Closing the Gender Gap: Combating Stereotypes in Computer Science

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About the stereotype of computer science in the media. Over the past couple decades, the ratio of women to men in computer science jobs has declined due to societal factors that begin at a very young age. Despite common knowledge, women held the majority of technology jobs, but they were considered the inferior sex, so their remarkable work went unnoticed. Today, society and the media push boys and girls into stereotypical roles that give men the advantage to succeed in tech-related jobs.

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These obstacles, in addition to many others, prevail in today’s competitive environment and will continue into the future. Given the challenges that women face in the workplace, society must move past the portrayal of computer scientists in the media in order to close the gender gap in technology and to show the impact that women can have on the world if they pursue computer science.

The computer science field has not always possessed such severe gender biased qualities as it does in present day. In fact, “Women were an integral part of computer science since its earliest inceptions” (Why So Few?). The presence of women in computer science based jobs immediately flourished due to the fact that no external forces existed to discourage women from entering fields in which they felt passionate about.

Approximately two centuries ago Lady Ada LoveLace held the first technology position when she wrote the first computer program in history. Unfortunately, like many other female coders, her diligent work went unrecognized. Often times during this time period, women’s “names were left out of the story” (Thompson). In fact, in the 2016 film, Hidden Figures, three computer mathematicians at NASA contributed to one of the most impressive operation of all time: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

Most likely have not heard their names (Mary Jackson, Katherine Jonson, and Dorothy Vaughan) because their male peers took all of the credit. It took more than half a century for these brilliant female computer scientists to receive only a portion of the credit that they deserve, thanks to the release of the movie. As jobs in computer science became increasingly coveted, companies credited one of society’s most advanced fields to men.

This unfortunate occurrence did not prevent women from joining the technology world: According to the video “Why So Few?”, “In the early half of the 20th century, especially after World War II, many women were encouraged to enter the field as human computers or expert mathematicians.” Due to the world’s heightened support, women viewed computer science as a feasible act and possessed the ability to make significant strides in the technology world.

During this remarkable period of time, the number of women in computer science continued to increase until in 1984 when women earned only 18% of computer scientist bachelor degrees. The primary reason for this was that the media introduced ads promoting sexism and video games targeted towards young boys. This resulted in a tremendous decrease in women in computer science from (Thompson).

These structures shaped technology into a field for men and created stereotypes that hindered women from pursuing computer science. Society once supported women’s decisions in seeking out jobs in technology. This positive environment stemming from society and the media no longer exists, as women still struggle to accomplish the goals that female computer scientists once did.

Although the number of female computer scientists is increasing, the barriers preventing gender equality in the field of technology still remain difficult to overcome. Since the 1990s, the amount of women in technology related jobs decreased consistently, from 35% to 25% (Computer Science). The functions of society contribute to countless factors that create obstacles that lead to these significant decreases.

For example, the toy aisle intentionally facilitates its content based on conventional views that appeal to young girls or boys. Boys’ toys tend to be designed in ways that help develop spatial skills and peak their interest in engineering related topics, while girl’s toys teach young girls to prioritize appearance (Sterling). As soon as people acquire the ability to play with toys, they face immediate exposure to the stereotypical gender segregation that shapes the rest of their lives. Society must offer children the opportunity to break through these barriers and level out the playing field in terms of jobs related to engineering. Societal factors that begin in early childhood give boys an immediate advantage over girls that progress into the future.

The children who once experienced stereotypical toys eventually reach an age where they are introduced to a world in which they can make their own decisions about their future. High schools perpetuate biases by implementing introductory computer science classes not tailored to girls’ needs.(classes and that boys are more likely to take them which then leads to boys feeling more confident and thinking they are superior to girls already….talk about my own experience in computer science)Kathleen Lehman is the project manager of the BRAID research team which strives to diversify the technology world.

She states, “Women are socialized to feel that they can’t fail and that they have to achieve perfection” (Vu). The process of coding requires an iterative process in which one must constantly revise their work in order to generate a series of desired outcomes. In such a competitive environment, women fail to appreciate the benefits of learning from their mistakes in order accomplish the goals of their program. This social pressure contributes to the lack of women in technology because it causes women to feel more discouraged in comparison to their male peers.

Society loses a significant amount of brainpower by minimizing the amount of women present in computer science.quote of women more likely to stop taking comp sci in college–men think they are better but it is really the fact that women had less opportunity in high school and men stay with it from high school. Most girls start in college but men already think they are better but it is really because women never started it or even stopped due to factors mentioned early in the essay. and then more men actually working in comp sci and then go into the actual time when women are working in comp sci–what they experience, etc.

