back to article Boys outnumber girls 6 to 1 in UK compsci classes

New research by the British Computer Society (BCS) has found girls are outnumbered six to one by boys in computer science classes across the UK. However, once young women choose computing, on average they outperform their male counterparts, according to the study. BCS's report titled "Landscape Review: Computing …

  1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

    Obviously the girls outperform when they choose the subject.

    Because 6x as many boys are on the courses, there is 6x more dross whereas only the most interested girls are on the course.

    This is evidence of people choosing different things, not of sexism or whatever is being alleged here.

    1. ArrZarr

      Kinda.

      It could be an indication that there are still societal expectations that nudge girls away from the subject (or they just don't want to deal with the sausage-fest).

      That being said, I definitely agree that it means the girls who do take the subject are probably individually more interested in the subject than the majority of the boys.

      Bear in mind that gaming (one of the main things that lead to doing comp sci) is still male dominated and speaking as somebody who has dealt with both sides of the coin, far more friendly to men.

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

        > It could be an indication that there are still societal expectations that nudge girls away from the subject

        I would bet there are still societal expectations. But they are at least in part driven by the fact that women on average don't want to do that sort of thing. Societal pressure and reality reinforcing each other.

        But as long as everybody gets to try to do what they want, it's fine, isn't it?

        1. ArrZarr

          "The fact that women on average don't want to do that sort of thing."

          The point is that we genuinely don't know whether a woman on average does or doesn't want to do that sort of thing without society's expectations.

          I'm pretty sure that with all other things being equal, it would be damn near 50-50 (in any subject that wasn't directly related to biology. I'd be prepared to accept that gynecologists wouldn't be 50-50 for example).

          1. Dr Paul Taylor

            what careers do women want

            I have found myself in this discussion many times before and it often descends into a shouting match.

            To be objective about what the gender issues are in computer science we need to have some idea of what happens in the occupations that women choose instead of IT.

            What about mid-wives? How many of them are men? Do they have soul-searching debates or shouting matches about how to encourage more boys to consider midwifery as a profession?

            According the one conversation that I have ever had with a mid-wife, the ratio is 100:1.

            (As a gay man, I have not had occasion to use their services.)

            1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

              Re: what careers do women want

              What about mid-wives? How many of them are men?

              173 out of 36,916. Your mid-wife acquaintance overestimated by a factor of two.

              1. Falmari Silver badge

                Re: what careers do women want

                So 200:1

            2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: what careers do women want

              Have there been any surveys of who pregnant women want to take up mid-wifery? I don't suppose anyone cares about who programs their computer but I expect there are still a few reactionary attitudes about who wrestles with your crotch for a few hours during a hard labour.

              Edit: you should have gone for a car analogy. They always work.

            3. Bbuckley

              Re: what careers do women want

              Exactly! And here in Ireland 85% of school teachers are female. And girls do better in exams here than boys. Could there be some correlation there! And through Covid we had teachers assess their students and shock-horror, the examinations board found 'unconsious bias' in favour of girls. So is that not MUCH more concerning than one university level subject? Not according to the Ministry of Truth.

          2. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

            That's why 50% of all roofers, builders, rubbish collectors, welders, soldiers, oil-drillers, truckers are female...

            Oh wait...

            Why does there always need to be 'equality' in regards to high-paying, non-dirty, non-dangerous jobs and aren't more women forced to be builders or plumbers?

            1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

              Women do lots of low paid dirty jobs - cleaners and health care assistants, for example, are overwhelmingly female. It's just that these jobs are paid even worse than the low-paid and dirty jobs that men do.

              And, of course, if there was more equal representation in the "nicer" jobs, there wouldn't be so many women in the unpleasant ones.

          3. PriorKnowledge
            Megaphone

            We do though

            In Scandinavia they encourage women and girls to do anything they want. The result is less women taking up traditionally male-dominated subjects, not more. This tells you everything you need to know. Women and girls who really really want to work in STEM will be the exception to the rule and as a result they will end up outperforming the majority.

            When all the ballooning big tech money dries up, most people will move on to more profitable endeavours and only the true nerds (male or female) will remain.

            1. Dr Paul Taylor

              citation required

              In Scandinavia they encourage women and girls to do anything they want. The result is less women taking up traditionally male-dominated subjects, not more.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. Tom Graham
                FAIL

                Re: citation required

                The research is well known and widely publicised.

                THere is nothing preventing you from looking it up.

              3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

                Re: citation required

                https://plan-international.org/publications/programmed-out-gender-gap-technology-scandinavia

                There, that took less time to find than it would have taken you to reply.

                1. LionelB Silver badge

                  Re: citation required

                  That took a while to absorb. It does NOT support the OPs case!

                2. Bbuckley

                  Re: citation required

                  Not much of a 'Doctor' is he

                  1. Tilda Rice

                    Re: citation required

                    Very clear psychology difference between men and women.

                    Men like things, women like people - which is reflected in gender careers choices, and exemplified by the most egalitarian society of Sweden.

                    Why we have to force equilibrium I don't know. I kinda like the differences. Especially the soft parts.

          4. mpi

            >I'm pretty sure that with all other things being equal, it would be damn near 50-50

            May I ask what this assumption is based on?

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "May I ask what this assumption is based on?"

              By the sounds of his post, the assumption that all kids are either boys or girls. Being an old crusty here, I find we are being told more and more often that this is not the case and there are a number of children who are not boys or girls but are somewhere on a sliding scale between the two. So, by definition, there can't be a 50:50 split anyway :-) LGB are boys or girls but there are T to take into account. I'm less sure about what the Q & + count as, that part seems to be more up in the air in terms of definition.

              1. ArrZarr
                Boffin

                Considering that I am the T, I'm fully aware of the wonderful world of Enbies ;)

                Q = Queer, which is an umbrella term

                I = Intersex for those who are biologically non-binary

                A = A-specs (Asexual, Aromantic, Agender)

                + = Look, people are complicated, okay?

                Nice assumption on the "his", btw :D

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  "Nice assumption on the "his", btw :D"

                  Considering the subject and the experience of most of us in this industry and the fact I'm nearly 60 and have a lot of past influence on my outlook on life, assuming "his" in this context had pretty high odds of being correct. Just stating that you are "T" doesn't make me wrong either unless you care to elaborate :-p

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            We have good research information on this, and the answer is that what you are "pretty sure" of is wrong.

            The more open and equal societies are, the more boys/men and girls/women make different choices, of their own free will.

            Why would you assume that interest in all subjects would be different? Haven't you noticed that boys and girls are quite different?

        2. LionelB Silver badge

          "I would bet there are still societal expectations. But they are at least in part driven by the fact that women on average don't want to do that sort of thing."

          ... (in part) because of societal expectations? Yes of course it's a truism that reality and societal pressure reinforce each other. But isn't the point to break that loop when it's detrimental to society? And it clearly is detrimental to society, since we are missing out on the talented women not finding their way into the industry (and disproportionately lumbered with the untalented men who are, one might add).

          "But as long as everybody gets to try to do what they want, it's fine, isn't it?"

          Yes... but can those girls "nudged away from the subject" (as the person you quoted put it) really be said to be getting what they want? (The Rolling Stones might have put it better.)

          1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

            Good oh! Lets force people to do things they don't like/don't want to do because they're talented at it.

            1. LionelB Silver badge

              Eh? Who said that? I suggest you read my post more carefully.

              In fact, people do, on the whole, tend to like/want to do those things they are talented at -- and surely it's a shame if they're discouraged from liking/wanting to do those things because of societal perceptions based, say, on gender?

    2. AVee

      This its just research, no one is alleging anything. So if you wander what exactly is being alleged, the answer is exactly nothing.

    3. ettery

      You sound a bit defensive, not sure why - I read this as just pointing out that the lack of women is not because women are not good at comsci. My workplace experience supports this - the female developers I've worked with have been good, almost without exception, but there have also been few of them.

      I think you are probably right, those who choose comsci really want to be there and so tend to be better.

      The question is, why do so few women choose comsci? You sound as if men don't choose comsci - of course they do, just in larger number - why? I don't think sexism or perceived sexism can be ruled out, though that hasn't been my (male) experience - we've actively hired women in businesses I've worked in because it often improves team dynamics to have a mix.

      My daughter is doing comsci and asked me the same question last week - why so few women? I didn't have an answer and neither did she. Hopefully someone is doing some research into it. The more talent and different perspectives the better.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        It's difficult to explain and also difficult not to fire someone's prig trigger when talking about it. But the association of comp.sci with nerds and geeks is not helpful. An image problem, if you like which is more exaggerated with comp.sci more than other STEM subjects. This applies to the attitude of a lot of boys also.

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          As a man, whenever anybody asks what I do for a living, I have an urge to qualify my answer with "but I shower regularly, like sports and don't own any Star Trek fancy dress".

          I do wonder how true that geeky stereotype is nowadays but you might be right that it puts children off the subject - maybe especially girls.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "I do wonder how true that geeky stereotype is nowadays but you might be right that it puts children off the subject - maybe especially girls."

            Yes, that same stereotype that you still see constantly on TV and in films. You might well see pretty girls doing "tech", but she'll invariably be wearing glasses, have her hair tied tightly back and very probably be single and a bit "weird". The usual stereotype for guys in tech also still apply most of the time too. TV and film casting is almost always "traditional". They are terrified that the audience might be confused. Especially in US productions. Anyway, what else can you expect? They are already struggling to cope with casting female leads and re-writing history to show woman and so-called "minorities" into traditional roles instead of creating new, strong roles. Maybe someone could cast Olivia Coleman as Othello? She's done pretty much everything else al;ready :-)

            1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

              "she'll invariably be wearing glasses, have her hair tied tightly back and very probably be single and a bit "weird"."

              ... er ...

              Well I'm not single; and my hair often escapes because it likes to have the opportunity to get tangled with my glasses, earrings, scarf etc. But I do have a couple of new Star Trek badges sitting next to me (ooh, shiny!)

              There's more of us than people seem to realise, but seriously, if I wanted to get back into it... well, last time it was, "you'd have spend 2-3 hours a day stuck in a traffic jam/sitting on an expensive and dirty train to work in a nasty office and do a boring and poorly-defined job that will be contrived to make any sense of purpose evasive. If you do accomplish anything besides filling in timesheets, your manager (who's much less capable and has no social skills but gets paid twice as much) will take the credit. You will have no clearly-defined function and will be enrolled into the weekly redundancy lottery." I mean nearly everywhere was like that. No thanks; I'd rather do nearly anything else. So we stick to using IT for what it was intended: playing video games. And again there are far more of us than people think, but I guess stereotypes gonna stereotype.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                "And again there are far more of us than people think, but I guess stereotypes gonna stereotype."

                I completely agree with you. My job takes me into IT departments all over the place and I meet many women in various roles. Few, if any, fall into the TV/film stereotype. But those TV/Film stereotype is what the kids see. Like advertising, many people claim not to be affected by it, but the subtle, subconscious worms are still doing their jobs. Especially on those in their formative years. As I said in a post on a similar topic on another thread, my A level Computer Studies teacher was a woman, a seconded Systems Analyst. She was the best teacher I ever had and the ONLY woman teacher in anything other than Humanities-like subjects. (That may have been influence by the school being an all boys Grammar school, only switching to Comprehensive the year I started and only switching to co-ed as I went in 6th form. There were 6 boys and 2 girls in A level CS :-))

        2. Falmari Silver badge

          @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells & @werdsmith I think there is some truth in what you say that Comp.sci is associated with geeks, discouraging girls and to an extent boys from taking the subject.

          Now while anecdotal and dated (early 90s), that was certainly my experience and view of my Comp.sci degree.

          Having spent over 10 years in engineering the dirty end (hence the degree) not the clean office end, the view of my mates on learning I was doing Comp.sci was “are you some sort of nerd?”.

