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S/O: Females in computer science


RegGuheert
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Several times now over on the High School Board I have referenced this article which discusses how 30% to 60% of incoming freshman CS majors fail their introductory programming course in college.  This statistic has been true for decades and persists in spite of changes in languages, development environments and teaching techniques.

 

But then I started thinking about the fact that computer science has always been dominated by males and that the statistic in question is really a statistic ABOUT MALES.

 

So now I'm wondering if females may actually fair much better in this regard.  Our own experience with having two AP Computer Science A courses in our home indicated that 100% of the females (of 6 total) in the class completed the Java Programming course successfully while only about 50% of the males (of 13 total) succeeded in making it through the course.

 

Of course this is a very small sample size and it is probably not overly randomized, so I'm wondering if perhaps there really IS a larger percentage of females who can program than males in the general population.

 

I don't have any way to really know, but I thought perhaps others might have further insight or data or anecdotal evidence related to this topic.

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When I was in college, females were more easily intimidated into giving up on STEM majors than males.

 

Examples:  I knew someone who got an A- in her second calculus course.  But she dropped out of majoring in math because it was HARD to get that A- so she decided she didn't have a natural aptitude for math.  (RIDICULOUS!  This was a tough university with ginormous calculus sections, and getting an A was a freaking honor.)

 

I knew someone else who started college there early with a STEM major.  She switched to English because she got a bad grade in her first physics class.  (RIDICULOUS!  The guys would have taken it over and moved the heck on.)

 

When I was in an organic chem lab sophomore, a friend came to meet me at the end of class for some reason, looked around, and said, there's only one other woman in this whole class.  (40 students)  This was true.  But I did not find it intimidating, or distracting, mostly because I did not find those particular guys in that class attractive so I hadn't really noticed.

 

By contrast, I had a male friend with a soft STEM degree who was turned down in applying to dental school, worked a trivial job for a utility for a year while living with his FOO, and then reapplied and got in.  He has been a successful dentist ever since, even though he got a D for one of the drilling exercises he did in dental school.

 

There are some studies I have seen but can't put my finger on right now that indicate that when men fail they assume that the test was unfair or something external like that, but when women fail they assume it is because they are unworthy/unqualified.  I don't know whether this is cultural or inherent, but it's definitely consistent with my observations.

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I do not have statistics to back this up, but I suspect an equal percentage are failing their Math courses.  Many students entering university are actually not prepared to do university level work, especially when CS is in the College of Engineering.  I have in my immediate memory a number of women I worked with who were excellent Software Engineers.  Possibly somewhere on the web you can find valid stats about how males and females do when they enter university level courses.  There are, as someone on WTM posted a week or 2 ago, Scholarships directly aimed at young women who are interested in an Engineering career.  

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I realize that we are just speculating here, because we don't even know for sure that females are statistically more likely to pass their first college-level computer science class.

 

If this is true, it is very possible that it is a case of self-selection with the female students. Only the ones who feel they are well prepared to succeed even try while lots more males figure they might as well give it a try.

 

Edited to add: I just realized that I pretty much repeated what SparkleyUnicorn said. So, I agree with her.  :iagree:

Edited by Pegasus
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If this is true, it is very possible that it is a case of self-selection with the female students. Only the ones who feel they are well prepared to succeed even try while lots more males figure they might as well give it a try.

That's certainly possible.  But I will point out that at least three of the six female students in our class had no intention of ever becoming programmers.

 

One wanted to become an EMT (another male-dominated area), one was a top student going off to get a degree in English and another wanted to be a professional hockey goalie.

Edited by RegGuheert
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That's certainly possible.  But I will point out that at least three of the six female students in our class had no intention of ever becoming programmers.

 

One wanted to become an EMT (another male-dominated area), one was a top student going off to get a degree in English and another wanted to be a professional hockey goalie.

 

Maybe females are just smarter.

 

:laugh:

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When I was in college, females were more easily intimidated into giving up on STEM majors than males.

 

Examples: I knew someone who got an A- in her second calculus course. But she dropped out of majoring in math because it was HARD to get that A- so she decided she didn't have a natural aptitude for math. (RIDICULOUS! This was a tough university with ginormous calculus sections, and getting an A was a freaking honor.)

 

I knew someone else who started college there early with a STEM major. She switched to English because she got a bad grade in her first physics class. (RIDICULOUS! The guys would have taken it over and moved the heck on.)

 

When I was in an organic chem lab sophomore, a friend came to meet me at the end of class for some reason, looked around, and said, there's only one other woman in this whole class. (40 students) This was true. But I did not find it intimidating, or distracting, mostly because I did not find those particular guys in that class attractive so I hadn't really noticed.

 

By contrast, I had a male friend with a soft STEM degree who was turned down in applying to dental school, worked a trivial job for a utility for a year while living with his FOO, and then reapplied and got in. He has been a successful dentist ever since, even though he got a D for one of the drilling exercises he did in dental school.

 

There are some studies I have seen but can't put my finger on right now that indicate that when men fail they assume that the test was unfair or something external like that, but when women fail they assume it is because they are unworthy/unqualified. I don't know whether this is cultural or inherent, but it's definitely consistent with my observations.

I graduated with a BSEE 18 years ago. I took and passed 3 CS classes, digital design, and a couple of motor programming classes. The subject was simply not my thing. I hated it. IRL, all my lady engineering friends work on radar or are system testers, mathematicians, physicists, or homeschool. I used to work with data acq and signal processing equipment prior to homeschooling. DH works with many women scientists. Too many to count really.

