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Women pursue education and careers in computer science far less frequently than men do. In 1990, only 13% of PhDs in computer science went to women, and only 7.8% of computer science professors were female. Additionally, the percentage of female computer science students appears to be increasing at only a slow rate or even decreasing. Apart from ethical concerns at women's lack of participation in computer science, the demographics of the country are such that the United States will not have enough engineers and scientists unless underrepresented groups increase their participation. This report examines the influences against a woman's pursuing a career in a technical field, particularly computer science. Such factors include the different ways in which boys and girls are raised, the stereotypes of female engineers, subtle biases that females face, problems resulting from working in predominantly male environments, and sexual biases in language.
The field of computer science offers challenge, fun, and the chance to contribute to innovations that improve the quality of our lives. Traditionally, men have outnumbered women in computer science and engineering, but that trend has been changing. Increasingly, women are becoming successful computer scientists and engineers, reaping the career benefits, and telling their stories. Their successes are attracting more women to the field. This brochure tells the stories of a few of the many women in computing today.
Using high-speed computers, computer scientists and engineers are solving challenging problems not only for today but for future generations. One may be designing a robot to perform dangerous or repetitive tasks so people don't have to. Another may be developing a computer model to study smog dispersion or to map chromosomes for the human genome project. A third may be developing a graphical interface to make computers easier for novices to use. Still another may be optimizing an airline's flight schedule to maximize the use of its airplanes and minimize costs or developing a virtual reality scene for a movie or art show.
You may wonder about competition in science, mathematics, and engineering classes, or about being in classes where you might be outnumbered by men. The women in this brochure can tell you about these issues, but they also can tell you that the intellectual stimulation and fun of their chosen field, the variety of exciting jobs they discovered after graduating from college, and the continuing opportunities they see for career advancement have made their choice worthwhile.
If you enjoy your math classes, you will probably also enjoy computer science and engineering. If you enjoy helping others solve problems, learning about new ideas, challenging yourself, or just dreaming up new situations, products, or ideas, computer science or engineering may be the right career choice for you.
Salaries of employed scientists and engineers: The 1999 overall median salary for those employed full time in S&E occupations was $50,300 for women and $64,000 for men. Within occupations and by degree levels and for younger age categories, the median salaries of men and women are generally more similar. For example, in 1999, among engineers aged 29 or younger with a bachelor's degree, the median salary was $46,000 for men and $45,000 for women.