Not enough women are going into computer science. "I remember walking into one of the classes at Stanford and just deciding not to take the class because I was one of only three women there, and I just felt so intimidated," recalled Catherina Xu, one of the co-presidents for Women in Computer Science at Stanford University. Incidents like this are happening all across the country, and partly due to the lack of women in the field, there is now a shortage of computer science majors -- and it's going to get even worse. By 2024, the National Center for Women and Information Technology predicts that there will be 1.1 million computing-related job openings, and only 41% of those jobs will be filled. And get this: The percentage of women in the field has been declining since the 1980s.
In 2018, girls and women are getting the message they belong 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.
Organizations like Code.org are working to expand access to computer science and increase participation by women and underrepresented students of color. The technology world has a diversity problem. A recent U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report found that the high-tech industry employed far fewer African-Americans, Hispanics, and women, relative to whites, Asian-Americans, and men. The difference is especially glaring in Silicon Valley. At Google and Facebook, African-Americans represent just 1% of the tech work force.
In a sparse lecture room at Stanford University, six students are rehearsing a presentation they'll later give to a roomful of VIPs from the university's artificial intelligence lab. Papers are strewn across the table. Hoodies hang over the cloth-covered cushion chairs. One student wears a pair of Pi earrings. Another wears a t-shirt that reads: "i: Be rational!
Enthusiastic about innovation in health tech and bringing teams of good people together to come up with great ideas. Working to develop data-driven tools to empower health decisions and impact health outcomes. Advice for women in tech: "Go for it! Surround yourself with people who inspire you, ask lots of questions, and never stop learning from your peers." Dr. Rebecca Bilbro is Lead Data Scientist at Bytecubed, where she builds data solutions for government and commercial clients using open source machine learning tools.