There's growing and well-founded concern about the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math fields, particularly when it comes to women of color. Women’s participation in computer science careers has actually decreased since the 1980s. Right now, about 20 percent of all programmers are women and while women make up 57 percent of undergraduates they represent only 18 percent of the computer science majors.
Meanwhile, a STEM Connector report from 2012-2013 predicts that 8.65 million jobs in 2018 will be in STEM fields. That growth makes the gender disparity numbers especially troubling.
Why is there a gender gap in computer science?
There are a lot of reasons, but EJ Jung, associate professor of computer science at the University of San Francisco says two of the biggest are social pressure and a misconceptions about what computer science jobs are like. “Girls are not very cool if they want to program -- if they are interested in computer games -- and that social pressure definitely affects their major choices,” Jung said on KQED’s Forum program.
Girls often hold the misperception that programming jobs aren’t social or collaborative and that they will be stuck in front of a computer alone if they go into computer science. There are especially few women programmers of color, a fact Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, partially attributes to the high costs of extracurricular coding camps. “Over half of our students don’t have laptops or computers at home,” Bryan said. Her work illustrates the very real digital divide that still exists in the U.S. and which prevents less affluent families from taking advantage of free online coding resources as well. “There is still a very real barrier that we are working against.” She added that many girls of color don’t have clear role models or mentors within their community to encourage them along the computer science path.