Why do so few girls choose to study Computer Science?
"With business intelligence, we can determine gender equality within a company, for example. So, when that balance is off, the company can do something about it", said the student assistant, while he presented the new assignment. I looked around the classroom and counted twenty boys and one girl, who was all the way in the back. The student assistant paused shortly and I actually waited for him to say "just like in this classroom". But he didn’t and I didn’t feel like doing it either. He went on with his explanation.
Information Science courses are not the only ones suffering from a poorly balanced male-female ratio. Computer Science courses have that, too. So, that Friday night, I started to investigate. Why do so few women study Computer Science? I started to search the Internet to find out why.
What I found were mostly feeble articles that put the blame on men. Women talked about the nasty remarks they got from male teachers, saying it is a study programme for nerds a woman would not want to get involved with.
But there still weren’t any concrete answers to the question. When a primitive-thinking teacher talks you down because of your gender, the passionate woman inside you rises and then you go tell their supervisors. When you’re told that a study programme is for nerds, you shouldn’t actually give a f*ck about that when choosing your study programme (after all, if you want pretty boys, just go to the gym!)
Computer Science is everywhere
During the Open Days, I went to check out two study programmes: Jurisprudence and Computer Science. A professor teaching at Drift showed a clothing website, saying "law is everywhere." All I could think was: "Yeah, and computer science is everywhere too."
I loved the atmosphere in the Utrecht Science Park. I felt like a goddess among all the boys. Everyone was so friendly and one of the supervisors even cheered: "Yes, a girl!" I knew I was going to have a great time there.
Vice has recently published an article (in Dutch only) stating that the lack of girls in ICT study programmes is partly due to the preconceived notion that boys are better at hard sciences and technical studies. Because of that prejudice, young girls tend not to get in touch with these fields. I refuse to believe that girls are influenced to such an extent that they think hard sciences are really only for men. After all, we live in a free country where (under normal circumstances) nobody forces anybody to choose a certain study.
Therefore, I’m afraid it’s the reputation of the study that is causing the problem. Together with my attractive and well-groomed computer science girls, I can have drinks and wine just as well as the girls from law school, but there are only a few of us, of course. "This study programme is for computer geeks", okay, but how hard is it to imagine driving to your well-paid job in a fancy lease car after your studies and then giving killer advice on ICT in your killer heels like a real power woman? That doesn't sound too bad now, does it?
That’s why it’s important that girls pursuing technical degrees show themselves more often on these Open Days. The university could ask for the help of female students first, for example. That way, hopefully we'll draw more girls in. And, believe me, this would make the Computer Science men really happy too!