          Good question, because all the Comp.sci Majors myself included where male and in IMNSHO the vast majority were geeks and nerds.

          What was interesting was Comp.sci Minors outnumbered the Majors 60:40 and that the majority of the Minor’s Major was Business Science. Also, the male/female ratio of the Minors was 50:50.

          As I said my experience is anecdotal and dated, so may not have been the case elsewhere then, or the case now.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Although the report isn't alleging anything it's very likely to be waved by some of the usual suspects making such allegations so the point of choice is worth making.

      3. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

        It's because men and women are different and stereotypes are usually have some grounding in reality.

        The stereotype that more men prefer technical subjects and more women prefer caring ones is true. It's not universal or anything like it, but it's at least a guide to reality.

        That isn't to say that a man can't be a great primary school teacher or that a woman can't be a great scientist, programmer, whatever. But it does mean that on average the man is going to choose to be a scientist/programmer/engineer and the woman is going to choose to be a doctor/nurse/teacher.

        As long as everybody has the opportunity to try to do what they want to do, I don't see how anybody can say it's a problem.

        > You sound as if men don't choose comsci - of course they do,

        Yes of course they do. But the average is dragged down by those who picked it because they were told it's a good career rather than out of a deep interest in the subject.

        Women don't tend to pick that sort of course as a default. If they're going to fall into something, it wouldn't be computers (on average).

        Therefore the only women are the ones who really want to be there, so they're going to be better than the average.

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Agreed on your points, but I think we need to go to the next level down, and understand why women don't tend to pick compsci as a career. After all, it's indoor work with no heavy lifting...

          In my experience, the ratio of women in the profession has steadily gone down over the years. When I started studying IT back in the <mumble> 70's, the ratio of men/women in the course was perhaps 3:1 (IIRC). So IMO something has developed over the years to discourage women taking up the profession, and we need to understand what it is.

          Nowadays it may be the realisation that anyone coming into the field will be competing with much cheaper people based overseas, but unless the women are quicker on the uptake, that will be a general problem.

          1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

            How about there are other reasonably well paying careers that women (am I allowed to say that) can select and prefer over IT.

          2. Tom Graham

            Because women tend more interested in people, and social interaction, and men more interested in systematising and problem solving.

            The relatively small number of women who are interested in Computing as a subject and career should be very highly valued, but it is not a "problem" than men outnumber women in this field, any more that women now outnumber men in teaching, law, medicine, biological sciences...

        2. TRT Silver badge

          That would work if, on the whole, everyone just falls into some field of occupation or other.

          Which, looking at my "career" seems a reasonable assumption. Rudderless occupation path, go with the flow. I happened to like a particular subject at a critical point in life (choosing o-levels) and that's the point I jumped in the river clinging to a lilo.

        3. LionelB Silver badge

          Just to be clear, are you arguing for biological determinism - nature over nurture?

          Perhaps there are some spheres where that might be the case, but I am struggling to see why computing might be one of them. At the very least, some actual evidence for such a contention would be required. (I doubt such evidence exists, but am prepared to be proven wrong.) Certainly, history is littered with endeavours that women/men/ethnic minorities/whoever were presumed "biologically predisposed" to be inferior at.

          1. Tom Graham

            Yes, we are arguing for biological determinism, because it is real and has been measured over and over again.

            Men and woman are different, and we tend to be interested in different things. That is clear to everyone who's ideology doesn't demand that they deny it.

            1. LionelB Silver badge

              Of course men and women are different and may well be interested in different things. The question is to what extent those differences in interest are biologically predetermined, and to what extent steered by social factors.

              If you are saying that women are biologically predisposed to be less interested in computing than men, then we REALLY need to see some actual -- i.e., scientific -- evidence for that claim.

              Having just, in fact, spent a rather dreary hour Googling around the topic, I have found scads of opinion and flam ("Some psychologists believe this...", "A respected group of endocrinologists think that...", ... but nothing which gets even close to actual scientific evidence. Perhaps you can do better (but please, please, no more flam!)

              1. LionelB Silver badge

                Damn, where's the "tumbleweeds" icon?

        4. Joe W Silver badge

          I think the more important point is that even though the females do better (also in physics, at least in my year) on average, why are there less than the student ratio when you get to the higher levels in academia? There is a sharp drop at least after the PhD, and a slight drop even before that. The girls I know who left academia usually said they were not into self exploitation that science (esp. PhD and post doc) is - though that is purely anecdotal.

          I know I want my son to be able to cook, knit, sew, and my daughter to saw to a line, cut threads, and be able to wire the light for a hallway. Unfortunately once they are exposed to other (older) kids, the stereotypical roles seem to be forced upon them. So this starts in kindergarten.

      4. Kabukiwookie Silver badge
        Gimp

        I wonder if she's, after doing her first 36-hour death-march to finish up a project before an arbitrary dead-line, is still going to be enthusiatic about IT.

        Not that I don't think women can't do that, (and I think we can use more strong-willed women in IT), but most women I know would choose the better work-life balance instead.

        Gimp icon, because to work in IT, one must have some masochistic streak...

        1. colinb

          this

          I wonder if anyone who suggests that people go into software development has ever actually worked in software development?

          They can't have.

          If you are on the sharp end of project delivery i.e. actually coding the thing you will be under silly pressure a lot of the time.

          Over promised, under spec'd projects are the norm not the exception.

          Deadlines plucked out of some manager's ass is the norm not the exception.

          Users who are clueless about what the system should do is the norm not the exception.

          There is lots of interesting stuff in Data Science and AI but as most of it is no use whatsoever in a current business context you will then be involved with spaffing lots of cash down the drainpipe in mindless projects sponsored by clueless exec's, there is no job satisfaction in that unless you are a geek and are paid to geek out.

          It's complex and frankly unless you love code just don't do it, you might be lucky and end up in some cushy job where there is no pressure but risky, as management can always be tempted by the cheap labor option.

