Where Are the Girls in Computer Science?


Megan Sheehan, Writer

Computer science is a flourishing field. Technology is advancing rapidly, leaving a strong demand for employees as 512,340  jobs sit open nationwide. With computer science majors earning 40% more than the college average, one could assume that many students would want to pursue computer science. However, there is one obvious deficit in the field: the number of female students taking computer classes.

Ms. Rountree, the Bob Jones computer science teacher, stated, “There are usually no more than two or three girls per class. Typically, there is only one girl at most in the AP classes. I am thrilled if I have 4 or more girls.”

So why are there so few girls interested in computer science? Some experts believe girls want to avoid a negative stereotype associated with the field.

“The field has been stereotyped as nerdy and there are many males in the field who think it is not for women. Also, many people do not realize that computer science is more than just programming,” commented Ms. Rountree.

It is also common for women to be discriminated against in the workplace.

I have witnessed first-hand how women do not always earn the same as men for performing (and even sometimes performing it better) the same job.  I have witnessed, and experienced, how the “good ol’ boy” network still exists within certain areas of the business world; it directly impacts the respect women get in the workplace. There have definitely been growing pains, over the course of working in STEM-related field for the last 20 years.  Stereotypes still exist, unfortunately.  Women are constantly having to prove themselves in all sorts of industries and STEM-related professions are no different,” explained Gina Montgomery, Black Hawk Aircrew Trainer Software Lead for SAIC.

According to Code.org, computer science consists of problem-solving, the internet, design, programming, and more. However, even though there is more to computer science than just sitting behind a computer screen typing out programming code for hours, girls are still less interested in the subject.

Kecia Pierce, president and owner of K. Pierce Consulting, LLC, stated, “I think if you could get girls to understand all the really cool systems and industries out there that rely on computer science backgrounds, that would open some eyes. There are so many software systems that are immensely important to our quality of life, that you don’t traditionally think about. Like Outage Management systems for helping utilities troubleshoot and restore our power during storms, or a medical device that monitors the blood sugar levels of a diabetic person and automatically injects just the right amount of insulin to keep them regulated and enjoying life.”

“I think the school should bring in female speakers to computer science classes. We should also educate the administrators and counselors on what computer science is and what it is not. Also, we should get the female computer science students to encourage their peers,” expressed Ms. Rountree.

Although female computer scientists encounter many obstacles in their career, there are countless positive aspects to the field.

“There are so many positions that you can perform with a computer science degree. I have done programming, marketing, product planning, project management, and consulting. I have traveled all over the world with my work. And, after 20+ years of working for a software company, started my own consulting firm,” declared Ms. Pierce.

Elizabeth Kasprzak, a computer science student at Bob Jones, stated, “Computer science classes are interesting because I get to learn about a career that can open many job opportunities for my future.”

In all, computer science is a flourishing field with a bright future that deserves to be enjoyed by men and women alike. Though many young girls may not see themselves as computer scientists and engineers now, outreach from the school, friends, and professionals will hopefully encourage girls to think of themselves in a new light.