In 2001-2, only 28 percent of all undergraduate degrees in computer science went to women. By 2004-5, the number had declined to only 22 percent. Data collected by the Computing Research Association showed even fewer women at research universities like M.I.T.: women accounted for only 12 percent of undergraduate degrees in computer science and engineering in the United States and Canada granted in 2006-7 by Ph.D.-granting institutions, down from 19 percent in 2001-2. Many computer science departments report that women now make up less than 10 percent of the newest undergraduates.
Stross points out some of the reasons for this behavior:
Last week, Ms. Margolis said that “a lot of the girls who were doing computer science came from families of computer scientists and engineers.” Her explanation: “It was in the air. There was the expectation that they could do whatever they wanted.” Ms. Spertus’s father was an M.I.T.-trained engineer. She learned programming even before personal computers had arrived, using computer terminals in her house that were connected to a Honeywell mainframe used by the family’s business.
Twenty-five years ago, more young women in colleges and universities were drawn to computer science than today. From 1971 to 1983, incoming freshman women who declared an intention to major in computer science jumped eightfold, to 4 percent from about 0.5 percent
I can relate to this, I come not only from a family of engineers, but female engineers.
Another explanation for this behavior in this article is the pejorative figure of the "nerd" or "geek", not very appealing to girls and young women.
At least we know one thing: it’s possible to have about the same number of men and women in computer science classes. That just about describes classrooms of 25 years ago.
Although it's not clear what happened the last two decades, I hope we can change this tendency, I'm happy to be part of CU-WISE, where we believe that women should be able to seek higher education and achieve success in science and engineering without barriers, perceived or otherwise. After all, we are "cool geeks".
See the full article online.