Where Did All the Girl Geeks Go?

A professor says he has only one girl in a computer science major class in 2008, down from 40 percent in 2000. What happened? eWEEK gets field experts to weigh in.

While women hold 51 percent of professional jobs in the United States, they make up only 26 percent of the IT work force, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Furthermore, fewer women worked in IT in 2008 than in 2000.

But the loss of women in the technology field begins long before they reach the professional level. The proportion of CS (computer science) bachelor's degrees awarded to women has fallen from 36 to 21 percent between 1983 and 2006.

Dr. Stephen Bloch, a professor in the Department of Math and Computer Science at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, told eWEEK that computer science degree enrollments have been "in the toilet" since 2001.

"They seemed to be edging back up in the last year or so, but when people stopped taking these majors, it seemed that the women stopped harder," Block said.

In the fall of 2000, Bloch taught a programming course that was a prerequisite for a computer science degree, for which enrollment was 40 percent women. In the current academic year, there is only one female computer science major, he said.

"I encounter a good number of math majors. There are a lot of women in that class, and they are doing well, which suggests that they may have been good at CS. I'm not sure at which point they're being steered elsewhere," Bloch said.

The answer to the question of at what point and why girls are losing interest in learning about computers plagues not only computer science professors, but also employers who wonder how they'll find recruits when half of the population has opted out of the field.