Increasing the Numbers of Women in Science

Increasing the Numbers of Women in Science

Gwen White (Gateway Community and Technical College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-657-5.ch004

Abstract

The fields of engineering and technology have traditionally been male dominated. The numbers of females in engineering and technology are traditionally less than their male counterparts. Within the past thirty years, women have had more opportunities to enter these fields. Previously stereotypes, misinformation and ignorance have shut women out of these important career choices. The short and long term goals are to eradicate stereotypes and make sure there is enough pertinent information available for women and girls about engineering and technology. There are a number of programs available that encourage females to enter the fields of engineering and technology; they just need to move up on the priority lists of corporations, guidance counselors and parents.
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Background

Statistics in various countries shows that women for the most part are lagging behind males in engineering and technology. Countries include the United States, Canada, India, Japan and European nations. In the United States, women earned approximately 60% associate’s degrees, 58% of all bachelor’s degrees, and 59% of all master’s degrees (Knapp & Kelly-Reid, 2006, p. 3). Overall high tech firms are lagging behind when it comes to women on the payroll in a STEM related field. Women only make up 25.6% of U.S. computer and math occupations. Only 8% of women with four year degrees are engineering managers (Anita Borg Institute, 2007).

There is expected growth in engineering and technology in the next four years. Management, scientific, and technical consulting services jobs according to the Employment Projections by Industry: 2006 to 2016 is expected to grow from 920,000 to 1,638,000. The same growth in Computer systems design and related services is expecting to increase from 1,278,000 to 1,767,000 by 2016 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007).

The U.S. Department of Education’s outlook for Engineering, Technology and Science Occupational Projections from 2002 – 2012 show that 1,500,000 positions in these fields are likely to be added in the near future. Only 26% of degree holders are women with a degree in Computer Science. “Women received about 38% of the computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States in 1985, the peak year, but in 2003, the figure was only about 28%, according to the National Science Foundation “(Dean, 2007, p. 1).

Even though there is an expected increase in the number of technological positions, conversely the proportion of women available to work in these fields have decreased in the past 20 years in comparison to other fields like mathematics and science (U.S. Department of Education, 2005). However, only 26% of women hold professional positions in the IT industry in 2006. This number of females involved in technology is likely to decrease as the year 2012 approaches.

The National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT, 2009) published statistics related to females in computer science. In 2008, 57% of women graduated in the Unites States with a four year degree. Of that 57% only 18% were computer science majors. This is a significant decrease from 1985 where 37% of female graduates were computer science majors. Statistics (Anita Borg Institute, 2007) in other countries show low number of computer science/engineering majors: India (8%), France (19%) and the United Kingdom (18.2%). In contrast, Eastern Europe (57%), China (59%), South Korea (46%) and Japan (66%) in 2000 have a higher representation of four year graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “demand for computer scientists in the United States will only increase in coming years,” Dr. Cuny said. “If you look at the demographics of the country, if we are not going to get our new professionals from women and minorities and persons with disabilities, we are not going to have enough (Dean, 2007, p. 5).”

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