        2. LionelB Silver badge

          You might well ask a similar question about men going into nursing. Do men have what it takes to put up with the shit (frequently literally) that the honourable members of that esteemed, female-dominated profession do on a daily basis, over long shifts - and at half the pay of your average IT bod?

      5. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

        "The question is, why do so few women choose comsci?"

        IME, the increasingly toxic environment. There used to be far more of us (my first job in the late '80s was close to parity) but as '90s management culture gathered momentum, those numbers quickly dwindled to almost nothing.

        IMHO the "women in IT" publicity that apparently sought to address the problem simply poured fuel on the fire by making it look even more toxic; not that it needed a lot of help in that regard.

        If they actually wanted more women in IT they'd employ the same approach they (mostly fail to) use to retain any other staff: avoid the long hours, blame culture, always-on-call, chaotic management, job insecurity, unproductive busywork and all the other nonsense that's made IT an increasingly unattractive place to be.

        Just for starters, a nicer environment (being told to be grateful for having a kettle isn't it, especially located right outside the toilet as it was at a later job in a rather insalubrious trading-estate-based office. I'm not talking about a tiny company either, they certainly had money to lavish on stuff, just not on their techies' comfort), actually useful training and genuine team spirit instead of the ersatz "investing in people" and "team-building exercises". This stuff would help a great deal more than the usual approach of "figure it out yourself" and encouraging competitive back-biting. Who wants to work in an environment that seems to be fine-tuned to create stress?

    4. codejunky Silver badge

      @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

      I live in hope that those desiring equality of outcome realise they are in the wrong and people can be left to get on with what they like.

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

        But is it okay, say, that women may not "like" computing precisely because it can be, or is perceived to be, a toxic, male-dominated working environment, a boys' club in which they are not made to feel welcome*? Does society then not suffer through missing out on the potential of talented female computer techs - and the concomitant overabundance of untalented male techs who fill the gap?

        *Yes, I have worked in exactly that sort of IT environment. Women employees generally would not last long, and it was easy to see why.

        1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

          Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

          Unless things have changed lately, it's rarely one's co-workers who are the problem, at least IME; and the "difficult" ones... well, let's just say that being an arse is most definitely an equal-opportunities employer. The problem is the decline in working conditions over the past 30-35 years (to reiterate, based on my own experience, at least; so this may be a bit anecdotal, but AFAICT it holds fairly true).

          The IT workplace is just an unpleasant place to be; not because of one's colleagues but just that everything seems to be pointlessly difficult and annoying. Men don't like it either but seem more prepared to tolerate it, or maybe just struggle under the expectation that they need to "man up", but women have left in droves; life's too short to spend most of it being miserable.

          I also wonder if part of it is because you need a degree, which actually you don't in order to do the job, but it's a pointless entrance requirement. I had an HND largely due to "well I dunno what I want to do as a career but I like science fiction" and the course was dominated by guys. But at the same time, only a few of our staff came in by that route. A great number of them, both men and women, worked their way up through the ranks back when any medium or large company had its own IT shop, the promising ones ending up as senior programmers and analysts. There was much less of a stereotype, ops jobs were like anything else and there was no pressure nor expectation to be a nerd.

          A good example I've cited before concerns one of our receptionists; and yeah, this was 1990 so it was still a time when it was just routine to put the pretty ones with one O-level on the front desk to greet people and answer phones, but in quiet times she'd relieve the boredom by seeing what else was on the directory lookup terminal. And found the Unix Tutor software I'd installed (I was also bored, went through the tape library and thought "may as well give this stuff some actual purpose"). So after a while, she knew Unix and applied for a transfer: it looked more interesting than having to spend her days smiling sweetly at idiots in expensive suits. She was one of our best ops staff. Of course we all got relocated but when I bumped into her again a couple of years later at another office she was doing well for herself having worked up to project management (still at the same company, still in IT). This wasn't atypical; still remembering a particular co-worker who'd previously worked as a secretary and decided IT looked more interesting. She took me under her wing and also taught me how to spell while she was at it.

          But that was then. Nowadays people need their slip of paper saying BSc (or more often BA: they don't really care as long as it's a degree, weirdly) plus experience and training that a competitor has already paid for. High expectations for entry to work somewhere more stressful and with no amenities, thinking back to that former company with career progression which had a large cafeteria which was more like a decent restaurant, complete with actual experienced cooks and a good budget and which doubled as a large recreation and relaxation area complete with discounted staff shop and so on.

          But that and anything like it was an unnecessary expense (in spite of the company providing it with no penalty to itself for decades) according to the sales guy who was now the CEO and from one employer to the next gradually replaced by "there's a Pret next door and why wouldn't anyone want to eat at their desk while they work?", but that was the sort of person who believed in "working lunch", i.e. the spare time when pointless meetings were called and any opportunity to actually eat was squandered. Usually by a manager who turned up after 11am and then spent the afternoon down the pub with his cronies. :|

          1. LionelB Silver badge

            Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

            I can't speak to current IT environments. The rather unpleasant "boys' club" work experience I referenced was in the late 80s--early 90s, and I haven't worked in IT since (I now work as a research scientist).

            Ironically, I entered computing in the early 80s only after completing a (rather good) postgrad diploma course in computer science. I already had a Masters degree in pure maths, but apparently that didn't qualify me.

            I agree that a paper-stamp degree as an entry requirement into the industry is insane. But then our government(s), in their wisdom, decided to turn all the polytechnics into "universities", to the detriment of vocational education.

          2. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

            Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

            I was going to have a rant about your previous post but this one is pretty much spot on, especially about degrees. Whole swathes of employment have been credentialised which has meant people joining with unrealistic expectations, salaries having to go up to "attract the right caliber of staff" with an end result of general lowering of productivity and standards.

            Just a small rant now. I always get the impression that people posting on here have spent their working lives in an office (or more recently WFH) and have little or no idea what a really nasty, horrible environment can be, or for that matter what a really boring, unsatisfying job can be like.

