The University of California, Berkley has reached a landmark moment: for the first time there are more women than in an undergraduate introductory science course.
The 106 women enrolled on the course (just) edged out the 104 men. Could this mean that the male-dominated field of computer science is experiencing a shake-up? Craig Newmark thinks this is a sign of the times, and I would tend to agree.
Female computer scientists are also on the up at Silicon Valley feeder university Stanford, which raised its percentage of women receiving computer science degrees by 16% since 2005.
However, despite Berkley succeeding in recruiting women this year, its percentage of grads has actually dropped by 2.5% since 10 years ago. And even more surprisingly is even lower than it was back in 1993.
Mike Cassidy at Mercury News says: "Nowhere is the lack of women in computer science a bigger issue than in Silicon Valley, where programming skills and computing know-how fuel the world-changing startups and global behemoths that shape our everyday lives. It’s what builds companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple. It’s the discipline that launches IPOs."
He has a point: most people can name Marissa Mayer as a high profile woman in the tech world, but then struggle. With a lack of role models, it’s hardly surprising that women feel they can’t get into the industry.
But perhaps women need some gentle encouragement to be let into the ‘brogramming’ fraternity. Cassidy points out that after Harvey Mudd College began paying for freshman women to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, "the percentage of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd increased from about 10% before the initiatives to 43% today."
Aside from further education, courses such as Girls Who Code are certainly helping to show that the door is open for women in computer science, but women still need to walk through it of their own accord.