 

It seems strange that people think there aren't enough women in STEM when DH and I know so many.

Edited by Heathermomster
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I graduated with a BSEE 18 years ago. I took and passed 3 CS classes, digital design, and a couple of motor programming classes. The subject was simply not my thing. I hated it. IRL, all my lady engineering friends work on radar or are system testers, mathematicians, physicists, or homeschool. I used to work with data acq and signal processing equipment prior to homeschooling. DH works with many women scientists. Too many to count really.

 

It seems strange that people think there aren't enough women in STEM when DH and I know so many.

 

My husband is not a programmer (QA tester), but he works with programmers.  There are no female programmers where he is.  They once had a very HIGHLY qualified female candidate for an open position and they dragged their feet on hiring her because they weren't sure she could "roll with the boys" (my husband was thoroughly disgusted by this attitude).  She ended up working somewhere else by the time they offered.  I dunno.  I've met some of them in his dept.  I'll just say I'm glad I don't have to work with them.  :glare:

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Of course this is a very small sample size and it is probably not overly randomized, so I'm wondering if perhaps there really IS a larger percentage of females who can program than males in the general population.

USNews 2016 article: Women Can Code – as Long as No One Knows They're Women https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2016/02/18/study-shows-women-are-better-coders-but-only-when-gender-is-hidden

 

My anecdotal evidence from when I was in college and then working was that females who were scoring well in calculus in high school would be willing to apply to computer science or to engineering. Almost my entire engineering cohort has a good grade for multi variable calculus in 11th/12th grade which makes them confident to apply for engineering school. So high school calculus was an indirect weeder for my cohort.

 

The work hours of a programmer fresh from college can be crazy. Not so good for work life balance. I was in a management position and already my work life balance was not too good but I had quite a lot of autonomy, it was worse for those lower in "ranks". I worked in the field of high performance computing and my workplaces were dominated by electrical engineers and computer engineers.

Edited by Arcadia
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My husband is not a programmer (QA tester), but he works with programmers. There are no female programmers where he is. They once had a very HIGHLY qualified female candidate for an open position and they dragged their feet on hiring her because they weren't sure she could "roll with the boys" (my husband was thoroughly disgusted by this attitude). She ended up working somewhere else by the time they offered. I dunno. I've met some of them in his dept. I'll just say I'm glad I don't have to work with them. :glare:

My DH worked at a plant for 2.5 years. There were about 6 engineers and not a women in sight. Those people were buffoons. I honestly don't know how DH stood the place.

 

Maybe it depends upon the industry you work and the locale. I worked for a small company that subcontracted to a major defense company. There were 5 of us total and that included the owner. I was the only female. My co-workers were amazing, and I have nothing but love for them. We had one programmer.

Edited by Heathermomster
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The ladies my college sons know view programming as a tool. Its not a career...med school is what they are going for as physician is viewed as both more lucrative and more family friendly. PA school is second choice. Optometry and dentistry are also considered.

 

In my day, how one fared in intro to programming depended on how one did in high school geo. Those who had excellent prep found the course an easy A.

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I started out as a computer science major in college, but switched to psychology, although I ultimately got a Master's degree in statistics. While programming is a big part of my current job, I don't work as a programmer or in IT. I always felt supported and welcomed in my classes, even when I was one of only one or two women, and aced all of them.

 

I don't have any regrets about dropping my computer science major. Everything I've heard from those in the private sector makes the career path very unappealing to me, lots of long hours and job insecurity and age discrimination. My husband has a PhD in chemistry, and neither of us would encourage anyone, male or female, to get a STEM PhD unless they absolutely love the field and can't imagine doing anything else and are fine with potentially being seriously underemployed. STEM majors are darn hard and the rewards are often not commensurate with the sacrifices. We're secretly relieved that our son, who got an undergrad degree in chemistry, has absolutely no interest in a PhD, despite considerable encouragement by his profs and research mentors. While we're glad he chose a challenging major that helped him develop a wide variety of very important skills, he doesn't have the absolute passion for the subject we feel is important for pursuing a higher degree in the field.

Edited by Frances
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My graduate degree is in computer science. I would have completed my doctorate, but I my dissertation advisor became increasingly difficult to work with near the end, and I bailed. Computer science is indeed one of the most time-intensive majors you can pick. When I was in graduate school, it wasn't unheard of to take a single class with 30-40 hours a week of homework. Same thing on the job -- long, long hours, especially if you are the only woman and need to prove yourself.

 

In the majority of my classes, I was the only woman. I actually encountered more women in graduate school than undergraduate because they were B.S. graduates of a "career changer" program that targeted getting women into computer science who had undergraduate degrees in other fields. But I never had a class from a female computer science professor.

 

Math is a major barrier in computer science. I took three more classes and got a second degree in math because the B.S.. in computer science had so much math. I actually liked math better than computer science, but wanted a degree I could make a living with anywhere.

 

Now I teach web design at the college level as a 3/4 time professor, which is of course not as tough as computer science, but there are more information technology faculty jobs out there than computer science. I did teach computer science for four years, but they dissolved the department for lack of demand, and I switched. I teach one freshman level class, and one sophomore level class. In each class, 1/3 or less of my students are women, and often more women drop than men. In a recent multimedia class, I had two women and twelve men finish.

 

So yes, it was a big issue when I was an undergraduate, and it still is.

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I teach one freshman level class, and one sophomore level class. In each class, 1/3 or less of my students are women, and often more women drop than men. In a recent multimedia class, I had two women and twelve men finish.

O.K.  So that's different from our (very limited) experience.  I will say that the males that dropped our class really couldn't understand how to do the programming (with one exception).  Would you say that is the normal reason for dropping, or would you say that many simply decide they do not enjoy it?

 

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I have a sample size of two intro classes (mine and dd's), both taken @2013/14. I noticed that the kids failing were doing so because they were gamers - as in kids who loved video games and wanted to be programmers so they could "make games" and "do what they love" - as opposed to people who were actually interested in and prepared for what a degree/career in computer science actually entailed.

 

Oh! I forgot about XH! He makes my sample size to go three as he WAS one of those kids. Failed that class so. Hard.

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v

The ladies my college sons know view programming as a tool.

I'm an Electrical Engineer and that is how I have always viewed it.  But I have worked with many, many "pure-play programmers" as I call them.  And I have two sons who are that type.  There is a difference between an electrical engineer who does programming and those with a strong passion for it.  They absolutely live, eat and breath programming.

 

So, even within the realm of "those who can program" I see a large difference between those who view it as a "job" or a "tool" and those who are intent on moving the state-of-the-art ahead.

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I doubt that females necessarily do better on their first go at programming in college. It has a hugh failure rate across the board just like organic chem.

 

Think of it this way, not only does organic chem have a high failure rate but BSRN students must get not just a passing grade but a B in order to advance. Nursing is still a heavily female dominated profession. We would not assume that males necessarily have a better passing rate for organic chem just because so many female nursing students drop the major or retake the class.

 

Programming requires a lot of logical thinking skills...as in logic classes are a great boon to being good at it. Algebra is key. Given what we know about the issue with logical thinking skills and algebraic skills as well not being developed in high school these days, it is likely females do just as poorly statistically speaking.

 

And many a student thinks programming is happy happy fun fun, and think that a semester or two into their major, they will be writing the next big multi bazillion dollar game. And then they find out what it is really like! I expect this type of major to have a high failure rate in the prerequisites, and a high number of students dropping out of the field.

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We would not assume that males necessarily have a better passing rate for organic chem just because so many female nursing students drop the major or retake the class.

Note in the OP that I did not just "assume" that females would have a lower drop rate, but I actually observed that none failed out of the six that took the classes.  This while observing about half the male male students simply not be able to get through it.

 

And one of those male students was one of the top-ranked students at the high-end co-op in the area.  He made it almost all the way through the Java Programming class AND the AP CS A test prep class on sheer determination, test-taking skills and hard work.  But, in the end, he absolutely COULD NOT write software from his head in order to answer the FRQ questions on the CS AP A exam.  To me, seeing some of the struggles these students had was rather mind-blowing.  Had I not experienced it personally myself, I would have serious problems accepting the premise of the article which indicates some students simply cannot program.  I still struggle with the idea, but I believe there may be something to the idea.

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I doubt that females necessarily do better on their first go at programming in college. It has a hugh failure rate across the board just like organic chem.

 

Think of it this way, not only does organic chem have a high failure rate but BSRN students must get not just a passing grade but a B in order to advance. Nursing is still a heavily female dominated profession. We would not assume that males necessarily have a better passing rate for organic chem just because so many female nursing students drop the major or retake the class.

 

Programming requires a lot of logical thinking skills...as in logic classes are a great boon to being good at it. Algebra is key. Given what we know about the issue with logical thinking skills and algebraic skills as well not being developed in high school these days, it is likely females do just as poorly statistically speaking.

 

And many a student thinks programming is happy happy fun fun, and think that a semester or two into their major, they will be writing the next big multi bazillion dollar game. And then they find out what it is really like! I expect this type of major to have a high failure rate in the prerequisites, and a high number of students dropping out of the field.

I completely agree with your statement that algebra and logical thinking are key. Having tutored both math and programming, I'm not at all surprised that many students can't handle programming classes. I remember helping one guy who was attempting college algebra for the third time and was so angry that it was keeping him from majoring in computer science. Trying to explain to him the shared skills fell completely on deaf ears.

 

I have to say though that I know many, many nurses and even several current BSN students, and none of them ever took a regular organic chemistry course. They all took some sort of hybrid general/organic course for nursing majors, not the regular year long sequence for pre-health or chemistry majors. My niece who barely made it through high school chemistry actually did better in her nursing chemistry class and said it was easier, except for the organic part. But maybe it's different at some schools.

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I have a sample size of two intro classes (mine and dd's), both taken @2013/14. I noticed that the kids failing were doing so because they were gamers - as in kids who loved video games and wanted to be programmers so they could "make games" and "do what they love" - as opposed to people who were actually interested in and prepared for what a degree/career in computer science actually entailed.

 

Oh! I forgot about XH! He makes my sample size to go three as he WAS one of those kids. Failed that class so. Hard.

I'll add another sample point, a young man I know was a gamer attempting a postbac CS degree and dropped out after the first quarter.

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My best friend & roommate in college was a CS major. I'm pretty sure she didn't fail any of her classes. I don't know how many other females were in her classes. I got my Mech. Eng. degree. Not many other females in ME, although far less in Elec. Eng. I didn't pay much attention to the other females, so I don't know how many (if any) dropped. Plenty of guys dropped to easier engineering majors. Two of my (male) best friends in college were CS majors. I don't know if either one ever actually got their degree. (Lost touch with them once I graduated & married.) They both have "good jobs" now, but I don't think programming is a huge part of either one, although I think both do some programming as part of their jobs.

