Tag Archives: computer science

Role models and flexible hours: 4 things a survey of 1,500 professionals taught us about getting women into tech

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More role models and flexibility. That’s the key to getting more women into tech careers, based on a fresh survey of over 1,500 women working in STEM.

The women were asked what the biggest career challenge was they faced as a woman working in a male-dominated environment.

Women make up just 24 per cent of the STEM workforce, according to US census data. And dismayingly, several fields are only becoming more unequal with time, not less. The proportion of female computer science undergrads in 2011 was less than half of what it was in the early eighties.

Clearly, this is an environment that poses unique challenges – here are four key takeaways from the results of the survey, conducted by Women Who Code and Pluralsight.

1. Women need a confidence boost

Women report a ‘pervasive lack of confidence in navigating a male-dominated workplace’ according to the survey.

Nearly two in three,  64 per cent, reported a lack of confidence is holding them back in their career.

And those in leadership positions struggle especially with this, as 19 per cent reported that the male domination of their work environment is holding them back, more than twice the average rate of respondents.

2. Wanted: Mentors and role models

The key to tackling the lack of confidence is clear based on this survey: Women need more female role models to look up to.

Over 60 per cent of those surveyed agreed that having more women on their team would be beneficial.

3. Who’s getting the promotions?

Are men more likely to get promotes? Nearly half of respondents aged 21-49 believed their male coworkers were more likely to get promoted over them.

Indeed, the lack of opportunities for advancement was listed as the biggest career hurdle among women surveyed.

4. Flexibility is key

Flexible work hours are the number one thing needed to get more women working in tech careers, according to this survey.

No less than 1 in 4 of those surveyed agreed that flexibility is the most helpful factor for getting more women into tech, over other factors like mentors and quotas.

What do you think would get more women into tech? Comment or tweet us @ProjectAda_!

UK has one of the world’s largest gender gaps in science

map of europe gender gap in science education

The UK is failing to give British girls adequate education to compete against their male counterparts in science, according to new research.

A new OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report, which measures the performance of 15-year-olds, shows that the UK has one of the largest gender gaps in the world.

The gap between UK girls’ and boys’ results in science tests is 13 – with boys scoring a mean of 521 and compared to girls’ 508. This is compared with an average gap of just one across the 67 countries that took part in the tests.

The UK falls into the bottom five countries that took part in the Pisa tests – alongside Costa Rica and just above Colombia.

Where boys beat girls by the most

worst countries for gender gap in science education

In some countries, girls’ science results were higher than their male counterparts, providing hope for increased gender equality.

Jordan, Qatar and United Arab Emirates were at the top of the rankings – with a score difference of 43, 35 and 28 respectively. In Jordan, where girls beat boys by the highest margin, boys scored an average of 388 in Jordan. Girls, however, achieved 430.

Where girls beat boys by the most

best countries for gender gap in science education

Several countries achieved gender neutral results, where boys and girls scored similarly.

Girls beat boys by a mean of one in Macau, Uruguay, Israel, Singapore and Germany. Czech Republic, Chinese Taipei, Tunisia and Vietnam were similarly close, with boys performing slightly better than girls – by a single point.

“Not determined by innate differences in ability”

The results have raised concerns among experts that the education system is failing to provide girls with the training and support needed for future careers in science and technology industries.

Pisa has found that, in general, girls have higher expectations for their careers than boys; but on average, less than 5 per cent of girls contemplate pursuing a career in engineering and computing. In virtually all countries, the number of boys thinking of a career in computing or engineering exceeds the number of girls contemplating such a career.

In some of the top-performing countries and economies, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, girls perform on a par with their male classmates in mathematics and attain higher scores than all boys in most other countries around the world.

The organisation said of the findings:

These results strongly suggest that gender gaps in school performance are not determined by innate differences in ability. A concerted effort by parents, teachers, policy makers and opinion leaders is needed if both boys and girls are to be able to realise their full potential and contribute to the economic growth and well-being of their societies.

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

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg launches mentorship program

Sheryl Sandberg - Lean In

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg is starting up a mentorship network for women in tech. The idea is to boost women studying and working in computer science by networking, supporting and learning from each other.

It’s a well-documented problem that the tech industry is male-dominated – and the future’s not looking brighter. Barely one in five computer science students are women today, a percentage that’s dropped significantly since the 1980s.

Sheryl Sandberg addressed the issue on her Facebook page (where else):

The solution to getting more women into CS is… getting more women into CS. This is because stereotypes are self-reinforcing; computer science and engineering classes “feel male” because they are dominated by men.

To fix this, Sandberg’s Lean In project is starting a new global chapter - to promote women studying computer science and engineering. The project is supported by Facebook, LinkedIn, and the Anita Borg Institute.

Looking for some extra support as you pursue your computer science and engineering career? Look no further—we’d love to have you as a part of a wide network of women who want to Circle up in support of women in CS&E majors at colleges around the world!

In Lean In, Sandberg’s book published in 2013, she described her own experiences of gender differences in tech, offering practical advice for women in the field.

Since then, Lean In Circles have broadened to become an on- and offline community supporting women in tech with monthly meetups. More than 21,500 Circles have formed in more than 97 countries.

(Photo: Flickr/JD Lasica, Flickr/Thomas Hawk)

 

What happens in a workplace with almost only men?

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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.)

How can we encourage women to study computer science?

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It’s unlikely any of you would be surprised, sadly, to hear that only 17.6% of computer science undergraduates were women in 2011.

What might surprise you, is that that number is less than half of what it was in 1983/4 – when 37.1% of undergrads were women.

Computer science is the only field in mathematics, engineering and science where the percentage of women on the course has decreased since 2002.

After leaving university, women made up 26% of the computing workforce in 2013, but still only earned 84cents for every dollar a man earned.

17% of Google’s technical employees are women, and at Facebook it’s a measly 15%. But these statistics are as unsurprising as they are unfortunate, as if only 18% of the people with the qualifications are women, that’s how many women are likely to get hired for the jobs that require that qualification.

However, some universities are taking steps to tackle this trend.

Universities in America are offering courses to train secondary school teachers to teach computer science to their students before, and have started using photos of women in their prospectuses.

The President of Harvey Mudd college, Maria Klawe, said in a speech at George Washington University:

“We made it very clear that being a female scientist, that’s normal.”