Professor Dame Wendy Hall of Southampton University reports cultural obstacles, such as Computer Science being ‘for geeks’, has proved near impossible to overcome and bring more females, that are desperately needed, into this sector.
The Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that in 2004 19% of students on undergraduate computer science degrees were women in the UK, in the most recent year this has dropped to just 16%. Just 148 girls took AQA Computing A-level compared to 2,123 boys. Five years ago 3,628 boys took the exam and 297 girls.
Women use technology as much as men so it is important they are part of creating the future for the industry of Computer Science.
‘i’m a girl applying for compsci too i’ve been to a few open days, but there were only one or two other girls there as it was mainly guys.’
‘Expect 5:1 ratio of Guys to Girls.’
Students are being taught from a young age how to use a computer, to produce spreadsheets and documents, rather than how it works. This is said to be one of the major contributing factors to why there is a shortage of females taking up computer science to degree level. The simplicity of I.T. in school means that many girls fear that ‘if they study computing they are going to become secretaries’ and they are unaware of the huge potential a Computer Science degree provides.
Many attempts have been made by the scientific community to get girls to take up computer science including campaigns by e-skills UK, mentoring by the British Computer Society’s woman’s network and, from an earlier age, computer clubs.
According to Hall, a world leading computer scientist, ‘the shortage of girls couldn’t get a lot worse than it is now’. She goes on to state that ‘We have never broke out of the ‘toys for boys’ perception of Computer Science’. The scarcity of girls remains a significant problem.