pared to public schools, in all four courses surveyed, as shown
in Figure 3. For example, consider the nonmajor intro course
and the mid-level course. In both cases, public and private
schools had similar percentages of women in 2005 and very different percentages of women in 2015.
IPEDS data on CS degrees awarded for public and private
institutions, as shown in Figure 4, corroborate this observation.
The percentage of female degree earners was 14% for public
schools and 20% for private schools in 2015. While private institutions have a larger percentage of women graduating, public
institutions still produce more women overall (approximately
2,600 vs. 1,800 in 2015). A study of what private schools have
been doing, or not doing, compared to public schools could be
useful to increasing the number of women in CS.
While Figures 2 and 3 show the change in the median percentage of women in our representative courses across units,
Figure 5 shows how much women’s representation in the chosen upper-level course varies by unit among the doctoral-granting units. Across units, the percentage of women enrolled in
the upper-level course ranged from a low of 0 to 2% ( 5 units
in 2010, but none in 2015) to a high of 42 to 44% (one unit
in 2015). In short, there is substantial variation across departments, but the distribution shifted up between 2010 and 2015.
Lastly, we note that approximately 50% of the units that responded to the CRA Enrollment Survey perceive the percentage
of women in their unit is increasing. While this perception exists in both doctoral- and non-doctoral-granting units, doctoral-granting units were more likely to state that the percentage of
females in their unit is increasing significantly. We understand
that perception may not reflect reality but, in this case, hard data
on the percentage of women enrolled in the introductory course
for majors are consistent with the unit’s self-reported perceived
change in the percentage of women entering the major. Based
on data from the CRA Enrollment Survey, the proportion of
women in the intro majors course at doctoral-granting units
increased by an average of 0.4 percentage points from 2010
to 2015 for units that self-reported the proportion of women
age of women from 2010 to 2015 than IPEDS data (see Figure
1(b)), which could be due to either our small sample size or a
recent pipeline increase that has yet to be realized as CS degrees.
From Figure 2(a), the largest percentage of women in doctoral-granting units can be found in the nonmajor intro course
followed by the major intro course. We also observe that percentages drop from the intro major to the mid-level to the
upper-level course in both doctoral-granting and non-doctoral-granting units. This could suggest an issue of retaining women into higher-level courses. We stress, however, that this question regarding retention requires further study. For example,
one possible explanation could be that the apparent decrease is
simply a byproduct of growth. That is, students in upper-level
classes entered the program at a time when the percentage of
women was lower. Furthermore, the data are consistent with
this explanation—that is, the percentage of women in the upper-level course in 2015 is between the percentage of women
in the 2010 and 2015 mid-level courses. Another hypothesis is
that the larger percentages in the lower-level courses reflect an
increase in female nonmajors in those courses. Of course, if the
trend reflects a leaky pipeline, where women are dropping out
at a higher rate than men as they advance, a concern about female student retention is valid.
For doctoral-granting units, data also revealed more rapid
growth in the percentage of women in private schools, as com-
Of course, if the trend reflects a
leaky pipeline, where women
are dropping out at a higher rate
than men as they advance, a
concern about female student
retention is valid.
Figure 3: Median percentage of female students in the courses surveyed
in doctoral-granting units: public vs. private. Number in parentheses in
each category indicates sample size.
Figure 4: IPEDS data (CIP 11.0101 and 11.0701) on CS bachelor’s degrees
awarded to women for public (blue) and private (red) institutions.