Since I switched my career to web development, I can't help noticing that it's rare to see female developers. I mean, there are more and more women getting into "tech" industry, as more and more tech companies are emerging and traditional companies are embracing tech, but women who are developers or engineers aren't as common as men. I am just curious on why it is that way. Note a lot of hypothesis are drawn purely from my observation, so it can be very biased. Please feel free to disagree.
Where I am, Sweden, is considered to be one of the most equal countries when it comes to education, employments and gender equality in general. Girls and boys have equal access to education and technology, yet there are less girls choosing computer science or other STEM subjects. This might indicate that, when women are given a choice, they tend not to choose computer related subjects. They might prefer what they are naturally good at, which have something to do with people.
2. Hypothesis: Women from less privileged backgrounds might choose computer science because it offers better job opportunities.
Amoung the very limited female developers I've encountered so far, many of them tend to come from countries that are generally less equal, less affluent than Nordic countries, such as Russia, Poland, India, China, Iran, Cambodia etc. Of course, I've also met two native Swedish female developers who actually studied at KTH, one of the universities in Stockholm that is famous for churning out engineers, but they're not a norm.
3. Hypothesis: When given a chance, for instance, when they no longer need to worry about job or money, some women might switch to careers that deal with people than computers.
So far I have met several people who studied computer science before, from less affluent countries, managed to switch their career when they came to Sweden. For instance: one became a audiologist who helps people fit their hearing aids, another became a technical recruiter. Both said they don't find programming interesting, and do not like to face computer all day, and prefer to work with people, preferably face to face.
UPDATE: 4. Based on some reading and interaction from other readers, there exist a "systematic problem" in the IT industry that alienated women, which reduced the numbers of women as mentors and leaders, discouraged younger generation to pursue the careers.
One argument says from 1984, personal computers were often bought as a gift for the sons, but not daughters. Boys were more likely to play with it and got mentored by their fathers. By the time they entered college, boys were significantly better at computers, which made girls who had less exposure and previous experiences with computer felt "inferior" and "intimidated" and they dropped from computer science majors or changed their majors. Those men created companies and nerdy cultures, and prefer to hire people who are just like them. Women feel unwelcomed and prefer to do something else. When there are less and less women in the industry, less and less girls choose to learn computer science.
Alternatively, in countries like India, girls are encouraged to study IT because it's an indoor job that keeps them safe from "street-level sexual harassment".
Of course, there are many women who are indeed interested in computers, programming or engineering in general, and they find it fun and rewarding. And perhaps with more role models, more girls will be inspired to choose tech, and fall in love with it. However, I am not sure the number will eventually even out. I still think it's a positive thing to encourage more girls to get interested in computer science, but I don't think it's necessary to force an equal outcome. After all, we also need to respect people's own interests and choices.
What is your opinion?
Photo credit: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com