Monday, November 24, 2008

Old Boys’ Computer Club

This is a copy of an article posted on, the blog of the National Women's Law Center.

A recent article in the New York Times examines reasons why there are fewer and fewer women entering into computer science, even as the number of women pursuing degrees and careers in other science fields rises.

There are many possible causes mentioned, but what stood out to me the most was the one that was missing: since there is evidence that once upon a time in that apparently enlightened age, the mid-1980s, women were just about as interested in computer science as their male peers (to the tune of 40 percent), the argument that “girls don’t like computers” or “men are naturally better suited to the hard sciences” is refreshingly absent. Considering that so many other articles take that easy way out, citing “natural gender differences” instead of delving any deeper, I’m going to call that a win.

A qualified win though; along with the lack of a biological argument, the article does not delve into the many barriers that young women face when pursuing non-traditional academic or career paths. Just because women have made major strides in other areas of science does not mean that they no longer face discrimination. There are still counselors who will discourage female students from the hard sciences, and there is still sexual harassment in classrooms and professors who make their preference for male students known. The possibilities that are included in the article are important ones that should be considered and examined, but not the only ones.

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