            Final thought. Maybe the reason men will accept a poor environment more readily than women is that, until recently, they were the ones expected to go out and bring enough money to keep the family fed and housed. Just a thought for when you're discussing societal pressures.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

              "Final thought. Maybe the reason men will accept a poor environment more readily than women is that, until recently, they were the ones expected to go out and bring enough money to keep the family fed and housed. Just a thought for when you're discussing societal pressures."

              Yes, that thought crossed my mind too. Is there still a "breadwinner" mentality such that men feel obliged to put up with more shit for the "security" of a steady income while women might still feel they are not the primary breadwinner and so feel less inclined to put up with the shit and take the risk of moving on and possibly being out of work for a while. I'm speaking in generalities, of course. I know a number of couples who got married young, went to work and then a few years later took it in turns to go back into education and improve their lives and careers, the other working to support the family.

            2. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

              Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

              “I always get the impression that people posting on here have spent their working lives in an office (or more recently WFH) and have little or no idea what a really nasty, horrible environment can be, or for that matter what a really boring, unsatisfying job can be like.”

              I couldn't really comment. Personally I've done the usual stacking-shelves-at-Sainsbury's thing and six months in a factory after leaving college and finding nobody wanted to employ a very green techie with no experience; I even did a stint in the Army when I was going through a tomboyish phase (or more to the point, because I was a teenager and I knew best).

              I love IT at its best, but at it's worst it's been the more boring and unsatisfying of the lot. On this plus side, it doesn't put my life at risk; or at least not at short-term risk, though the stress can rack up in the longer term (which I found out to my cost years later).

        2. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

          @LionelB

          "But is it okay, say, that women may not "like" computing precisely because it can be, or is perceived to be, a toxic, male-dominated working environment, a boys' club in which they are not made to feel welcome*?"

          Yes its ok. Just as people can decide a job is too mucky or manual labour or dangerous (again skews towards male). While it seems to upset some people to accept this, men and women are different. And as long as they have the equal opportunity to decide what they want to do there isnt a problem.

          Different professions skew unless some authoritarian decides people shouldnt be allowed to choose. The more free the more divergent.

          "Does society then not suffer through missing out on the potential of talented female computer techs - and the concomitant overabundance of untalented male techs who fill the gap?"

          No. Just as female dominated industries dont suffer on the same basis of a lack of men. What would cause society to suffer is to dictate against peoples wishes and force a 50/50 split that goes against what the people want to do. We dont all have the same desires and we are not all the same. When we lose sight of that we start down a very bad road.

          1. LionelB Silver badge

            Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

            I think you misunderstand what I'm getting at, which is simply a desire for a level playing field with respect to gender, or any other categorisation.

            I'm frankly surprised that you seem to think it okay for women to be alienated by toxic boy's club IT work environments, when that toxicity has absolutely nothing to do with the nature of the actual work. For me that undermines the "equal opportunity to decide" which you -- and I -- would like to see.

            "Different professions skew unless some authoritarian decides people shouldnt be allowed to choose. The more free the more divergent."

            Would you care to hazard an explanation (or indeed, a validation) for that claim? I wrote in an earlier post about biological determinism. Are you suggesting, for instance, that women are biologically predisposed to be less attracted to, or less proficient at computing tech? (That would most definitely require some solid evidence!) Or do you think that, perhaps, that skew arises from societal perceptions and restrictions? If the latter, then those perceptions and strictures, to my mind, may leave us all the poorer; but they are not set in stone and, may be challenged. Oh, and I am most certainly not proposing anything authoritarian.

            "No. Just as female dominated industries dont suffer on the same basis of a lack of men."

            Do you actually know that? Granted, there may be professions where, say, gender may be relevant (someone previously mentioned midwifery), but might it be, for example, that the nursing industry is missing out on the potential of men who didn't give the profession a thought because of its societal perception as "women's work"?

            I reiterate: I am in no way proposing any imposition of gender (or any other) equality in number in the workplace; I am simply asking that we examine how gender (or other) skews arise, and whether societies might be better off if those effective barriers to participation were lowered.

            History is on my side with this one; consider all the spheres of life (in the arts, literature, sciences, politics, ...) where women were presumed ineligible to participate through their gender. Surely the world is better off without those restrictive perceptions - which, at the time, were considered perfectly natural? And note that by and large it was the restrictive perceptions that were actively maintained by authoritarian means - not their removal!

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

              @LionelB

              "I think you misunderstand what I'm getting at, which is simply a desire for a level playing field with respect to gender, or any other categorisation."

              I know thats what you are saying but I think you have come to a conclusion and then assuming their isnt a level playing field because your conclusion isnt met. As has already been mentioned a few times on this comments section, the more 'free to choose' people are the more boys and girls diverge in their choice of occupation. Freedom makes more boys and girls jobs.

              "I'm frankly surprised that you seem to think it okay for women to be alienated by toxic boy's club IT work environments"

              This is the problem of people being people. Have you seen how toxic womens club work environments are? Again its not a gender problem its the fact that in the end we are dealing with people. No it isnt nice and so change job to somewhere more tolerant. Hell in school we had 1 lad take child care in a subject that was all girls including the tutor.

              "Would you care to hazard an explanation (or indeed, a validation) for that claim?"

              Scandinavia. You have mentioned before and people have responded. When people are more free and equal (opportunity) they show more of a gender split than if they are pushed to do what others want.

              "Are you suggesting, for instance, that women are biologically predisposed to be less attracted to, or less proficient at computing tech?"

              I dont suggest it, I follow the evidence. Doesnt matter what perceived right or wrong, people being free to choose leads to people doing what they want instead of fitting a quota.

              "Oh, and I am most certainly not proposing anything authoritarian."

              Thats good, it sounds like you have good intentions but want the world to model your expectations instead of modelling the expectations around the world. For example assuming its a toxic environment that women dont want to do something, which can be the same for a man.

              "Do you actually know that?"

              Yes. People choosing what occupation they like and enjoying it for whatever reasons appeal to them such as wage, working hours, manual effort, danger, etc brings a better workforce than a forced one that doesnt.