 

I am surprised by the statistic in the article. I would think that with more programming classes in high school, all the kids (who had access to & took them) would do better in college.

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O.K.  So that's different from our (very limited) experience.  I will say that the males that dropped our class really couldn't understand how to do the programming (with one exception).  Would you say that is the normal reason for dropping, or would you say that many simply decide they do not enjoy it?

 

 

The biggest reason they drop is that they can't invest the time and don't "get" that the field requires dedicated troubleshooting. I'll get emails like this, "I can't upload my work to my website," or "My animation doesn't run." I have no way of responding to general emails like that without knowing the details, and usually emails like that mean that they tried once and gave up. You have to do a lot of reasoning and testing in this field. Because I teach web design, they upload their files onto a student server so they can be tested with a browser. About 1/4 of the students won't spend the time checking their FTP settings, URL, and password, and they won't call the 24/7 IT help desk to check those settings. So then they can't upload their work, so they get zeros. And my school requires that we actually drop students at certain points in the class if they don't have their work done. And then they're furious at me that I drop them or give them a zero because they didn't take the initiative to make it work. I have very little patience for that. Unless it's a college-wide issue (which does happen), they're expected to make their uploads.

 

I have a sample size of two intro classes (mine and dd's), both taken @2013/14. I noticed that the kids failing were doing so because they were gamers - as in kids who loved video games and wanted to be programmers so they could "make games" and "do what they love" - as opposed to people who were actually interested in and prepared for what a degree/career in computer science actually entailed.

 

A lot of students think that IT is the way to go because of that and because the salaries are good, even for just a 2-year degree. But they don't realize how much hard work it is. Because we don't have a program they have to be admitted to like nursing, we get all kinds -- "my cousin makes good money in web design" and "I'm artistic and this pays better than a general art degree."

 

I had a student this summer who took 12 hours and was working two jobs. He wanted to graduate in August. When he missed an early deadline, he emailed me his story, and I gave him two more days for an assignment. But that went on all summer, and it began dragging out. He'd email me things like "I can't upload my work," and I'd email back (more politely of course) "fix it." His website still would have no files a week after the due date, so I'd assign a zero. Then a week later he'd beg to turn it in. I'd refuse. He hounded me even days after I had entered grades! The reality is that he didn't have enough time to succeed.

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I'm pretty clueless about how to program, but Ds spends most of his days doing it & has aced all of his DE CSclasses so far.

 

Perhaps programming is like teaching, some are just naturals at it & others will never "get it" ?

 

Although the math doesn't come nearly as easily for him, so maybe as the math gets harder, he'll struggle more?

We'll see.

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CS scares me. EE does not, math does not, but CS does. Just my 2 cents. (iirc I've gotten an A in every programming course I've ever taken, but object-oriented programming confuses me. Give me assembly any day)

 

ETA: I have not read anything past the first post. Also, CS seems to be full of guys who've been programming since they were tweens or so (well, and guys who just want to make good money, but they're more likely to flunk out). 

Edited by luuknam
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The biggest reason they drop is that they can't invest the time and don't "get" that the field requires dedicated troubleshooting. I'll get emails like this, "I can't upload my work to my website," or "My animation doesn't run." I have no way of responding to general emails like that without knowing the details, and usually emails like that mean that they tried once and gave up. You have to do a lot of reasoning and testing in this field. Because I teach web design, they upload their files onto a student server so they can be tested with a browser. About 1/4 of the students won't spend the time checking their FTP settings, URL, and password, and they won't call the 24/7 IT help desk to check those settings. So then they can't upload their work, so they get zeros. And my school requires that we actually drop students at certain points in the class if they don't have their work done. And then they're furious at me that I drop them or give them a zero because they didn't take the initiative to make it work. I have very little patience for that. Unless it's a college-wide issue (which does happen), they're expected to make their uploads.

Interesting.  IMO, anyone who wants to be a successful programmer has to be able to get past all of these technical hurdles that will tend to stop you from successfully running the software.  As such, most (all?) programmers are quite adept at dealing with computer problems.  If they cannot do that, they will never be able to tackle the difficult challenges that all programmers face on nearly a daily basis.

 

I had a student this summer who took 12 hours and was working two jobs. He wanted to graduate in August. When he missed an early deadline, he emailed me his story, and I gave him two more days for an assignment. But that went on all summer, and it began dragging out. He'd email me things like "I can't upload my work," and I'd email back (more politely of course) "fix it." His website still would have no files a week after the due date, so I'd assign a zero. Then a week later he'd beg to turn it in. I'd refuse. He hounded me even days after I had entered grades! The reality is that he didn't have enough time to succeed.

We had a student just like that.  It seemed that was his modus operandi in life.  I was SO glad I had DS19 put in strict homework rules for that class so he could expel him.  It was very hard for DS19 to do that (who was 16 at the time).  Funny thing:  His Mom THANKED DS19 for doing this.  I think she probably lived with that nonsense every day.

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I completely agree with your statement that algebra and logical thinking are key. Having tutored both math and programming, I'm not at all surprised that many students can't handle programming classes. I remember helping one guy who was attempting college algebra for the third time and was so angry that it was keeping him from majoring in computer science. Trying to explain to him the shared skills fell completely on deaf ears.

 

I have to say though that I know many, many nurses and even several current BSN students, and none of them ever took a regular organic chemistry course. They all took some sort of hybrid general/organic course for nursing majors, not the regular year long sequence for pre-health or chemistry majors. My niece who barely made it through high school chemistry actually did better in her nursing chemistry class and said it was easier, except for the organic part. But maybe it's different at some schools.

