Little Interest in Advanced IT Degrees, Especially from Women

Ann All

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about the dearth of women in technology careers, concluding that looking for scapegoats to "blame" for the problem was counterproductive.Yet people continue to do so, maybe because pointing fingers seems easier than actually solving the problem.


Some folks fault companies' expectations that IT workers will put in long hours, a potential problem for either sex, but more so for women since they tend to assume more family responsibilities than their male counterparts. But the problem begins before women enter the work force. A recent Council of Graduate Schools study found that women earned 60 percent of master's degrees and 50.4 percent of doctorate degrees in the 2008-09 academic year. Yet men far outnumbered women working toward advanced degrees in computer and information sciences, reports Computerworld.


Of the first-time graduate or doctoral students in computer and information sciences, 3,249 were women in 2009, a decline of 3.5 percent from 2008. In contrast, the number of male students held steady at 9,021. The overall growth rate for computer and information sciences students was less than 1 percent. That's a steep drop from 2004-2008, when the average annual growth rate for folks enrolled in these courses was 4.8 percent for women and 2.9 percent for men.


Another interesting statistic: Of the 12,288 students counted as first-time graduate or doctoral students, or new enrollees, in computer information sciences, 5,266 were U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and 5,996 were temporary residents or students on visas. Somewhat oddly, another 891 were categorized as "unknown." So perhaps part of the answer lies in trying to get U.S. citizens of both sexes more interested in IT careers.


The picture might be a little brighter on the undergraduate level. According to the Computing Research Association, the number of students declaring computer science as a major grew 8.1 percent in 2008.

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Sep 15, 2010 4:49 AM balor123 balor123  says:

STEM fields are fun and in most places put you solidly in the middle class but it's not surprising that Americans don't enter these fields. Obama is correct to point out that STEM education pre-college is bad in this country but you need more than capable people. STEM fields are among the most selective of all fields and those that can make it can also choose a number of options. In most parts of the world STEM careers are not only highly respected but also highly compensated relative to other careers in their home countries. In the US, STEM graduates make far less than those in law, medicine, and finance/consulting. Even a lowly analyst makes $200k - $300k while the average engineer makes $100k. Even those who study STEM often do not practice the field they studied. I read a statistic that in one year during the Great Recession something like 40% of MIT grads entered management consulting. STEM professionals do not necessarily need to be paid more they just need to be paid relatively more. That could mean increasing their compensation or reducing the compensation of competing fields. Law was hit hard over the past 3 years. Medicine and banking would have collapsed were it not for government intervention.

Sep 29, 2010 8:02 AM mataj mataj  says:

This hulabaloo about women in technology reminds me of Edward Bernays's "Torches of Freedom" stunt:

The basic purpose of "Torches of Freedom" campaign was to win an equal opportunity of getting lung cancer for women. Similarily, the "Women in tech" campaign tries to win an equal opportunity of permanently losing the job to offshoring, and/or falling into the student loan trap


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