A degree or career in computer science remains a less than compelling choice for college-bound girls. Asked in a recent survey of what comes to mind when seeing or hearing the word "computing," boys said "design," "games" and "video" while girls responded with "boring," "hard" and "nerd." Only 10 percent of the girls surveyed rated computing as a very good choice for study.
significant gender gap still exists among college-bound students in their
opinions of computing as a possible college major or career, according to new
research from the Association for Computing Machinery
and the WGBH Educational Foundation.
research, funded by the National Science Foundation, found that 74 percent of
boys-regardless of race or ethnicity-reported that a college major in computer
science was a "very good" or "good" choice for them, but
only 10 percent of girls rated it as a "very good" choice and 22
percent rated it as "good."
The gender gap also extended to
computer science as a potential career choice. Given a choice of 15 possible
careers, computer science came in fourth among the respondents, with 46 percent
rating it "very good" or "good." However, while 67 percent
of all boys rated computer science highly as a career choice, only 9 percent of
girls rated it "very good" and 17 percent rated it "good."
"We know that the number of computer science majors is not
meeting projected work force needs," said John White, ACM CEO and co-principal investigator for
the project. "Many factors contribute to the low interest in computer
science, but the image of the field is a key element in current perceptions
among this population."
According to the report
all survey respondents were asked, "What word comes to mind when you see
or hear the word 'computing'?" Among both high school boys and girls, the
most common responses were "software," "programming" and "technology."
However, boys and girls differed significantly when it came to secondary
For example, boys tended to use words such as
"design," "games" and "video," while girls
responded with the more negative "boring," "hard" and
Perhaps most startling, White cited a finding from a 2006
conference sponsored by the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education that 80 percent of
today's college freshmen-the very students who grew up with computers-said they
had no idea what computer science majors actually do.
"The results of this initiative will provide us with the
tools to turn around the misplaced notions and lack of information that
surround the world of computing and reinforce the critical and exciting role
computing plays driving innovation in a global economy," said White.
The report is based on a nationwide online survey of 1,406
college-bound teens in late 2008 and was developed in response to a UCLA study
that found the number of undergraduates choosing a computer science major was
down 70 percent from 2000-2007. In addition, a 2007 Computer Research
Association Taulbee Survey reported double-digit declines in enrollments for