Tag Archives: academia

Cambridge and Oxford fail to attract female computer science students

cambridge university gender disparity

Less than one in five people enrolled on the UK’s top computer science programmes are female – and Oxford and Cambridge have fewer female computer science students than any other top university.

The technology industry is disproportionate from the educational level as it fails to attract females to enroll on its key courses, data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveals.

The UK’s top ten computer science programmes are 84.55 per cent male – with the worst performing university having nine times as many men than women.

Gender balance on top computer science courses

Out of the UK’s best computer science courses, University College London has the most female students. Of its 355 students, 95 are female, accounting for just over one in four graduates.

The Universities of Cambridge and Oxford are the worst for gender representation in computer science, with 10 and 10.5 per cent female students respectively.

Featured image: The University of Cambridge, Richie

What happens in a workplace with almost only men?

bros

What’s it like to have almost only male colleagues? As in the rest of the tech industry, there are very few female academics in computer science.

To find out what that does to a workplace, we spoke to Dr Simone Stumpf about her experiences. She told us the gender balance is certainly something she is ‘aware of’.

Dr Stumpf works at the computer science department at City University London. A scrape of the university website showed that only 7 of the 41 academics in that department were female. That’s 17%. The other 34, including the head of the department, are male.

“17% is actually relatively high”

This is lower even than several major tech companies, but nothing unusual for the world of STEM in academia.

“You could look at it the other way around, and look at the usual intake into computing,” argued Dr Stumpf.

“17% is actually relatively high, ironically, because the female intake among undergraduates who go on to a Ph D is actually quite appalling. Nationally, not just here,” she said.

The undergraduate intake into computer science hovers just over 17%, but declines further at a postgraduate level.

“Casually misogynistic” programming culture

When we asked about the work environment in the programming world outside academia, Dr Stumpf brought up the casually misogynistic ‘brogrammer culture’ which leaves women excluded.

The idea of programmers having to go into a darkened room and refuse to emerge for days on end is still prevalent, according to Dr Stumpf.

“And programming is something that you can’t just dip into and dip out when the muse kisses you. You have to dedicate some time to understanding the code, so you have to have a sustained effort,” she said, adding:

“But that doesn’t mean that you have to spend 24 hours living on beer and pizza.”

“Have to take the fear away”

Dr Stumpf was inspired to go into computer science early on, as she sat in her school computer lab programming in Basic back in the 80s, and says that it was the problem-solving that attracted her to it from the start.

“It was that sense that I could get things to work, figure out what to do about it, and then solve that problem using a computer program.”

She believes society is still dissuading women from choosing this field, and that we need to change our attitudes. When we asked her how this could change, she said that a lot of it is about ‘taking the fear away’.

(Photo of Dreamhack 2012 by Kelly Kline/Flickr.)