Eileen Pollack, author of "The Only Women in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boys' Club" wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times about her observations on women in the tech field--that we just had to share. Women only make up roughly 10-17% of all tech jobs in today's companies. While these companies are becoming more aware of their gender diversity problem, more research needs to be done to understand why women and minority students aren't opting to study computer science or engineering--and why they're not electing to continue in these fields. Indeed, female college students are four times less likely than their male peers to major in computer science or engineering, despite equal test scores in math!
Dr. Sapna Cheryan, a researcher at the University of Washington, has been studying this field for over six years and has interestingly discovered subtle ways that women feel excluded from tech-related majors. "Over and over, Dr. Cheryan and her colleagues have found that female students are more interested in enrolling in a computer class if they are shown a classroom decorated not with 'Star Wars' poster, science-fiction books, computer parts and tech magazines, but with a more neutral decor" that doesn't alienate members of the opposite sex. Beyond this, the cultural stereotypes surrounding computer scientists influence a woman's desire to take those sorts of classes. The media and popular culture often portray computer scientists as "socially isolated young men whose genius is the result of genetics rather than hard work." So, where do women fit into this? If the media doesn't show successful women in these types of positions, it's no wonder many women report feeling unwelcome in these fields. In fact, studies suggest that the public's image of a scientist hasn't changed since the 1950's! Yikes!
The face of tech needs to evolve and women need to feel accepted for being smart and hardworking in these fields. Computer scientists and engineers are "going to be designing the future everyone inhabits," so we need women and minorities to know they have a place in this future where they can be accepted.