Sunday, February 26, 2006

Less Women in Technology?

There was an article that was Slashdotted in December. I was thinking about this and I wonder what the level of accuracy is. The figures referenced say that in 1985 the percentage of women who received Bachelors degrees in Computer Science was at 37%, but has now dropped to 28% in recent years.

I'm a touch skeptical, and much of that is in the perspective of the actual context. What are the specific numbers of women (not just percentile) that has changed over the past 20 years? Has that number not grown significantly? Then there is the concept of what they are judging on - the gaining of a bachelors degree in a very specific degree.

On a personal level, I have to say that many of the Computer Science Bachelors programs I looked at in the past were highly unappealing. So many focused on old and outdated technology, that I felt they were entirely not worth the time and money. Another legacy of a faltering educational system and a gap between what is happening in technology and what is actually understood about it.

I remember sitting in an database class in college and helping my teacher (male) understand how to use MS Access because he had little previous experience in the software program. I recall a similar instance in a Visual Basic class, and I still have nightmares about the way that web design was (and still is) taught there (i.e., using the <font> tag, etc...). On the other hand, I had one absolutely brilliant C++ teacher that sticks out in my memory - and I struggled with that class a lot because he had difficulty coming down to a beginning level to explain it. Another instance of a great teacher was my Oracle instructor - someone who managed to actually make that awfully complex software conglomeration seem easy to navigate. However - throughout all my technology courses... I have only had one female instructor (and that was in high school, not college).

However, all that a given, I have to say that in the more niche technology sector of Web Standards, there seem to be quite a larger number of women. So much more so that I would nearly wager that small sector comes closer toward an even split than any part of technology I've worked in before. The ones I've found to have the least amount of women (so far) have been in networking / hardware, and database technology.

In any event, I think its prudent to not limit these surveys of degree related gender presumptions to only those of one specific degree (or a degree at all really). I'd like to see more broad-scale estimations.

~Nicole

Cross-posted to take your comments on Beyond Caffeine.