Women Continue to Leave CS Degree Programs

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2008-06-19 Print this article Print

While the percentage of women in science and engineering programs at universities is slowly increasing, their representation continues to slip in CS (computer science) programs.

Fifteen percent of Bachelor CS degree program participants in the 2004-2005 school year were female, down from 18 percent in the 1993-1994 school year, according to the CRA's (Computing Research Association's) Taulbee Survey, which monitors computer science and computer engineering programs at Ph.D.-granting CS institutions. The figures for women fell as low as 12 percent in the 2006-2007 school year, the most recent data available.

Meanwhile, at science and engineering degree programs, women made up 51 percent of the population, according to data from the National Science Foundation for the 2004-2005 school year, the most recent year for which the NSF has data available. This number had increased from 47 percent in the 1993-1994 school year.

"This drop in CS enrollments is alarming because it's not happening in any of the other major science fields. There's not a trend of women leaving other science and engineering degree programs," Jay Vegso, CRA's manager of information, told eWEEK. "It's one thing for their numbers to grow slowly--as they are in science and engineering programs--but instead it is going in the opposite direction."

Though the CRA's data only shows the continued decline in participation by women in CS degree programs at the bachelor's degree level (in 2006-2007, 19 percent of students in CS Ph.D. programs were female, up from 16 percent in 1993-1994), as undergraduate degrees are the starting point, this doesn't bode well for improved representation of women at the top education levels in the coming years.

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