A Moment of Science

Computer Science and Women

When you hear the term, computer geek, what image immediately pops into mind? Is the geek in your mind’s eye a woman? Probably not.

There’s a reason the stereotype of the computer geek is almost always depicted as male. Around the world, significantly more men than women work in computer science.

Sociologists understand that the under representation of women in the sciences and mathematics isn’t simply a matter of women stinking at these subjects or lacking interest in them. If women believe they aren’t talented in science and math or that these subjects don’t hold interest for them, this is in part a result of the widely circulated belief that these subjects come more naturally to men. Women are thought to be better suited to fields such as education and healthcare. Women who dare choose a career in the sciences or in math are likely to experience prejudice from their male colleagues, as well as from the community at large.

Sociologists found it curious though that the degree to which women are under represented in computer science varies largely from one industrialized country to another. Women are much better represented in computer science in South Korea, Ireland, and Turkey than in the Czech Republic, Germany, or Belgium, for example.

Why the difference? What South Korea, Ireland, Turkey, and the United States all have in common is that governmental education requirements insist that girls and boys alike complete a significant number of science and mathematics courses in order to graduate from high school.

As a result of such requirements, girls are able to judge from experience whether their interests and talents lie in science and math rather than letting gender stereotypes decide for them.

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