It probably varies from state to state. Michigan is pretty tough, board exam wise. The programs have become VERY tough over the years. Lots of people have the ADN, but will openly say they don't want to go to the BSRN and chem is cited. Now that said, many are also afraid of microbiology which the ADN does not require.

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A lot of kids also do not realize that CS requires calculus 1 and 2 for software programming at most of the better schools. Three or four calc classes for computer hardware engineering at places like MSU and U of MI. Many times students are enrolled in their first programming class while taking a calculus class concurrently. For many of them, that might be too much too fast as freshman.

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I read an interesting article about why there are more men than women in STEM.  It didn't have any great revelations, but one statistic that I thought was interesting is that while most people who score highly in math but not verbal domains, go into STEM areas, but the majority of people who score high in both math and verbal domains, tend NOT to, despite those being, in general, better paying.  People who are good at verbal and math areas tend to go into humanities, bio sciences, or soft sciences.  And the majority of people with high scores in both domains are women. 

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My daughter transferred to the University of Kansas last year, and is a CS major. She is slightly older, 24, having taken a gap year, then worked during her first 2 years of college. The CS major is in the School of Engineering, so she is required to take 4 Calc classes. She's loving it. Her fiance(soon to be husband in 5 months) is a Mechanical Engineer, and minored in math, so he's been a fantastic and free tutor, when she gets stuck. She doesn't want to program, but would like to go into web or app design.

 

She says she gets stared at when she goes into the Engineering bldg...just aren't very many women in there...really hope that changes.

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My two nieces who were very strong STEM students in high school, especially in math, did not even consider computer science. One of the main career criteria for both of them was that they would not spend a significant amount of time sitting in front of a computer. And one of them is extremely social and wanted a job that entailed significant interaction with people. Both considered medical school for awhile but have now graduated college with STEM degrees and are pursuing teaching careers, one at the high school level and one in academia.

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I admit I find this "women would be better at cs"  rather . . . sexist?

 

I have a dd in this field.  she worked in ops for a major IT company, in very male-dominated depts for nine years.  she cleaned up (programming) messes made by cs majors. (she finds devs extremely narrowly focused.)  nevertheless - she also recognizes the unrealistic parameters they're put under by higher-ups.

 

she attended the "women in tech/comp"  conferences sponsored by her former employer.  she was not impressed with the attitudes of the women in leadership there.  she didn't find them supportive of women so much as wanting to take over- what individual women want to do be damned.   while she worked mostly with men (some competent, some not),  she met fewer women in IT at her level, percentage wise, for whom she actually respected their abilities.

 

she's now taken over the IT dept of a local company (dependent on IT, three locations opening a fourth) and is enjoying the control. (hmm - the same reason my microbio niece enjoyed jumping to IT- the control.)     I also fully expect her to be bored in a year (after she's fixed everything and it's all running smoothly) and to go somewhere else.  she craves challenge. it'll look good on her resume.

 

 

eta: for her - if she were to do cs - she would be bored to tears.  and she has a gift for languages.  and cs is a very very easy language.  (For her.  it follows every single rule.)

Edited by gardenmom5
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I read an interesting article about why there are more men than women in STEM.  It didn't have any great revelations, but one statistic that I thought was interesting is that while most people who score highly in math but not verbal domains, go into STEM areas, but the majority of people who score high in both math and verbal domains, tend NOT to, despite those being, in general, better paying.  People who are good at verbal and math areas tend to go into humanities, bio sciences, or soft sciences.  And the majority of people with high scores in both domains are women. 

 

My second daughter scored 800 on the Writing and 800 on the Reading (2400 scale), but a 630? in Math.  I don't recall but it was lower than a 650.  She majored in Neuroscience and finished all the requirments, but realized she was far happier with her Comp Sci minor.  She had to struggle with the detail work in the lab, but coding and programming was just puzzles she said.  Piece of cake. She decided she didn't want to work in a lab or even run a lab, so she worked as a coder/programmer last year, took a three month leave to work for Girls Who Code over the summer, and will finish her BS in Comp Sci (while working half time at her job) before moving to the city to find work.  Ultimately she'd like to go back to school and figure out a way to combine her interest in languages, Neuroscience and Comp Sci to create medical devices to help people with physical and language difficulties. 

 

In her work with Girls Who Code she said she found the girls were less willing to take risks than the young men she knew.  They hesitated and checked everything with her and the other instructors. She said that she credits our family culture for her willingness to fail and pick herself back up.  I've always told my kids I'd rather they struggle for B's than breeze by with A's.  Although struggling and getting A's is even better :)  Over the past three decades my husband has been fired or downsized four times.  That sounds terrible!  But the business he is in is highly competitive and highly compensated.  Once he was fired for refusing to come to meetings at 3 oclock in the morning.  Anyway, watching their dad bounce back and find an even better job so many times has helped them to see failure isn't the end of life. 

 

Interestingly this is a Ted talk by the founder of Girls Who Code entitled, "Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection"

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/reshma_saujani_teach_girls_bravery_not_perfection

Edited by Barb_
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Note in the OP that I did not just "assume" that females would have a lower drop rate, but I actually observed that none failed out of the six that took the classes. This while observing about half the male male students simply not be able to get through it.

There could easily be selection bias. All the ladies in my cohort who went to engineering school had a do or die attitude. We have been in the engineering/premed track since 9th grade and are used to "swimming with the sharks". The engineering lady undergrads have much higher academic statistics than the computer science undergraduates regardless of gender for my cohort.

