Evening television sitcoms have always portrayed a slightly idealized version of U.S. social demographics.
Whether this evening fiction was attempting to convince audiences of a growing number of upper-middle class African-American families via The Cosby Show or an almost absolute balance of gender representations among the doctors portrayed on ERor the lawyers, judges and police officers on Law and Order, fictional demographics have always been a bit more optimistic than real life.
The Cast of The Big Bang Theory
The fields of engineering, information technology, computer science and mathematics have traditionally been uber male-dominated. Male professors teach to mostly male students who graduate to undergo job interviews conducted by men and then join companies where their profession is represented primarily by men.
This association of “geekdom” with maleness is so embedded in our cultural psyche that even in the Pollyanna world of television casting, The Big Bang Theory’s depiction of the all-male scientists and their ditzy community-college-educated waitress neighbor remains completely uncited by the political correctness police. Yes, there are a few secondary female scientist characters who appear intermittently, but they’re a minority even in the cast of the sitcom’s secondary characters.
The Women’s Pipeline to Computing
Despite the relative lack of encouragement for girls and young women to seek degrees in these fields, current and real demographic numbers show signs to encourage social scientists who study the underrepresentation of women in these fields. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, women earn 18 percent of all computer science degrees, whether completed in the classroom or via an online education. And, almost 20 percent of software development jobs are performed by women. In some schools, close toone-third of entering engineering schools are women.
Before the celebratory champagne is popped, readers need to keep in mind that software development is often an entry-level position with the jobs held by coders at the acme of achievement. Some major companies, unfortunately, could count their contingency of women coders with one hand’s fingers or less.
Language is Language
One of the curiosities about the relative absence of women in the coding field is that females are over-represented when it comes to the study of modern and ancient languages. As studies have demonstrated with individuals who communicate via American Sign Language, language is language whatever its mode of expression. Thus, the hypothesis that women are less capable of computer languages than others has to be seriously questioned.
Could Other Reasons Be Factors?
Research conducted by sociologists who study women in the IT field have found a huge divide in confidence between men and women and their perceived abilities to perform in technical fields. One study found — unsurprisingly — that male computer science students have a higher degree of confidence in their computational abilities than men in alternate fields. All of these same men, however — some of whom might have been art history majors — had a higher degree of confidence in their computer science abilities than did women who majored in the IT field! A difference of this degree can be explained by gender expectations only.
And the Future?
The higher numbers of women entering fields traditionally thought of as male-dominated will help to change the culture. As these students graduate and begin their careers, they’ll be available to serve as mentors for younger women. Women’s success, particularly in handling the intricacies of computer coding, will soon become another expression of their gender’s language proficiency.
Lindsey Harper Mac is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area. She specializes in writing guest posts on social media and education on behalf ofAmerican InterContinental University. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree.