Why is computer science so unpopular amongst females?

My CS course has about four women on it (the female deficciency made all the more apparent by the law course ran in the theatre next to ours, with around 75% of it’s students being women).

Lots of women tend to take physics, maths and other science degrees, yet computer science seems to be the last bastion of the male. Why is this? In essence, it’s just a maths degree with some programming, so why the massive differences between CS degrees and other science degrees?

Not sure where you live, but there are multitudes of women in all flavors of computer science courses at UCSD. Generally, they tend to be Asian or Middle-Eastern, but there are a fair share of Caucasians as well. From experience, the girl/guy ratio seems to be about 1/3 to 2/5 on estimate. There also seem to be just as many female TA’s as male TA’s.

Obviously, this wouldn’t apply to many high schools, where the girl/guy ratio would be more like 1/50 :rolleyes:

A female friend of mine who (like me) is in the computer field said that in one of her computer college classes, every year the professor would take a poll of the 200 or so students and compare how many females there were versus how many students were named “Dave”. Her class was the first where females outnumbered Daves. That would be around 10 years ago though.

On a side note, my dad has programmed for several game companies (Sony, Angel Studios, etc) and a few integrated hardware companies. There has always seemed to be a fair share of female programmers at his offices, so women in computer science isn’t a new trend by any means.

Because in many schools, CS is offered through the engineering school, and math/physics are offered through the liberal arts school.

Even in engineering schools, though, you’ll still see way more female chemical or civil engineering students than you will in CS.

Meh – this should go in Great Debates or IMHO, because you’re not going to find any hard and fast answer. If you want my personal theory (credentials – doctorate in computer science), it’s because CS is not a career that favors much person-to-person interaction. You spend all your time staring at a CRT (or one of those newfangled LCD things :-). It can be a rather dehumanizing and isolating occupation. Speaking * very * generally, and trying not to overstate things, I wouldn’t have much trouble believing that women are genetically wired to be more social, and, in fact, to prefer occupations where social interaction is required. But of course, in every group, there are people at both ends of the bell curve, so you’re going to find some women who enjoy working on their own.

And some programming is more collaborative than others.

No idea here.

Elfbabe, CS major

You think CS is bad, try EE. I’ve gone to school for both EE and CS, and there were a lot more women in my CS classes. Kinda bummed me out when I was in EE and young and single, and surrounded by guys all day long. Didn’t matter so much when I was in CS because I was married by then (and in case you are wondering, Mrs Geek is not an engineer or a programmer).

I don’t have an explanation either.

Chemical engineering actually has the highest proportion of females, for what ever reason. (I used to know a couple of girls who were majoring in ChemE because they wanted to develop their own make-up lines. :rolleyes: ) Then comes ME, CE, and EE way at the bottom (not sure about Aerospace tho’).

I would guess that the proportion of females in EE is low due to the same reason it’s low in CS but I don’t have a clue as to what that reason is.

Is it an outdated/sexist thought to believe that males tend to be wired more anaylticaly? I do not know CS well but I am lead to believe it gravitates towards analyticism rather than whatever women have a tendency to be wired as. Sure, I am talking out of my ass, but is there any basis to this?

I worked in the Computer Science field for more than 33 years and during that time I encountered many female Managers, Programmers, Analysts and Technicians.

I believe that it has to do with socialization of men and women, and goes from there. Women are generally discouraged from doing “hard stuff” like math and science and forcus on expressing their inner feelings and stuff (huge generalisation, but still).

By the time they get to college, most women I talked thought CS would be really difficult. Most women I knew had majors in English, Sociology, Anthropology, etc.

The women that did do CS didn’t have an easy time of it. A lot of the - more socially challenged - male CS majors could not seem to get over this “She’s a girl, I’ll have to do her work for her” attitude. It was very odd.

Which is why I minored in English - meant I could see more than two females in class.

100% of the Computer Science majors at the last place I was a prof were women. Seriously.

Okay then, now that I have your attention.

“Back in my day…” the ratio of women in CS grad schools was quite good. Better than any other Science. There were virtually no undergrad CS programs then. (Also, my “grandmother” in my thesis advisor tree is the first person to get a PhD that says “Computer Science” on it.)

Then the undergrad CS programs started to swell in the early 80s. Virtually all of the new people were males. So, while the number of women increased, the proportion changed tremendously.

The Culture Changed very quickly. Things got nastier, more competitive. The focus on being good at certain things was valued highly, but being good at other things was dismissed. Hardly anyone did anything to try to fix this.

But during the 90s things started to improve some. Web page design, user interfaces, etc. attracts women. But still a ways to go.

It’s pretty much a standard thing that happens in all societies. One group becomes dominant. They look at what they are good at and declare that the Best Thing To Be Good At, etc. It’s just like the biases in IQ and SAT tests.

(It is quite interesting to note that women make up the majority of students in most sciences. 20 years from now, that’s going to completely change the makeup of faculties. And then it’s only a matter of time before guys start the “Science? That’s for sissy’s I’m going into English!”)

I’ve been amused reading this thread, because so many of the things that people take for the “norm” seems to differ so much depending on the school they went to. Engineer_comp_geek and tremorviolet mentioned how, at their schools, EE had a far worse ratio of women to men than CS. Where I went to school, the opposite was true. The EE major was above the school’s average female to male ratio (the EE was almost half women, the school was 1/3 women.) The CS department was closer to 1/4 women, and I think only one or two female professors. In fact, the only engineering major that had a higher proportion of women was biomedical engineering (almost one to one, and it also happened to be my major…I was happier than most guys at my school :))

Now, maybe nationwide the trend is for women to not be attracted to EE, but that certainly was not the case where I went. I think the least amount of women were probably in the industrial engineering or nuclear engineering.

No no, that would be electrical engineering :rolleyes:

Physics under liberal arts? :eek: These schools must be the bottom of the bottom ones.

I have a liberal arts degree in biology, from a fairly well-respected school, which was good enough to get me into several very good PhD programs in cell/molecular biology. All of the ‘pure’ sciences at the Ivy League institution I know best are in the liberal arts college, including astrophysics, not to mention biology and chemistry. The ‘applied’ sciences are in the college of engineering. I don’t know what the difference between a math major (liberal arts) and an applied math major (engineering) are, but there was definitely a distinction made between the two.

I’m pretty sure that’s the norm stateside. In your part of the world it may be different.

If you’re really interested, you might like to find Unlocking the Clubhouse

The reasons they propose:
[li]“Geek culture” which women don’t necessarily like[/li][li]Girls are less encouraged sine childhood to play with computers[/li][li]And hence are at a disadvatage once they’re admitted to college[/li][li]Women dislike the abstractness of the assignments given in CS, more so than men[/li][li]Women dislike the culture that dictates that one should be interested primarily in computers in order to be a CS major[/li][li]Unsuccessful women in CS are teased by their [male] peers more so than males.[/li][/ul]
(I read the book some time ago, so no guarantee that this is an especially fair summary)

It’s all backed up with interviews and surveys and whatnot, I myself(Math & CS double major) don’t find this particularly convincing, and, again, I think the book isn’t very good, but I don’t have any theories of my own that sound good.

I should also say, I think in my university there are more women in CS than there are in Math or Physics.