Potential Problems

Identifying potential problems in your environment is a critical part of understanding the gender gap:

Cultural/General

  • Negative perception/stereotypes of CS from those outside CS: Many stereotypes exist about the CS world, but those particularly concerning to women are the impression that it is a “man’s world” or consists of a “bro culture.”
  • Stereotypes embodied in various media outlets: These stereotypes are often perpetuated and encouraged by media and popular culture.
  • Lack of community/opportunities to make connections: Without strong communities or women to look up to, many women are intimidated by entering the world of computer science alone.
  • Gap in perceived and actual ability: The “confidence gap” is especially prevalent in computer science, and in many cases, men are more confident about their abilities while women are less confident. Subsequently, this perceived gap in ability can discourage women.

Pre-University

  • Different childhood games and toys: The gap begins at a young age. In many cases, boys tend to play more computer games and with toys that build spatial reasoning skills, such as legos, while girls are often given less substantial toys such as dolls. Gender stereotypes in advertising perpetuate these standards.
  • Different early expectations from parents and teachers.
  • Less exposure to CS classes: Most computer science classes in middle and high school have large gender gaps, and women are often intimidated to take a class with nearly all boys. It often doesn’t help that classroom environments are often decorated with “geeky” posters.

Educator/University

  • Lack of role models in faculty/academia: The number of women faculty in computer science at most universities are typically very low compared to men, which leads to less mentorship and role models for women.
  • Faculty unresponsive/untrained on the issue.
  • Imposter Syndrome: Many CS college women suffer from some form of “imposter syndrome,” feeling consistently inadequate despite being quite competent.

Post-University

  • Lack of role models at helm of tech companies: The number of women in technical jobs in the tech industry ranges between an average of only 10 to 20 percent at most companies.
  • Perceptions of post grad life as a CS developer: The range of perceptions women have about life in the CS world can sometimes be skewed from reality.
  • Work-life balance: Working long hours and having minimal time for family commitments is one of the top reasons many women leave the tech industry.
  • Maternity leave: Managers can be unrealistic with maternity leaves and pressure women to return earlier than they prefer.
  • Pay gap: While many companies are good at ensuring there is no pay gap, this still can be a problem in some companies.
  • Negotiation gap: The pay gap actually often increases in higher up positions because women are four times less likely to ask for a raise than men and ask for 30 percent less when doing so.
  • Sexual harassment: According to one study, two-thirds of women in science have been sexually harassed, and one-fifth have been sexually assaulted.

Note that the relative importance of these problems will depend on the particular circumstances.