Archive for November 4, 2011

Women in Computing: Give us percent of population, not just number

There’s been a good bit of press about increased number of women in computing lately, like this news report from Indiana and this other one from Purdue.  The below analysis describes my worry — a report of raw numbers can mask an overall decline in percentage of women.  The overall percentage is important.  More women is great, but if every class only has a couple of women in it (up from one), the women are still at-risk.  The Purdue report does say, “Women account for 26.1 percent of the first-year engineering class, compared to 20.6 percent in 2010,” which is great, but doesn’t tell us what the overall percentage is.  Since women leave the field at a higher rate then men, just the first year numbers don’t tell us about the picture overall.  The Boulder report is impressive: Doubling the number of women, and raising the percent of whole to 17%.

According to a press release this week from UCSC (Baskin School of Engineering promotes increased participation of women in computing), UCSC has had 40% increase in the number of women majoring in computer science in the past 2 years.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But it is just spin.

The article does not say how big the increase in the number of men majoring in CS  was over the same period.  According to the 3 Quarter Average of Undergraduate Declared and Proposed Majors (historical, HC), the total CS majors went from 185.7 in 2008–09 to 294.9 in 2010–11 (fractions result from averaging over 3 quarters and from double majors).  That is a 59% increase, so it seems like the fraction of women in CS has been dropping.

Indeed, this quarter, Undergraduate Majors by Gender (HC) shows 30.0 women and 259.5 men, or about 10.4% of the majors being female. Even adding the proposed majors (many of whom will disappear to easier majors) only gets the numbers to 57.0 and 467.0 (10.9% female). This is not quite the lowest ratio of women of any of the engineering departments at UCSC (bioinformatics 29%, computer engineering 10.6%, electrical engineering 8.5%, bioengineering 26.5%, information systems management 16.9%), but is certainly not a number to brag about.  Actually, none of those numbers are anywhere near what they should be.

via 40% increase in female CS majors—not as good as it sounds « Gas station without pumps.

November 4, 2011 at 9:06 am Leave a comment


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