28 April 2011

Women in Computing

Jezebl | Anna North | Why Women In Computer Science Matter

Anna North — Last week, Harvard celebrated a record number of female students declaring a computer science major. But the school — and the field — may still have a ways to go.

The Crimson reported last Wednesday that of 51 sophomores who declared computer science this year, 21 were women, up from just three women two years ago. The paper credits Harvard's introductory computer science course with attracting women and getting them excited about the field. But in an editorial today, the Crimson's Irene Chen points out that sophomore declarations aren't the whole story. She writes,
The rise of women concentrators in computer science is thrilling because it indicates an expansion of fields where women dare trod now. However, female computer science participation at Harvard still has a long way to go. For example, while the gender ratio in the concentration hovers tantalizingly close to 50 percent among sophomores, the gender disparity in more advanced computer science courses like Computer Science 124: Data Systems and Algorithms remains enormous. Though the increase female computer science concentrators indicates an increase of role models for future classes, what does the dismal lack of such role modes in higher level computer science courses tell contemplative freshmen?
I'm going to stop right there, because that criticism I highlighted is just that useless. If few women were starting along the CS path a couple of years ago, then obviously few women will be further down the path now. What does the lack of women in higher level courses tell freshmen? Rathering than just fretting, why don't we ask the current freshmen.  They didn't seem to be turned off by it.

You want to know why women in Computer Science matter? Because Computer Science matters.

That's it.

It's a shame anyone declines to dive in to CS because they feel uncomfortable with their peers and faculty.  I want more women studying CS for the exact same reason I want more men doing so.  The future of computing is too important to throw only half of the available minds at it.  I want anyone who is capable and interested in CS studying it, regardless of gender, nationality, height, handedness, or anything else.  That is the beginning and end of everything you need to know about why more women in CS is important.

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