Computer science has long been a field that was dominated by men. However, the male dominated scene of the past is quickly changing as time moves forward. Historically, one does not need to look too far back to see that women struggled when it came to making serious contributions in this field of study.
The first department of Computer Science was founded in the United States in 1962 at Purdue University. By 1985, only 37 percent of the graduates of this program were women. By 2005, that percentage had dropped to 22 percent. The problem was not simply in Computer Sciences, however. The total number of women attaining graduate degrees was exceedingly low compared to today. At that time, only 57 percent of the graduate degrees being earned throughout the country were be placed in the hands of women.
The gap in the genders when it came to computer science was thought to be the result of the perceived image of what a computer scientist should be, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. In 2005, it was reported that the average high school girl thought of a computer scientist as a nerdy individual who lived an isolated life in a cubicle. Despite the setback, the image of the successful computer scientist is beginning to change. As of this year, the number of women working with computer systems and related designs is up by an average of 42 percent.
The number of women pursuing and attaining degrees in this field are also reflecting a shift as well. M.I.T. now has enrollment for women in computer science at 30 percent. Carnegie Mellon University enrollment has risen to 32 percent while Stanford has risen to 21 percent. Despite the momentum in the direction of a female presence, there is still more that can be done to balance things out. The strategies for leveling the playing field include developing more diverse programs that introduce girls to computer science during early education. Undergraduates should also be given the opportunity to interact with women who are currently pursuing successful careers in computer science in order that they may develop role models.