              "I am simply asking that we examine how gender (or other) skews arise, and whether societies might be better off if those effective barriers to participation were lowered."

              And its a question without a point if we are not talking about imposing on such barriers. And of course people will go looking for barriers to create an excuse to impose on those barriers. One amusing example is the laddish culture of the army, To which the answer is sod off, that is what bonds them to actually fight for us. Look at the fury over the space scientist being interviewed over his shirt, some idiot would probably suggest the banning of such clothing at work.

              "History is on my side with this one"

              Oh no please dont go that route. It sounds too close to those claiming to be on the right side of history not realising history has not been written on them yet and doubtful to be flattering. As you already note you dont know of the evidence that free people choose different things and has a gender skew.

              "consider all the spheres of life (in the arts, literature, sciences, politics, ...) where women were presumed ineligible to participate through their gender."

              This being something that isnt what is being discussed now. They are not ineligible or banned etc, in fact the barrier is broken. The free market solved this. If there is talent going cheap it gets bought up by those who want the skill over any 'ism' bias.

              1. LionelB Silver badge

                Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                "I know thats what you are saying but I think you have come to a conclusion and then assuming their isnt a level playing field because your conclusion isnt met. As has already been mentioned a few times on this comments section, the more 'free to choose' people are the more boys and girls diverge in their choice of occupation. Freedom makes more boys and girls jobs."

                I admit that I assume the playing field is not level on the grounds that there is no evidence I am aware of suggesting biological gender differences are skewing the field, and that I cannot think of other reasons besides social factors.

                Re. the Scandinavian issue, yes several people have posted that claim. The only "evidence" presented so far is the following report: https://plan-international.org/publications/programmed-out-gender-gap-technology-scandinavia#download-options which, it turns out, says nothing of the kind! In fact it fingers gender stereotyping, gender-biased lack of self-confidence, lack of encouragement from teachers, along with a number of other factors - which rather make my case!

                "This is the problem of people being people. Have you seen how toxic womens club work environments are? Again its not a gender problem its the fact that in the end we are dealing with people."

                But people are not being people in a social vacuum. People at the same time create and respond to prevailing social attitudes. If those attitudes are skewed, then the response is skewed. But people can, of course, also change social attitudes.

                "I dont suggest it, I follow the evidence. Doesnt matter what perceived right or wrong, people being free to choose leads to people doing what they want instead of fitting a quota."

                Sorry, I couldn't parse that. I suggested a lack of evidence of biological gender predisposition re. computing. What evidence are you "following" here? Evidence for what? I have never once mentioned fitting quotas.

                "Thats good, it sounds like you have good intentions but want the world to model your expectations instead of modelling the expectations around the world."

                He, he, well yes, I would like to think that my intentions are good (with apologies to Nina Simone), I guess we all do. And in a way, yes, I would like the world to follow - if not my personal expectations - then at least expectations which we can agree on as realistic, and for the common good. And that can, of course, be achieved - which is why we do not have slavery anymore, why women can vote (in most countries where people can actually vote), etc., etc.

                "Yes. People choosing what occupation they like and enjoying it for whatever reasons appeal to them such as wage, working hours, manual effort, danger, etc brings a better workforce than a forced one that doesnt."

                Again, you're missing my point, if not actually putting words in my mouth. May I say it again: I have not, at any time in this conversation expressed any desire for, nor even mentioned "forcing" anyone to do anything. I am simply arguing for an understanding and mitigation of social attitudes that lead to gender skews in the computing (and other) industry, because I believe it would benefit both the industry and the workforce. You persist in putting forward a straw man argument.

                "And its a question without a point if we are not talking about imposing on such barriers."

                I'm not sure what "imposing" on a barrier means. Did you mean breaking down barriers (to some professions)? If so, then yes, I would indeed like to see barriers to professions broken down if it is not to the detriment of the profession. And I'm pretty sure you are not arguing that the presence of more women in computing would be to the detriment of the profession. I would go further and argue that it would in fact benefit the profession. (I'm not sure either that your "laddish army" example is a terribly good one. There have certainly been very effective armies which are far more accommodating to women than the UK/US/whatever macho lad model - the Israeli or Cuban military spring to mind.)

                "As you already note you dont know of the evidence that free people choose different things and has a gender skew."

                Not what I said: my statement was that I know of no evidence that there is a biological gender predisposition in computing, and that I doubt such evidence exists. Of course "free" people make gender-skewed choices - but I have argued that those choices should in fact be even freer - that is, they should be less constrained by societal attitudes and stereotyping. Which (as the Swedish report reveals) they clearly are.

                "This being something that isnt what is being discussed now."

                I disagree - it's entirely relevant.

                "They are not ineligible or banned etc, ..."

                A subtle point, perhaps, but I did not actually say that in the past women, say, were ineligible or banned from some spheres (although of course they often were), but that they were presumed ineligible. Thus even though women in the Middle Ages, say, were not necessarily barred from becoming artists, because of prevailing attitudes it would not even have occurred to the women themselves that that was even a possibility. And I believe that effect operates, albeit in milder form, for women in computing, via gender stereotyping from an early age (as again the Swedish report suggests). In other words, girls and young women do not "see themselves" as future computer professionals, as boys and young men might.

                "... in fact the barrier is broken. The free market solved this. If there is talent going cheap it gets bought up by those who want the skill over any 'ism' bias."

                Here we profoundly disagree. "If there is talent going cheap..." sure... but that talent is in practice gender-skewed to begin with. It needn't be. The free market may have broken employment barriers, but not the societal attitude-barriers which effectively limit the number of women who become part of the talent pool.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                  @LionelB

                  *no idea who downvoted you, I think we are having a good discussion

                  "I admit that I assume the playing field is not level on the grounds that there is no evidence I am aware of suggesting biological gender differences are skewing the field, and that I cannot think of other reasons besides social factors."

                  This is where I think we are approaching it from different sides. You see there is a gender imbalance and look for a problem. I see there is a gender imbalance and say meh and wait for someone to come with a problem.

