Thursday, January 1, 2015

Are College Majors Gendered?

The other day in math class, my teacher spent an entire period trying to convince us to consider majoring in computer science. While she was telling the whole class about the amazing things computer science has to offer, she was mainly targeting the girls in the class.

Most Americans are aware with the fact that the field of computer science and engineering is mainly composed of men, but I was not aware of just how extreme the male to female ratio in these programs until I did further research on it. These majors definitely need more females in their program. If it continues being such a male-dominated program, many females will continue to be scared off by it and the percentage will just decrease even more.

The above graph shows the percentage of females within a computer science and engineering major.

In 2010, only about 20% of people in a computer science or engineering program were female. Ideally, a program would be 50% female and 50% male, so there is a clear demand for females to major in these two areas.

In contrast, this graph shows the percentage of women within health, education, and social work programs. Women dominate these majors, with all of them having over 75% women. Clearly, all of these majors are gendered, whether having excessive amounts of men or excessive amounts of women.

Luckily, many schools are trying to get more females to consider majoring in engineering or computer science, in hopes to create a more even gender ratio in college majors, a clear problem that exists in America today. Only 19% of high school students who took the AP Computer Science exam in 2011 were female, so many schools are trying to get girls to acquire an interest for it in high school. By getting girls involved in high school, the goal is that many of them will learn to enjoy it and continue it in college. In math, we had to play a computer science game and watch a video about the perks of working as a computer scientist or engineer to try to build up our interest level.

The media has even joined in to try to raise the percentage of females in these majors. My mom showed me an article in Vogue about a young women who majored in computer science and is now an engineer at Pinterest, a popular site for many girls in which they "pin" items such as decor, fashion, and other items that they like. By showing how computer science could be used to do things that many girls like, such as the site Pinterest, many girls might start to develop an interest in this major.

However, even with all these strategies to get more females to join, many girls continue to be scared of being the "only girl". The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 1.4 million new jobs will be available in computer science by 2020, but if only males are majoring in computer science, these jobs will just be filled by men. Schools need to continue to raise interest in computer science for girls and show that it does not have to be a gendered subject. Computer science is a field that is on the rise, and if more women start to major in it, then they could fill these jobs. This could even help solve the problem of the lack of females in the workforce that America has today.

1 comment:

  1. Claire-

    I'm so glad you decided to talk about this issue in your blog! I definitely see the lack of women in fields that are considered "gender-specific", like science and computer programming. My mom has actually signed me up to attend a group called "Girls Who Code", which is a national nonprofit organization whose primary goal is to "...close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors." The group focuses on teaching high school girls how to work with computers and the technology within them, and I think it is a really cool idea to work with.