 

However the best debuggers in my cohort and at work are those who are strong in discrete math from the subset of those already strong in multivarable calculus. That is regardless of gender and age.

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In her work with Girls Who Code she said she found the girls were less willing to take risks than the young men she knew.  They hesitated and checked everything with her and the other instructors. She said that she credits our family culture for her willingness to fail and pick herself back up.  

 

 

 

Anecdotally, my dad always seemed terrified that I'd break the family computer... he wouldn't let me install Linux or w/e. Eventually once we had 3 computers (which didn't happen until I was in college) he installed Linux on one of them himself. I did play around with Python a bit when I was in high school, but once I got stuck following the tutorial I didn't know how to get help. Of course this was also around the year 2000, so different than now. Likewise, he also was scared to let me use a power drill because I could ruin the wall trying to hang a picture. I don't think he was being sexist, because I don't think he let my younger brother do any of that either, but then and again, my younger brother is special needs, so who knows. 

 

ETA: plus, my younger brother just didn't seem to have an interest in installing Linux or drilling holes in the wall to hang pictures. 

Edited by luuknam
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I guess I lucked out by having a dad who treated me like the boys when it came to troubleshooting and tinkering.

 

He did treat us differently in some ways - for example, he didn't force me to help when the sewer backed up in the basement, LOL.  Then again, my brothers didn't have to clean the dog vomit out of the carpet.  But I digress.  :P

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I took and introductory Java course in college. I only passed because my dh who was my then fiancee and was just finishing his undergraduate degree in CS helped me through it. The teacher was absolutely horrible. The second class he went through a two page program line by line. I had no idea what a variable in that context was. It's like he was throwing us in the deep end. The only pre-requisite was math 10 but one of the programs that we were supposed to write was a calculator that utilized Newton's method for deriving the deriviative of a function. I was disgusted and thankful that I had a chapter in my current calculus text that explained what in the world that was. Perhaps some of the reason that so many people fail is that the course are poorly designed like mine and the professors are stereotypically a little more clueless.

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CS scares me. EE does not, math does not, but CS does. Just my 2 cents. (iirc I've gotten an A in every programming course I've ever taken, but object-oriented programming confuses me. Give me assembly any day)

Yes, OOP is a major paradigm shift from procedural programming.  When I tried to self-learn it in the early 2000s, I didn't get very far.  But DS19 had no issue getting through the Java class on his own when he was in 8th grade.  That was true even though TeenCoder badly muddled some of the OOP concepts in the course.

 

When DS19 was teaching Java Programming, as the course transitioned to OOP we unfortunately lost some of the students who had been doing fine with the procedural programs up until that point.  What's sad was that was when the course really started to get fun because the OOP concepts were used to write graphical programs.

 

Now DS19 and DS27 have moved on from OOP to a functional programming language called Clojure.  Functional programming is yet another large paradigm shift.  DS27 introduced that language at work and has endeavored to transition the code base and some of the team from Java and JavaScript to Clojure and ClojureScript.  It it proceeding, but not everyone on the team is on board.  DS19 is an intern and he already knew Clojure because he learned about it from his brother.  But the other six interns this summer are graduate students from Carnegie Mellon and they had never had any exposure to Clojure or even functional programming.  But apparently they did well picking it up.

 

I took and introductory Java course in college. I only passed because my dh who was my then fiancee and was just finishing his undergraduate degree in CS helped me through it. The teacher was absolutely horrible. The second class he went through a two page program line by line. I had no idea what a variable in that context was. It's like he was throwing us in the deep end. The only pre-requisite was math 10 but one of the programs that we were supposed to write was a calculator that utilized Newton's method for deriving the deriviative of a function. I was disgusted and thankful that I had a chapter in my current calculus text that explained what in the world that was. Perhaps some of the reason that so many people fail is that the course are poorly designed like mine and the professors are stereotypically a little more clueless.

DS19 and I looked long and hard to try to find the "best" way to teach OOP to students for the Java course.  Frankly, every method we saw was diifferent and none were great.  We decided to develop our own approach.  I put a lot of effort into making it understandable but I have to admit that my approach was no more successful than the others.  If you asked me why some students could make the transition from procedural to object-oriented programming while others couldn't, I don't have an answer.  I suppose it may be related to the different ways that we all learn, as reflected in the plethora of teaching styles we found for OOP.

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Anecdotally, my dad always seemed terrified that I'd break the family computer... he wouldn't let me install Linux or w/e. Eventually once we had 3 computers (which didn't happen until I was in college) he installed Linux on one of them himself. I did play around with Python a bit when I was in high school, but once I got stuck following the tutorial I didn't know how to get help. Of course this was also around the year 2000, so different than now. 

Yes, things have certainly changed over the years.  When I was in high school, the school had a grand total of ONE computer (a TRS-80).  I saw the teacher who had purchased that computer the other day and he told me that his colleagues at that time almost universally told him that computers were just a fad that would not last.

 

My class at Virginia Tech was the first that was required to purchase the Compaq luggable computers.  Unfortunately, I didn't have one since I transferred in following my sophomore year.  I spent a bit of time in the computer labs.

 

And things have even changed between our different children.  When DS27 was in high school, we didn't know what to do to introduce him to programming.  TeenCoder didn't yet exist and I remember purchasing him the first Android phone (T-Mobile G1) so that he could write apps for that in Java.  He had a laptop, but he didn't really know how to get started.  As such, he never really wrote any software beyond programming his TI-84 calculator prior to going off to college.

