Feeds

Want women in IT? Make maths mandatory

Surprising research results

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A new study of 21 different nations has found that the male dominance of computer science at university level is pandemic.

At first glance the study looks to be yet more confirmation of what we already know. However, it gets more interesting. Differences between the countries indicate that women might not be genetically predisposed to shun all things high tech, and that there might be other factors at work.

The study, co-authored by Maria Charles, professor of sociology at the University of California and Karen Bradley of Western Washington University, found that men are over-represented among computer science graduates everywhere, but the degree of over-representation varies by as much as a factor of three.

So what is behind the variation? Turns out, it is not what you might expect.

Girls' higher achievement in maths or science did not seem to be related to the number of graduates, nor was cultural support for equal opportunities a good predictor of which countries had the most women Comp Sci graduates.

In Turkey, for instance, for every woman Comp Sci graduate there are 1.79 men, while at the other end of the scale, in the Czech republic men graduates outnumber women by 6.42 to one [perhaps they're all working as super-models and will return to their computing education at a later stage - Ed]. South Korea and Ireland also have more relatively high numbers of women graduating from computer science courses, but, like Turkey, neither of these nations is especially renowned for taking a hard line on sex equality.

Instead, it seems that restricting the choices available to adolescents, and making it mandatory for all pupils to study maths and science subjects throughout their secondary education, correlates with a higher proportion of women going on to study computer science at university.

"The principle of being free to pursue your preferences is compatible and coexists quite comfortably with a belief in essential gender differences. This essentialist notion, which helps to create what it seeks to explain, affects girls’ views of what they're good at and can shape what they like," said Charles.

She goes on to say that the implications for policy are clear: rather that letting kids discard subjects too soon, governments should insist on more maths and science for everyone, for longer.

"As other research has repeatedly shown, choices made during adolescence are more likely to be made on the basis of gender stereotypes, so we should push off choice until later," she concludes. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.