students are exposed to it … the way
they’re exposed to English, math, and
science,” says DuBow. “Exposure is a
huge influencer and predictor of who
will go on to major or minor in [com-
puter science] in college. So, we work
on all fronts.”
DuBow believes computer science
should be a graduation requirement,
but points out there are still high
schools that do not offer a single course
in the discipline. Even when it is offered,
she says, “only certain students will take
it, so it doesn’t do anything to broaden
participation in computing.” Students
will get steered away from computer sci-
ence unless they show a predilection or
fit a stereotype, she says.
“So if you haven’t had exposure [to
computer science] and people don’t
see you as someone who does comput-
ing from an early age, you don’t see
yourself that way, either.”
NCWIT offers a program to edu-
IN 2018, GIRLS and women are getting the message they be- long in computer science as much as boys and men, thanks to a greater push for STEM (
science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics) curricula in schools and
a vast number of programs available to
them outside of school.
Yet the numbers remain discouraging. Although computer science
jobs are projected to grow 15% to 20%
through 2020, the majority of these
positions will be pursued and filled by
men, according to Women in Computer Science (WiCS).
In 2016, 26% of professional computing jobs in the U.S. workforce were
held by women; 20% of the Fortune
100 chief information officer (CIO)
positions were held by women, and
23% of Advanced Placement (AP) computer science test takers were female,
based on data from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).
“As STEM-related industries on a
whole add over 1. 7 million jobs in the
coming years, there continues to be a
notable absence of women in the field,”
according to the WiCS website.
All that has not discouraged Tahsina
Saosun, 20, a computer science major
at Barnard College and events coordinator for the Barnard/Columbia University
chapter of WiCS (CUWiCS).
Saosun became interested in studying computer science after participating in the program Girls Who Code the
summer before her senior year of high
school. After the eight-week session in
which she was introduced to various
programming languages, and learned
how to declare variables and write code
in loops, she was hooked.
Saosun’s experience “has been kind
of mixed.” She says she found support in
introductory computer science courses,
but not as much in upper-level classes.
Most of her professors have been male.
“Overall, I haven’t felt uncomfort-
able,” she says, “but I would give credit
to my involvement in CUWiCS.” It also
helps to be studying at Barnard, a wom-
en’s college, she adds. “There’s lots of
support and resume advice and career
advice. That helps a lot.”
That is something Wendy DuBow
is working to replicate for others.
DuBow, senior research scientist and
director of evaluation at NCWIT, says
the organization focuses on generat-
ing awareness of computer science to
girls in grades K– 12, as well as in sec-
ondary education and industry.
While some research indicates
girls should be exposed to computer
science in middle school in order to
best pique their interest, other re-
search says “the best thing that could
happen is that rigorous computer sci-
ence be offered in high school so all
Broadening the Path
for Women in STEM
Organizations work to address
‘a notable absence of women in the field.’
Society | DOI: 10.1145/3231170 Esther Shein
Source: National Science Foundation, American Bar Association, American Association of