An Analysis of Women in Computing

A woman working in computing graphic

With women comprising only 26% of the total computing workforce in the U.S., the computer science and technology gender gap is palpable. The percentage of computer science degrees earned by women in comparison to men dropped by 46% between 1983 and 2017. Underrepresentation of females in college computing programs leads to lower levels of female employment within the realms of coding, software development and IT.

This steady decline at both the academic and professional level has existed over the past three decades due in part to cultural shifts, pay disparity and inequitable working environments. However, as of 2015, the percentages of women earning computer science degrees have finally started to rise. National advocacy groups, academic institutions and corporate partners are mobilizing resources at scale to provide computer science and technology education to girls and women of all demographics.

Broader opportunities are being presented for girls in kindergarten through college to pursue careers in computer science in the form of afterschool clubs, summer immersion programs, coding boot camps and on-campus student organizations. Overall, stakeholders involved are fully realizing the need to tackle the tech gender gap at its root.

In an effort to spread awareness and foster support for female enrollment within STEM programs, GCU conducted a data study where we took a closer look at the following data points:

  • Female enrollment and degrees earned by women within computer science programs over time
  • The percentage employed by gender within specific computer science occupations
  • The pay gap between women and men within the computer and information science field
  • The national advocacy efforts put in place to increase gender diversity in tech and instigate change

Research Findings

Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees Earned by Women

Using the National Center for Education Statistics, we analyzed both the percentage of computer science bachelor’s degrees earned by women and the total number of bachelor’s degrees earned by women between 1970 and 2017. The interactive graph below shows the fairly rapid percentage growth of women earning degrees between 1970 and 1983, as well as the steady decline of degrees earned between 1984 and 2015. Additionally, the number of computer science undergraduate degrees earned by women has only increased by 2.65% between 2002 and 2017.

Female Enrollment for Computer Science Degrees

On the other hand, our research found that female enrollment within computer science undergraduate and graduate programs has increased in recent years. In fact, there was a 74.9% increase in female enrollment in computer science bachelor’s programs between 2012 and 2018 and a 141.4% increase in female enrollment in computer science master’s programs during the same time frame. This spike bodes well for a wave of new Millennial and Gen Z-aged women entering the computer science and technology workforce.

Cities With the Most Earned Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees for Women

The map below shows the U.S. hubs for women in STEM, based on the number of career opportunities available for female graduates in tech and data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.


Employment Growth for Women in Computer Science

Next, we analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the percentages of both male and female employment within specific computer science occupations in the U.S. Our research found that overall, total female employment in all computer science occupations is growing. However, the rate of growth within certain occupations has declined somewhat between 2015 and 2019. For instance, while the number of female web developers grew by 18.2% between 2018 and 2019, the number of female software developers only grew by 4.6% that same year, down from a 13% growth rate the previous year.

Employment Differences Between Men and Women in Computer Science

In 2019, the employment disparity between men and women was the highest within software development and coding roles, where men made up 81.3% of all software developers employed in the U.S.

Women in STEM Demographic Information

Lastly, we studied the demographic characteristics of women employed in the STEM workforce and found that over 53% of female STEM employees do not have children, which isn’t surprising given that the technology sector has not always had flexible maternity leave options. Additionally, we found that the majority of females working in STEM, 32%, are between the ages of 50 and 75, indicating that the female workforce within this sector is aging – another factor influencing the encouragement of higher female enrollment within computer science bachelor’s degree programs.

Check out the infographic below for more eye-opening insights found during our study.

women in computing infographic

Wrap Up

While there is still plenty of work to be done, positive change and more equitable workforces are on the horizon. Strong efforts are in progress to close the tech gender gap by organizations, such as Girls Who Code, as well as companies passing corporate social responsibility initiatives to foster a supportive, diverse community of women in tech.

Interested in building a career in STEM? Visit Grand Canyon University’s College of Science, Engineering, and Technology degree programs page for our full list of degrees available within these fields.

COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the National Center for Science & Engineering Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on 2017 and was retrieved in May 2020.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.