Feeds

Want women in IT? Make maths mandatory

Surprising research results

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.