                  "The only "evidence" presented so far is the following report:"

                  Just having a quick look over that, it seems to be building on research that identified there was a participation difference. Page 11 amused me with 'Why does this matter' and it also seems to have that predestined conclusion that this is somehow a problem while not having a valid reason (e.g. social justice).

                  I am a little concerned that page 11 has a survey chart which suggests the question was- 'What challenges do girls and young women in your country face if they want to have an education or career

                  in tech/STEM.'. If thats the case it is telling people there is a problem and asking for opinion over possible causes. Yet still there is no defined problem. Increased gender equality leads to people choosing what they want.

                  "I have never once mentioned fitting quotas."

                  I know you havnt mentioned fitting quotas but for you to assume there is something wrong with the balance of gender in an industry you must have a quota in mind for what is 'right'. The way I am looking at this is people are free to choose and I dont assume the result should turn out a specific way.

                  "And in a way, yes, I would like the world to follow - if not my personal expectations - then at least expectations which we can agree on as realistic, and for the common good"

                  Realistic is almost none to almost all being the same gender and anywhere in that spectrum. The common good is the soviet excuse to assume things should be a certain way and so people must fit the mould. However surely the common good is for people to be happy and free to choose which does not lead to a preconceived expectation of result. Both can be considered with the best intentions but one does assume problems where they dont exist.

                  "You persist in putting forward a straw man argument."

                  Not trying to imply you are intending 'forcing' people but then your language of expectations of realistic and changing social attitudes implies acting against peoples free choice to meet the pre-assumed conclusion. Of course if there is a problem then I would probably take issue with it but I dont see free choice as a problem knowing full well that doesnt predetermine the gender split.

                  "And I'm pretty sure you are not arguing that the presence of more women in computing would be to the detriment of the profession. I would go further and argue that it would in fact benefit the profession"

                  I dont argue it would be to the detriment of the profession but I dont see how it would benefit the profession nor the people. My issue with these kinds of ideas is how the 'victim' is treated. So women are as smart as men, but are too stupid to know whats good for them. That women should be free to choose, but pushed into subjects to address gender 'balance'. That women are as capable of men, but need all women short lists to stand a hope against men. That women should have control of their bodies, as long as they dont do something puritans disagree with.

                  "There have certainly been very effective armies which are far more accommodating to women than the UK/US/whatever macho lad model - the Israeli or Cuban military spring to mind."

                  And yet the approach taken UK/US is to lower standards so women can enter. The capable soldier coming second to quota. And yet as you point out it can be done such as the Israeli army where women typically take support roles but some choose a front line position.

                  "my statement was that I know of no evidence that there is a biological gender predisposition in computing, and that I doubt such evidence exists"

                  That is what I ment (not trying to trip you up). The evidence seems to be that girls are pretty good at the subjects but then move away through the years where they are developing. But just because someone has a predisposition for or against something doesnt dictate the route they would choose to take as desires and motivations are different.

                  "Of course "free" people make gender-skewed choices - but I have argued that those choices should in fact be even freer - that is, they should be less constrained by societal attitudes and stereotyping. Which (as the Swedish report reveals) they clearly are."

                  I only quickly scanned but where does it say they clearly are? I see searching for reasons to match a preconceived idea but not that there are clearly problems (I may have missed it).

                  "I disagree - it's entirely relevant."

                  There is an extreme difference between people being banned due to gender from people making free choices leading to gender skew. And in countries deemed 'more free' the imbalance is greater. We cant conflate actual problems with the preconceived conclusion looking for evidence of a problem.

                  "And I believe that effect operates, albeit in milder form, for women in computing, via gender stereotyping from an early age (as again the Swedish report suggests). In other words, girls and young women do not "see themselves" as future computer professionals, as boys and young men might."

                  And yet women were the IT people of the past. Girls and young women then seeing themselves as something else and freely choosing to do so. Even after immersion in mandated education where they get exposed to these subjects they make their choices.

                  1. LionelB Silver badge

                    Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                    "I dont argue it would be to the detriment of the profession but I dont see how it would benefit the profession nor the people."

                    I think this is the crux of our argument. My argument is not for "quotas" or any ideologically-driven desire for "balance". It is about loss of potential, both in the profession and for individuals.

                    I think the profession suffers because women who have the potential to become talented computing professionals do not put themselves forward due to gender stereotyping, societal attitudes, and a (depressingly, often correct) perception that the IT workspace is an uncomfortable place for them (as opposed to for men). In effect, we are throwing away half of the talent pool - and the slack is taken up by untalented men. (Also, in my personal experience, more gender-balanced workplaces tend simply to be more pleasant and productive environments to work in.)

                    It is obviously more tenuous to say that women "suffer", except perhaps in the sense that those women who may have had the potential to be able computing professionals miss out on their natural vocation.

                    Personally, I am a mathematician "by vocation" - I have a natural bent for it. I discovered this in my early teens, and was heartily encouraged by my teachers, family, and society at large. I am far from convinced that a teenage girl in my position would have had the same level of positivity and encouragement. Mathematics has immensely enriched my life, and given direction to, and facilitated every aspect of my career(s). I strongly suspect that many women have effectively been deprived of that experience due to factors already mentioned.

                    (Just to mention, I have not downvoted you either - and am more than happy to keep the discussion convivial!)

                    1. codejunky Silver badge

                      Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                      @LionelB

                      "I think this is the crux of our argument."

                      Probably. Like I said I dont assume any malice on your part and I hope you dont to me either, we just approach it from different sides. While we may get some benefit increasing the number of women in a subject they are choosing to move away from I am not sure that would make them happier and the loss would be to the other job they would 'prefer' and likely their happiness. Same as if we rebalanced female leaning professions.

                      "I think the profession suffers because women who have the potential to become talented computing professionals do not put themselves forward due to gender stereotyping, societal attitudes, and a (depressingly, often correct) perception that the IT workspace is an uncomfortable place for them (as opposed to for men)"

                      That is possible. It could also be that they dont want to. This is where I would need a problem that needs to be tackled instead of hypothesising problems because I already have a conclusion.

