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More women are studying STEM majors, so why has diversity in tech barely changed?

Contributed by
Mar 27, 2018

On the whole, more women are going into STEM fields than ever before—but STEM, as we already know, is an abbreviation that makes up several different academic disciplines (in this case, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). And while women are definitely applying to STEM majors in general, computer science is a field that hasn't exactly broken major ground when it comes to diversity. Neither have big tech companies; until recently, women only made up about 30% of the total workforce at places like Facebook and Apple.

That's changing, fortunately, and thanks to a recent push to hire more inclusively, Apple noted that as of their 2016-17 hiring cycle the percentage of women under 30 working there had increased to 36%, up 5% from 2014, and half of all their new hires were from previously underrepresented groups in tech, both women and people of color.

It's a shift that couldn't be coming at a better time—especially given a recent study from the Center for Education Statistics that shows that the computer science college major still tends to be dominated by white men, according to a Wired report. Some of this appears to a result of the recruitment process; researchers from Stanford observed several recruiting sessions in which certain behaviors from recruiters might be distancing female applicants. However, thanks to efforts from groups like the Braid Initiative, several universities are working to make their computer science courses more inclusive in order to attract a diverse range of applicants.

In the 1970s, when typing classes were a required part of computer science courses, women were expected to major in that discipline, since typing was a valuable asset for employment. Merely a decade later, though, the number of women in computer science began to drop—and is still dropping. Overall, more women are earning college degrees than men, and the number of women in certain science concentrations has gone up; 60% of women are majoring in biology. But as far as tech fields are concerned, more changes are going to need to happen at every stage of the process—from recruitment to job hiring—in order to move the needle in a more significant way.