The Curious Case Of The Disappearing Women In Computer Science, And How They Could Be Found Again

August 7th, 2010

In the last few years, women have gained significant representation in traditionally male-dominated areas, including financial and legal services and company directorships. Women haven’t yet reached a half share of leading positions, but enormous strides have been made. Sadly, turning to one vital and growing sector, things appear to be heading into reverse. An academic research paper some years ago indicated that the number of females employed in the field of Computer-related jobs has declined from a promising 40% in 1986 to below one third in 1999, and the decline has continued since then. There are undoubtedly a number of factors behind the situation, but perhaps the development of Internet business is creating the type of online jobs which could enable women to work from home, and perhaps this is the basis for changing this trend.

Many will argue that this is a straightforward gender difference. It’s the same with chess. This is a board game requiring no physical prowess that might give men an advantage, but there are hardly any women playing at club level, let alone grandmasters. Why? Well it’s an abstract kind of pursuit, undertaken in a black-and-white, articificial sphere, that does not seem to appeal to the female temperament. Maybe computers are in a similar way of thinking, a binary universe of 0’s and 1’s, numerical ideas that don’t appeal to the more visionary and linguistic aptitudes of females.

However, modern opinion may deem that these ideas of inborn gender differences don’t hold water. Despite this, It cannot be denied that computer experts have a reputation for being ‘nerds’, socially inept, introverted men more interested in making computer bits in their backrooms than in physical recreation, entertainments or the normal pursuits of other young men. Such company is understandably unappealing to women.

And yet, things began with much promise for women in computing, when a female American naval officer called Grace Hopper constructed the very earliest computers fifty or more years ago and helped to invent Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL), which became the most popular language for business systems right up to the first days of Internet business in the 1990s.

So women obviously possess the capability to pursue a successful career in the computer industry. But there’s one important question that may discourage them. The speed of change in computer technology is rapid, and with the appearance of Internet business and online jobs the pace is getting even faster. Ladies who desire to leave work for a few years to bring up a family, will then find that when they are again available for employment, their IT knowledge has become yesterday’s news, and they may have to re-train completely. It is difficult enough for men, or for women who don’t bring up a family, to maintain their knowledge of all the latest skills.

This is where the opportunities afforded by online jobs can help with this problem. They enable women to work from home while combining an Internet business with looking after a family. They enable people to select their own working hours, so that women can still drop the kids off at school and pick them up again. And this chance to eliminate the time taken out of your career also allows women to maintain skills in the most recent technologies.

Naturally, online jobs are not only suitable for women; countless men have decided to work from home also. And yet it is to be hoped that, through Internet business ideas as well as developing a more congenial environment for ladies in IT as a whole, the proportion of female computer specialists may eventually reach the ideal of 50%.

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