three major factors that affect young girls:
- Girls who are told that their intelligence can expand tend to perform better on math tests and are more likely to go into these fields.
- Stereotypes about girls being worse at math than boys can negatively affect girls’ test scores
- Girls who are harder on themselves when assessing their technical abilities are more likely to think they aren't "cut out" for engineering.
Tell young girls that their intelligence will only increase with time, do not encourage these negative stereotypes, and create inclusive learning environments where young girls are not discouraged by small failures or feel they are incompetent.
College students describe computer science majors often with traits that aren't typically possessed by females. These include lack of social skills or being singularly focused on computers. So when a study had students read a fake newspaper article describing computer scientists fitting and not fitting these gender stereotypes, guess which one was more inspirational for women? The women who read the article of the engineer like them reported more interest in CS than the others!
Another study showed that girls who were shown a video of engineers of a variety of genders, races, and ages, became more interested in engineering than those who had not been shown the video.
Try not to perpetuate the stereotypical male computer geek image, especially when talking to girls. If you are an engineer or computer scientists, feel free to express yourself and show your diversity - maybe even in the #ilooklikeanenginer campaign. Do what you can to break the stereotype!
Nearly 40% of women leave an engineering field during or after school. Why is this statistic so high? A study by Harvard Business Review followed engineers through college until 5 years after they graduate. Women start thinking about leaving the field during college as they experience high degrees of self-doubt and sexism in their classes, including classmates and even professors. They experience the same in internships too: male classmates report their internships as fully positive experiences while the women experienced unequal opportunities, belittling, and further sexual harassment and sexism.
Make sure to not try to segregate your female friends, whether it be in classes or in the workplace. Treat everyone equally and if you see something unjust happening, stand up for your friend!
There are unfortunately a wide array of reasons and incidents that cause women to leave the technology field. Tech conferences often alienate women with since sexist apps or with hackathon projects that objectify women. Tech conferences are comprised of mainly male companies and companies are typically owned by all-male executives. Sexism isn’t just prevalent in products, however, it’s extremely common in the workplace. A survey of over 200 women in tech in the Silicon Valley area with over 10 years of experience revealed that 60% of women had dealt with unwanted sexual advances from a coworker, 87% have received a demeaning comment from colleagues, and 90% have witnessed sexist behavior at their company or conferences. Tech companies don’t do a great job at equality either: 11% of all Fortune 500 companies have female executives and only 5% of tech startups are owned by women. Once these women get to these positions, they don’t necessarily get treated well for it either. Women often face social criticism for being successful in male-dominated fields, like being cast as bossy, mean, “bitchy,” and overall unlikable.
Do not, in any circumstances, be sexist or encourage sexist thoughts in any way, shape, or form. Do not allow sexism to happen around you and encourage your female coworkers to go after the positions and roles they want. Create an inclusive environment as much as you can!