Achieving diversity in computing is a pressing national concern in the U.S.8,14 Computing-related jobs will be among the fastest growing and highest-paying over the next decade according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.16 Yet, women are significantly underrepresented in computing degrees and careers, holding only 26% of U.S. computing occupations.17 There is even a greater dearth of women of color in computing, especially Latinas. Eighteen percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic and Latinx, yet currently only 1% of the jobs in the computing workforce are occupied by Latinas. Latinx girls represented a mere 4% of all students taking the AP computer science exam in 2017.11
In March we celebrated Women's History month, but there were few female computer scientists to celebrate. Women receive only 16% of U.S. bachelor's degrees in pure computer science (CS). In an age when women outnumber men in medical schools, we scratch our heads when we see such a small number. The National Center for Women & IT (NCWIT) reports: "By 2026, 3.5 million computing-related job openings are expected. At the current rate, only 17% of these jobs could be filled by U.S. computing bachelor's degree recipients."
Women are making major gains in enrollment in engineering and computer science at some of the nation's most prominent colleges and universities, a breakthrough that shows that gender parity is possible in technology fields long dominated by men. More than half of engineering bachelor's degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology went to women in 2015, federal data shows. The same was true at Dartmouth College this year. The majority of computer science majors at California's Harvey Mudd College are women. Here at Carnegie Mellon University, women account for nearly half of first-year computer science students -- 48 percent, a school record.
Paul Daugherty is chief technology officer at Accenture. Cracking the Gender Code, a research report produced jointly by Accenture and Girls Who Code, can be downloaded here. The chasm between the number of job openings in today's digital economy and the number of skilled workers available is growing in the wrong direction and threatening the competitiveness of the U.S. economy. Fact No. 1: In 2015, there were 500,000 new computing jobs available in the U.S., but as recently as 2014, fewer than 40,000 new computer science graduates to fill them. This shortage will continue to grow as rapid advances in mobile, cloud, analytics and artificial intelligence technologies continue to redefine business, society and the global economy.
The persistent underrepresentation of women in computing has gained the attention of employers, educators, and researchers for many years. In spite of numerous studies, reports, and recommendations we have seen little change in the representation of women in computer science (CS)--consider that only 17.9% of bachelor's degrees in computer science were awarded to women in 2016 according to the annual Taulbee Survey.15 At Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) we do not believe the situation is an intractable problem. By paying close attention to culture and environment, and taking a cultural approach rather than a gender difference approach, our efforts continue to pay off. The percentage of women enrolling and graduating in CS at CMU has exceeded national averages for many years (see the accompanying figure and table).