We get this question a lot.
“Women start a computer science degree at maybe 1/3 the rate as men. Then there’s this freshmen drop-off, where all but about 80% of women end up changing their major, usually to something involving design or business. Sometimes, they go into electrical or mechanical engineering, but that’s actually pretty rare. Usually they leave the field of engineering altogether.”
“During a computer science degree, most women don’t have a lot of friends to turn to who are also doing a computer science degree. Most computer science education is heavy on theory and light on implementation. So, you learn a lot about computer science, but you don’t really learn how to code.
That is something that you have to do on your own. Since [these women] don’t have friends that sort of expect that of them and know that that’s what they’re supposed to be doing, they don’t spend a lot of time in it. If you don’t spend time implementing theory, you’ll never really understand it. The courses get harder and harder, and they haven’t spent a lot of time with their friends talking about these kinds of things.
They’re surrounded by people who are not like them, and don’t openly talk about struggling to learn [difficult programming concepts]. This reinforces the idea that they don’t belong there, and is a common fear. All the time, women tell me that they feel like they don’t belong in computer science, or they don’t belong in engineering, or they don’t belong in a company as a programmer.”
Then Liz proposes a solution…