Should it be the responsibility of Computer Science and Technology faculties to make their degrees more attractive to female students? I have had cause to think about this issue a lot recently. After establishing a student-run group for women in technical degrees earlier in the year, I have been considering the limitations of what groups like ours can achieve.
The group was set up as a supportive and welcoming community where female tech students could come together to talk about their experience of being women in a male-dominated area of study. It has also become a platform for our members to build their social and professional networks and to develop confidence in their technical skills. In an ideal world, there would be no use for a group like ours.
The most recent statistics from the Department of Education suggest that female representation in university level technical degrees has decreased from 25% in 2001 to just 19% in 2013.
The question I have been asking myself recently is this:
What would need to happen before a group like ours no longer needed to exist?
Here are some of the necessary ingredients to achieving better gender equality in enrolment in and completion of technical degrees:
- Rethinking introductory CS classes to make them less intimidating for complete beginners
- Building a culture that support a sense of belonging for women and other minorities
- Marketing technical degrees and careers specifically to female students
I plan write a dedicated post to each of these three ideas over the coming weeks. In exploring each of these topics in more details I will draw on the current best practice thinking as well as my own experience of undergraduate and postgraduate technical education.