From the Flowing Data blog that I follow (lots of cool graphs and data depictions), I saw an article showing the percentage of bachelor degrees conferred to women by major from 1970-2012. It was written by Randy Olson, a current Computer Science PhD student at Michigan State.
There are several things that jump out, and which are being discussed in the comments at the bottom of the article (along with a lot of other great references on the subject).
- The % of Computer Science degrees going to women had been growing (along with Math, Architecture, Physical Sciences) through the mid-80s, but it has now declined to less than 20%. Math, Arch and Physical Sciences have settled at a little over 40%.
- After growing slowly in the 80s and 90s, the % of Engineering degrees has been flat at just under 20% for the last 10 years
- If you invert the chart (which Olson did on a follow-up post), there are several degrees where women have and continue to be dominant – health professions, public administration, education.
I was surprised by the decline in CS degrees, or really, surprised at how much the numbers had grown in the early to mid 1980s.
I think it’s worth taking the time to read comments on both his ‘women degree’ original post as well as his ‘male degree’ follow-up post. To the question of why do we tend to focus on the small number of women in CS and Engineering, rather than the small number of men in health or administration – I think it’s because those are jobs that tend to be more lucrative financially, and that the reasons cited for women not going in to those industries includes a lack of confidence and/or exposure, and cultural beliefs about the professions people are supposed to be part of as a result of their gender.