Feeds

Want women in IT? Make maths mandatory

Surprising research results

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
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?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.