Friday, November 21, 2008

Gender by the Numbers

There have been a lot of questions about how computer science relates to other fields in terms of the percentage of women vs. men. As is to be expected when a bunch of scientists talk about these types of topics, we want the data. Happily, the Association for Women in Science collects statistics about all of these questions - both for within the sciences comparisons and for comparisons with other disciplines. I used this data to create the charts shown here. Both are based on the data for bachelors degrees awarded in 2004-2005 (in the US, I think). Also, note that the percentage of female graduates overall is much higher than the percentage of men. So, to answer some of the questions by commenters:

  • Yes, Physics and Math/Stat are doing much better than CS at graduating a higher percentage of women.
  • Yes, there are a few disciplines that do just as poorly in graduating men.
  • Yes, if we define computer science more broadly, our percentages of women do go up, but no, we still don't reach parity (see chart below).

The next chart decomposes the bars labelled "Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services" above. Note that despite that we almost reach 40% women in some of the subfields, the overall percentage is still only just over 20%, and the "Computer Science" category has about 17%.


daveagp said...

I think I may be too old-school... in my Windows/Firefox the .pdfs don't show as images. (But I can click to open them separately)

Mac attack!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the data :)

Anonymous said...

I think that we need to review what is computer science. Maybe it is done in a way that it is not as interesting to women as it is to men. We need to explore (and advertise!) new useful areas in computer science that attract female students to CS. It shouldn't be that hard. Specially in interdisciplinary areas with those that female student are doing better than males.

Anonymous said...

Three quick notes:
1. It is interesting that women do better than men in areas more related to being a human than abstract areas.
2. Engineering is even worst than CS.
3. We should also try to attract more men into other areas

Anonymous said...

I am having a hard time discerning what 'computer science' is, exactly. I would like to see the statistics of women in pure vs applied mathematics, and the stats regarding theoretical computer science vs what may be considered as IT (essentially writing code). These IT fields have a significant social stigma that may deter women, and there is nothing wrong with that. I would be surprised if, in general, women interested in pure maths were not also equally as likely to be interested in theoretical computer science as their male counterparts.