In order to fix this broken system, clear goals must be implemented in order to achieve equality for women in technology. Although the number of female computer scientists today is higher than the past few decades, there remains an immense amount of work to be done to prepare women for a successful future. The first step in doing this is to abandon the stereotype of computer scientists. Currently, Google and a YouTube Red TV show called Hyperlinked do just that. Google worked with Thicket Labs to research the system of gender and computer scientists.

The founder and CEO of the research team stated, “The great takeaway from this is that we can have a measurable impact by having positive media portrayals of computer science careers and the people who are actually doing the coding” (Guynn). Together, they strive to fight against the stereotype of computer scientists by writing the show with the main roles as girls in high school who use their programming skills. This original show creates role models for girls in high school. If the world wants to see a shift in the gender gap in technology, this inspiring step is essential.

According to the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, “for girls, you cannot be what you cannot see, and so when you have positive role models teaching them computer science…the impossible seems possible and they then can imagine a place in the field for themselves” (Galvin). We must all do our part in fighting back against the system and even out the underrepresentation of women in computer science.

The blockage of women entering computer science leads to larger effects than just on women.According to Linda Sax, a professor of higher education at UCLA, “If girls aren’t involved in building technology, not only are they missing out on some of the fastest growing and highest paying jobs, we’re also missing out on the brainpower that these women bring to the table” (Vu). Computer science changes the world.

Women have the potential to show people that they, too, can change the world. By not encouraging women to enter jobs in technology, society as a whole is affected and does not advance as quickly as it can. In addition to this, creating a welcoming environment in the world of computer science opens doors to the endless possibilities that is computer science. It also establishes the role models that are crucial to the progress of the world, due to the fact that the intelligent girls in society will join forces with the already innovative female computer scientists.

There are no currently no role models for young women who consider pursuing computer science. It is crucial that society shifts their beliefs about toys for kids and that schools adjust the curriculum to appeal to more girls and hire encouraging teachers, so that a female computer scientist converts into a reality from a improbable circumstance. Society must do all of these things so that there are people for women to look up to and to say ‘if she can do it, I can, too’.

There are also those who believe that women do not possess the same qualities as their male peers and are not able to compete at the same level as men. Numerous supporters of men existing as the superior computer scientists argue that this separation is due to personality differences, and therefore encouraging women to pursue computer science as a career is nonessential to society. David Schmitt, a well-known personality psychologist looked at a cross-cultural study in 2008 and stated found that “women report slightly higher levels of ‘neuroticism’, meaning they have less tolerance for stressful situations, and they tend to be more agreeable and less assertive” (Bassett).

People associate these personality differences with the reason why there are less women in high-stress jobs such as computer science. People also believe that these characteristic discrepancies account for women’s lower wages, their inability to negotiate salary, and speaking up for themselves (Bassett). While studies do prove that personality differences exist between men and women, the guiding factor in these attributions suggests underlying sexist beliefs. People must not overlook the fact that that other factors contribute to the underrepresentation of women in computer science. It is not that women are less capable of successfully being a part of a team of coders; rather, it is that people view women in the workplace and inferior.

Laura Bassett also states, “He ignores the possibility that high levels of sexism and sexual harassment in the tech industry contribute to women’s anxiety and stress levels, rather than a simple biological inclination toward neuroticism.” Cultural factors spill into the workplace and create barriers for women to succeed in their jobs. If critics begin to view the personality differences among the sexes from a more equitable lense, it would actually promote gender equality in fields currently dominated by men and increase the amount of women in computer science. It would initiate the development of tech companies’ structures so that both men and women possess the resources they require in order for them to succeed. Additionally, it would fulfill computer science companies’ obligation to hearten women’s leadership.

Ultimately, Society establishes gender roles from the day we are born, but it is our job to break through the norms and, sooner than later, utilize our computational skills to benefit the whole world. We as females must band together and use our powerful brains to our fullest potential without letting society dictate what we can and cannot accomplish. It is our responsibility to turn the vision of a world in which the workplace does not discriminate proficiency based on gender into a reality. No longer should women first think of a ‘nerdy’, white male sitting at his computer, coding without taking any breaks. Instead, we should visualize a progressive society in which women and men work collaboratively, working on the next big technological advancement.

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Closing the Gender Gap: Combating Stereotypes in Computer Science. (2019, Oct 09). Retrieved from