 

Today the kids each have laptops, iPads and Android phones.  We also have a Mac that is shared and can be used for development on that platform.  With the exception of DS13, they have all learned to program in Java using TeenCoder.  DS13 will take that course this fall.  DD15 passed that course with flying colors at age 12, but I have had a heck of a time getting her to program since then.  She really has a knack for it, but she is into art now.  I've tried to encourage her to combine the two, but I haven't gotten very far. :tongue_smilie:

 

DS19 really is the only one of our children who has done a significant amount of programming before he left home.  I don't know if that will ever change.

 

Likewise, he also was scared to let me use a power drill because I could ruin the wall trying to hang a picture. I don't think he was being sexist, because I don't think he let my younger brother do any of that either, but then and again, my younger brother is special needs, so who knows. 

 

ETA: plus, my younger brother just didn't seem to have an interest in installing Linux or drilling holes in the wall to hang pictures. 

I'm anal retentive that way, too.   :tongue_smilie:   I admit it's not overly conducive to learning.  I've tried to encourage exploration on the computers more.  I purchased DD15 the book Hacking: The Art of Exploration to try to get her to explore more, but no dice.

 

P.S.  I don't know if they were invented back then, but I highly recommend Hercules Hooks for hanging pictures. :thumbup1:

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I have a BS in math and computer science from a large and highly competitive tech program. I worked as a software engineer for ma y years and have taught programming in group settings. My DH has an undergrad in computer science and a MS in software engineering from the same university. We both spent time hiring comp sci grads and he does to this day. We also know profs teaching comp sci. Anyway, our experience doesn't match the OPs at all. When I was in college, 1/2-2/3 regularly dropped put of the programs. The college is more selective on the front end now but I but 1/4-1/3 will never finish that program to this day. If anything I think the females give up more easily. The international students had the best staying power.

 

I will also say there are huge variations in comp sci program quality and abilities. A BS does not equal a BA does not equal an AA does not equal someone who got through a single class or 2. I find use of the word programmer to describe all these people a bit frustrating. At my last job, if you didn't have a BS you weren't actually designing and working on software. No one I know who has a MS/BS comp sci degree has ever beeen underemployed. I haven't worked other than teaching for a number of years and I still get head hunter calls and emails. Lol.

 

Anyway, I find the original premise a bit silly. I can't imagine why comp sci would be easier for a single gender. Yes more males are in comp sci but not all. I saw many males and females leave the program. That said I do think the true computer scientists had a deep understanding of logic and just enjoyed puzzle solving like this.

 

ETA in terms of the original post, sometimes getting through an entry level class like that is more about maturity and focus than anything else. Maybe your girls mature faster. I can say that is true at my house with my very small sample size. Anyway I think without some actual data it's hard to talk about anything other than observations.

Edited by WoolySocks
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I have a BS in math and computer science from a large and highly competitive tech program. I worked as a software engineer for ma y years and have taught programming in group settings. My DH has an undergrad in computer science and a MS in software engineering from the same university. We both spent time hiring comp sci grads and he does to this day. We also know profs teaching comp sci. Anyway, our experience doesn't match the OPs at all. When I was in college, 1/2-2/3 regularly dropped put of the programs. The college is more selective on the front end now but I but 1/4-1/3 will never finish that program to this day. If anything I think the females give up more easily. The international students had the best staying power.

O.K.  So you see the opposite, also.  Do you know how the university manages to be "more selective"?  Do they require prior programming experience in order to be accepted to the school?  That seems like a good idea, but it might also exclude some excellent candidates.

 

I do think that computer programming is one of those things that most people absolutely take for granted because of a few factors:

- Ridiculous Hollywood portrayals of "programmers".  Examples: - The young girl in "Jurassic Park": "It's a UNIX system.  I know this!" - Flint Lockwood in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs": He did his "rubber hands" thing on the keyboard and managed to "convert the DNA in water to food".  Craziness.

- Children play extremely polished video games on massively powerful computers and they have NO IDEA how large a team worked for how many years to produce such an impressive piece of engineering.

- Computers and software are ubiquitous and that causes people to think it must be easy to do.

 

None of the above could be farther from the truth.  But I think some students enter their first programming course harboring some of these misconceptions and assume that they can just sit down and whip out that game idea they have in their head.

 

I will also say there are huge variations in comp sci program quality and abilities. A BS does not equal a BA does not equal an AA does not equal someone who got through a single class or 2. I find use of the word programmer to describe all these people a bit frustrating.

"Engineer" has some of the same difficulties, but perhaps not quite as bad as "programmer".

 

Anyway, I find the original premise a bit silly. I can't imagine why comp sci would be easier for a single gender. Yes more males are in comp sci but not all. I saw many males and females leave the program. That said I do think the true computer scientists had a deep understanding of logic and just enjoyed puzzle solving like this.

Perhaps, but there are lots of things that are observed long before anyone can imagine why they are the way they are.  Apparently my observations do not match those of others.  That is why I posted the question.

 

ETA in terms of the original post, sometimes getting through an entry level class like that is more about maturity and focus than anything else. Maybe your girls mature faster. I can say that is true at my house with my very small sample size. Anyway I think without some actual data it's hard to talk about anything other than observations.

That seems like a reasonable idea.  I will note a couple of things:  Only one of the girls I mentioned was my child.  The other five were other homeschoolers, three of whom really had no plans to be programmers but who still managed to do very well in the course.  I do wonder if "mature" is a thing here, as I'm sure you'll agree that excellent programmers seem to appear at an extremely wide variety of ages, with some being very young.

