Tackling the Gender Gap in Computer Science Careers

by Guy Tauer

March 8, 2019

A recent news segment on CBS Sunday Morning pointed out some facts about the glaring gender gap in the computer science field. The story noted that just one-quarter of computing jobs are held by women. One sobering comment from this story was that the gender gap in computer science has worsened in the past decade. Another startling figure cited by former Microsoft worker and tech company entrepreneur Hadi Partovi was, “of the 24,000 STEM teachers that graduated in the U.S. last year, 75 were computer science teachers. Most become math or science teachers.” So just finding enough teachers in computer science is a challenge.

That’s where code.org comes in. This non-profit that Mr. Partovi spearheaded is training teachers to teach introductory computer coding to students as young as elementary school. The ideas is, if more girls can be exposed to learning about computer science and software coding at a younger age, more of them might pursue a career in computer science when they get older. The longer-term goal is to help bridge the gender gap by exposing younger students to computer science and technology skills.

Turning to more local data on this digital disparity, we can look at employment by gender and industry from the Census Bureau’s Local Employment Dynamics program. Analysis of the software publisher industry – one industry employing computer scientists, software developers, and other computer-related occupations – shows that local trends are similar to U.S. trends. For example in 1998 about 55 to 60 percent of workers in Jackson County’s software publishing industry were male. Two decades later, 70 percent of workers in the software publishing industry were male.

Occupational data by gender for local areas are only available from sample-based estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). As the data are estimates, the margin of error can be pretty wide, so keep that in mind when using ACS data, especially for smaller geographies and the one-year estimates which have a smaller sample than the five-year estimates also available from the ACS. For this analysis of occupational employment by gender at the local level, the one-year estimates provide the most current snapshot. From this data we find that in the computer and mathematical occupational group, about 97 percent are male in Jackson County.

Find out more about code.org at www.code.org.

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