Computer Science is becoming more diverse, but what about the problems?

24th August 2017 07:58

Education

We have reached a point where society has realised that maybe certain fields of work shouldn’t be segregated into “boy’s jobs” and “girl’s jobs”. A report from Code.org and the College Board has revealed that more high school aged girls than ever taking Advanced Placement computer engineering exams than ever.

With campaigns such as WISE inspiring girls to choose maths, physics, and computing and Made With Code: A Project by Google Encouraging Girls to Code, young girls have access to the education they need for the subjects they want to pursue. 

For young women who aspire to build careers in computer science, early training is essential and can make a world of difference.

Hadi Partovi, the CEO and co-founder of Code.org, said, “Seeing these gains among female, black, and Hispanic students is a story of how we can bring opportunity to people who need it the most.”

Computer science, as a field, is growing so rapidly that it outpaces any other occupation in the US. Working in computer science is a great opportunity if you can land a position.

70% of students who take the AP exam reportedly want to work in computer science.

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s disproportionately white or Asian men who get the opportunities and high-paying jobs.

So, why is the computer science field so male-dominated?

 

The Pipeline Problem

Women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in computer science and engineering programs. Ten years ago, only 18% of computer science exam takers were women in comparison to this years 27%. Additionally, “for nearly a decade, the proportion of young POCs who took the AP Computer Science exam stalled at 12 to 13 percent. But in 2016, 15 percent of exam takers were young people of colour—then that went up to 20 percent in 2017.”

Employers will often claim that there is a pipeline problem in the computer science industry; implying that they would hire women and ethnic minorities, but they will argue that “there aren’t enough of them graduating with relevant degrees and applying for tech jobs.” 

 

Workplace “Boy’s Club” Culture

The pipeline argument will only get you so far. Women and ethnic minorities graduate at a much higher rate than companies employ them, and, according to Rachel Thomas, a deep learning researcher and advocate for diversity, “most major tech companies are revolving doors in which women and people of colour quit at similar rates to which they’re hired due to poor treatment, lack of advancement opportunities, and unfairness."

Which implies that this is also a culture problem, not just a pipeline problem.

But, with more education opportunities and more people from diverse backgrounds entering the pipeline, tech companies will no longer be able to deny that the candidates are there, and they should begin actioning their public promises to address their workplace discrimination. 

 

Sources

https://www.wired.com/story/ap-computer-science-2017/

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/upshot/dont-blame-recruiting-pipeline-for-lack-of-diversity-in-tech.html?_r=0

https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/

http://www.teachthought.com/current-events/made-code-project-google-encourage-girls-code

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