By: Jacky Raun
February 28, 2018
Walking on our campus, I can’t help notice the ratio difference between girls and boys in Georgia tech. It reminds me of a similar experience I had in my high school. In China, we chose two different threads in our sophomore year to decide which test we are going to have in Gaokao, the most significant college entrance exam for students in China. These two threads are science and liberal arts. Students in science thread take physics, biology, and chemistry in Gaokao and those in liberal arts thread take geography, politics and history. Both of them, of course, must test on math, Chinese and English. Generally, there are more males in science thread and more females in liberal arts thread. The difference is so huge that you sometimes can only see a few of boys taking lectures in liberal arts class. For me, going to college doesn’t make this difference any smaller. In all of my classes, I notice that girls are always less than boys, especially in STEM class such as physics or computer science.
Why do so few women study in tech? It isn’t that they cannot do math or are biologically unsuited to the task. I met many, many females who are able to do amazing work in science and show great talent in complicated topics. There are also lots of female scientists who did a great contribution to scientific progress in our history. Madame Curie, a Polish physicist who successfully isolated radium and won noble prize for this important discovery; Augusta Ada King-Noel was an English mathematician known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine; These are all brilliant female scientists and technicians, working hard in spite of the harsh social environment during the time people consider women to be a defining character of family.
It seemed to be changed a little since the 1980s. In that time, women made up a little few than 40 percent of computer-science graduates. From then on, however, the gender gap has grown: Currently, less than 20 percent of computer-science graduates are women. In the earliest days of programming, during World War II, building computers was deemed a virile thing, and programming considered to be for typists. Later, when personal computers began to appear in homes and offices, they were promoted as a pastime — for boys. Because of that, this bias continued and caused the reduction of female computer scientists.
But we do have some good news. When bias is seen for what it is, it can start to be dispelled.
For instance, Harvey Mudd College, an elite science and engineering school in Southern California, has only about 10 percent of computer science majors students women. Then Maria Klawe began her tenure as president of the college. “It was not a question of capacity or ability,” Margolis says. “It was a question of women feeling that they weren’t welcome or that their existence was suspect.” By making intro course of computer science more friendly and providing more assistance to students who are new to the area, she managed to boost the female share of computer-science majors to 50 percent in the past 15 years. What’s more, Carnegie Mellon, another top institute focusing on computer science, reformed in different ways, too. The school assigned classes differently according to students’ programming experience and recruited more female faculties. These kinds of policies won’t make everything right. But they are influencing the feeling of women students. Today, instead of 7 percent, over 40 percent of the computer science majors at Carnegie Mellon are women.
Companies in society can follow the same path. Noticing the implicit and explicit bias is presupposition to eliminate it. Modern Technology Corporation should be able to pick out the best person for their demanding position regardless of gender. Considering the “mom tract” companies worried about, the government may think about giving fathers the same one-year vacation in their childbirth, clearing companies’ concern about women’s absent due to pregnancy. The research found out that in the recruiting process, HRs sometimes show different attitude to interviewees due to their gender. This difference in attitude indirectly influences the performance of female interviewees. Feeling a potential dislike or prejudice, they are very likely to be more nervous and show a not so satisfying characteristic, leading to even more stereotypes in the heart of recruiters.
Even though the situation has changed a lot in a good way since past, there are still lots we could do to achieve a more friendly and equal social environment for women.
Women are totally capable of studying, researching, and working in stem area. All people need to do is providing more opportunities and eliminating their prejudices.
1.En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Marie Curie. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie [Accessed 2 Mar. 2018].
2. “It was not a question of capacity or ability,” Margolis says. “It was a question of women feeling that they weren’t welcome or that their existence was suspect.” Forbes.com. (2018). Forbes Welcome. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/06/20/stem-fields-and-the-gender-gap-where-are-the-women/#a487ba741ba8 [Accessed 2 Mar. 2018].