 

Frankly, we were very relieved to have three females in each of the two courses that DS19 taught.  When sign-ups started, after the first girl signed up we then wondered if she would be all alone or if she would be joined by others.  Having three in each class was great!  They absolutely did segregate by gender, but neither class was dominated by either boys or girls.

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O.K.  So you see the opposite, also.  Do you know how the university manages to be "more selective"?  Do they require prior programming experience in order to be accepted to the school?  That seems like a good idea, but it might also exclude some excellent candidates.

 

The BS program my DH and I came through has ACT scores of 31-34 for the middle 50th percentile and had an 8% acceptance rate last year.  10% of the Freshman class were national merit scholars.  I found a great data page on this program.  Last year the program graduated 26.2% women at an all time high.  30.7% of females entered the program and this is NOT an all time high.   So in general they are losing a small percentage of women by the time graduation rolls around and that has looked fairly consistent the last few years.   Anyway - because of the sheer number of applicants I'm sure they can be more selective.  Those kids with the programming and robotics and college level math are going to stand out more.  I had not even realized how crazy competitive this program is now. 

 

I do think you have a great point about people getting excited about gaming and trying programming and deciding it wasn't really for them.  I was convinced my son who is 16 would want to major in comp sci.  He did AP Comp Sci last year after a number of programming classes and being very successful and ahead in math.  And meh, he wasn't into it.  He definitely has the brains and the skill sets but it's not just not really his thing.  Which is fine.  We're just started looking at colleges and now he's interested in music programs.  LOL.

 

I taught a Unity C# programming class with a bunch of homeschool kids and only had 1 female enrolled.  Some kids were highly successful, some weren't at all.  It was a range.  The female in the class was not super successful with it. 

 

ETA - I think calling BS and MS comp sci grads working in software "programmers" isn't even accurate.  Programming is one thing they do.  But designing a large system is also a good portion design, planning, system architecture, designing graphics, etc etc etc.  I think in general people just don't know what that process looks like unless they're in the middle of it.

Edited by WoolySocks
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That seems like a reasonable idea.  I will note a couple of things:  Only one of the girls I mentioned was my child.  The other five were other homeschoolers, three of whom really had no plans to be programmers but who still managed to do very well in the course.  I do wonder if "mature" is a thing here, as I'm sure you'll agree that excellent programmers seem to appear at an extremely wide variety of ages, with some being very young.

 

Oh for sure.  My oldest has been programming for years from scratch, to minecraft mods, to playing with java, to unity, to then AP Comp Sci last year.  I just thought AP Comp Sci is a really pretty dry, technical class.  It's not nearly as "fun" as some of the other programming experiences my kid has had.  And he tests out on the highly-profoundly gifted end.  I just don't think too many young kids would enjoy that class even if they were very tech minded and bright and I can see how it would turn some kids off. 

 

Edited by WoolySocks
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The other thing about AP comp sci is it is very theoretical, but in the real world, software has to work for specific business solutions and that requires a different approach. Dh is a software engineer and feels that if high schoolers want to get their feet wet in programming they should look at taking JAVA or C Sharp certification classes after having played with python for a while. The professional certifications are a LOT more meaningful than AP Comp Sci any day.

 

Our son earned his first level of JAVA certification at the age of sixteen. For a kid who has been using scratch and python, maybe programming in arduino for robotics or paralax, he/she can definitely manage it if the math skills are sound.

 

So much still comes back to the problem solving skills gained in mastery of algebraic topics.

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I'm pretty clueless about how to program, but Ds spends most of his days doing it & has aced all of his DE CSclasses so far.

 

Perhaps programming is like teaching, some are just naturals at it & others will never "get it" ?

 

Although the math doesn't come nearly as easily for him, so maybe as the math gets harder, he'll struggle more?

We'll see.

 

Ds has been bored in the 3 programming classes he has taken in college. He claims to have learned only a handful of things because he already had spent copious amounts of time teaching himself while homeschooling. For him, it was definitely exposure, not a natural talent, although he is obviously bent that direction as he spent so much time programming. He never took a formal class until college.

 

For him, I also think he's been successful because he doesn't need line by line instructions, he just experiments and looks to solve challenges in that manner. I'd say that is more personality than gender. He likes that aspect of problem solving. 

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The other thing about AP comp sci is it is very theoretical, but in the real world, software has to work for specific business solutions and that requires a different approach. Dh is a software engineer and feels that if high schoolers want to get their feet wet in programming they should look at taking JAVA or C Sharp certification classes after having played with python for a while. The professional certifications are a LOT more meaningful than AP Comp Sci any day.

 

Our son earned his first level of JAVA certification at the age of sixteen. For a kid who has been using scratch and python, maybe programming in arduino for robotics or paralax, he/she can definitely manage it if the math skills are sound.

 

So much still comes back to the problem solving skills gained in mastery of algebraic topics.

:iagree: I think Java or C# certification would be much more interesting for many high schoolers.  The concepts introduced in comp sci are good and important but really would be better introduced after having a good handle on basic java coding.  I think it would turn less kids off to it.  I really think kids that couldn't or wouldn't do the stuff in AP Comp Sci may be fully capable in a few years after some more brain development.  I also think grasping algebra concepts is a developmental skill not every kid can grasp at the same time either (as another example). 

 

Not every kid that wants to program needs to get a 34 on their ACT and get a BS out of a highly competitive program and have deep understanding of every theoretical comp sci concept. 

Edited by WoolySocks
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