The reality of women in informatics today
February 22, 2022
In 2020, Northern Kentucky University was ranked number one in the state for awarding the most Computer Science degrees to women. But according to College Factual, for NKU in the 2019-2020 academic year, in both Masters and Bachelors degrees, only 22 percent of graduates were women while 78 percent were men.
NKU is ranked number one with only 22 percent of women, so what does that say about the number of women in the informatics field at other universities?
A sense of belonging, to a group or even in everyday life, is a very important aspect of being human. For women in the field of informatics, it may be more difficult to feel that sense of belonging as it is a mostly male-dominant field.
Diversity is a highly important characteristic for countless organizations and is a key component in determining future success. A diverse group of individuals allows for technological success specifically because of the experience from different cultures and sexual orientations. Different perspectives working on a project would allow for the product to be more inclusive.
Dr. Maureen Doyle, chair of the Computer Science department, said part of the reason she became a faculty member “was to help more people, not just women, but other underrepresented groups see themselves in computing.”
One opportunity to promote growth in the industry is the Tri-State Women in Computing (TRIWiC) conference to celebrate Women in Computing. This conference, hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Celebration of Women, gives students the opportunity to learn from other women in this field and brings together female technical specialists. During these types of events, women are able to gain support from one another and understand each other’s struggles relating to the imbalance of male and female presence in this field.
“When something happens at work or in class, it’s hard to figure out if it is you or [is it] your gender,” Doyle said about the struggles women face. “You have to have honest support groups that tell you when you’re wrong, it’s you, or when it’s the system.”
Because of the lack of representation of women in this field, whether in schooling or a work environment, it can hinder their ability to succeed. Another struggle women in this field can face is gender discrimination and bias, whether it is conscious or unconscious. Because men have a larger percentage of the workforce in tech, women may feel unable to voice opinions and may even feel inferior in the workplace.
“Women need to know that they belong in and have the aptitude and ability to succeed in these fields,” said Stephanie Klatzke, associate dean of the College of Informatics. “If they are not provided early support, opportunities to engage with these topics, connections to other women in the field and early training in technology, they will be less likely to explore these areas for careers.”
While the number of women in informatics continues to change and grow, the gap between men and women in this field has yet to close. The closing of this gap could allow the field to progress even further because the essence of informatics involves much more than just writing code.