                      "It is obviously more tenuous to say that women "suffer", except perhaps in the sense that those women who may have had the potential to be able computing professionals miss out on their natural vocation."

                      I know what you mean. Its opportunity cost. But if we drain women from other vocations (lets assume women leaning ones to balance them too) it would again fall back to unequal once freedom comes into it.

                      "Personally, I am a mathematician "by vocation" - I have a natural bent for it"

                      Nice way to make me jealous :)

                      "I am far from convinced that a teenage girl in my position would have had the same level of positivity and encouragement."

                      Why? My decision to go into IT was seriously opposed by my family, primarily as higher education is a complete waste of time and you should work your way up. The difference can be seen in me and my brother, both 'forced' into shop work and our dreams pressured against (his wasnt IT). He works in a shop and I dont. I have attended classes with people who had no clue nor natural bent to IT and they had a passion and drive for what they wanted to do (and a lot of kids who had no idea what they wanted). External coercion has an effect but personal desire more-so.

                      "I strongly suspect that many women have effectively been deprived of that experience due to factors already mentioned."

                      We cant all do everything and wont do most things available in our entire lives. Finding the things that we find enriching to our lives takes personal experimentation. Its a uniquely personal thing, not imposed top down. While it seems curiously un-PC there are differences between men and women.

                      1. LionelB Silver badge

                        Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                        "While we may get some benefit increasing the number of women in a subject they are choosing to move away from I am not sure that would make them happier and the loss would be to the other job they would 'prefer' and likely their happiness."

                        Again, you completely misunderstand my argument. I am questioning why women are choosing to move away from the subject, not proposing that we actively attempt to change the course of women who have chosen to move away from the subject! How can I possibly make that clearer?

                        "That is possible. It could also be that they dont want to."

                        Arrgh! And again! My question is: why don't they want to?

                        "This is where I would need a problem that needs to be tackled instead of hypothesising problems because I already have a conclusion."

                        In my previous post I gave what I thought was a very clear account of why I believe the gender skew in computing is a problem.

                        "But if we drain women from other vocations (lets assume women leaning ones to balance them too) it would again fall back to unequal once freedom comes into it."

                        Okay, I'm very happy for men to enter those professions (such as nursing, say) which they don't tend to enter, quite likely for reasons parallel to those preventing more women from entering computing.

                        "Freedom" is a red herring here. As it stands, women are "free" to become computing professionals, men are "free" to become nursing professionals. If gender stereotyping, societal perceptions, yadda yadda changed, women would still be "free" to become computing professionals, and men would still be "free" to become nursing professionals - but the outcomes in terms of gender-skew might well be different. And different, I have argued, both to the benefit of the individuals and to the professions.

                        "Why? My decision to go into IT was seriously opposed by my family ..."

                        Well, there you go. "External coercion has an effect but personal desire more-so" may have been your case, but do you seriously think external coercion has no effect at all, writ large statistically? And "personal desire" is a fine thing, but what about those (and I include myself here, to some extent) who only realised their desire through external encouragement? And what about those girls who are never even offered the option to develop an interest in computing, due to family, social and educational perceptions of computing as a man's game?

                        "We cant all do everything and wont do most things available in our entire lives. Finding the things that we find enriching to our lives takes personal experimentation. Its a uniquely personal thing, not imposed top down."

                        Cheers to that; so especially, let's not put barriers of gender-stereotyping and societal prejudice in the way of young people finding their way to their personal life-enriching spheres! (I'll ignore the "imposed top down" comment, as by now you will be quite clear that I have not once during this discussion proposed any kind of top-down imposition).

                        "While it seems curiously un-PC there are differences between men and women."

                        And all hail those differences (the French put it better)! Some of which are nature, some nurture, many a combination of both; my contention is that, in the complete absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that predisposition towards computing falls entirely on the "nurture" side. And that, like other traits historically -- and incorrectly -- attributed to "nature", it is in everyone's interest to cut the nonsense and welcome the "weaker sex" [sic] back* into the world of computing.

                        *As I recall you mentioned in an earlier post, IT was indeed at one point a women's game.

                        1. codejunky Silver badge

                          Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                          @LionelB

                          "Again, you completely misunderstand my argument. I am questioning why women are choosing to move away from the subject, not proposing that we actively attempt to change the course of women who have chosen to move away from the subject! How can I possibly make that clearer?"

                          Very selectively quoting your comments-

                          "I'm frankly surprised that you seem to think it okay for women to be alienated by toxic boy's club IT work environments"- assumes they are.

                          "whether societies might be better off if those effective barriers to participation were lowered."- to lower would require action

                          "But people can, of course, also change social attitudes."- which would require action.

                          "I would like the world to follow - if not my personal expectations - then at least expectations which we can agree on as realistic, and for the common good. And that can, of course, be achieved - which is why we do not have slavery anymore, why women can vote (in most countries where people can actually vote), etc., etc."- While you express a preference it compares to actions taken against actual barriers.

                          "I am simply arguing for an understanding and mitigation of social attitudes"- mitigation is action.

                          These are only some very selective pickings from your comments and I may have them out of context but thats how they read to me. This is why I am trying to find out why you want to look for a problem because reality doesnt meet the 'expectation' you have of gender balance. For some it is the pretext of wanting to mould the world to their expectations and looking for 'problems' to make it happen.

                          "Arrgh! And again! My question is: why don't they want to?"

                          I find that a very odd question. Not invalid just odd. That kind of question of why anyone does anything and why people have preferences or motivations. For understanding thats one thing but I always imagine it to be for 'nudging' behaviour (such as adverts).

                          "In my previous post I gave what I thought was a very clear account of why I believe the gender skew in computing is a problem."

                          But is that right? Are these problems real or a convenient explanation for the world not meeting your expectations? When I hear gender imbalance I immediately assume personal choice.

                          "Well, there you go. "External coercion has an effect but personal desire more-so" may have been your case, but do you seriously think external coercion has no effect at all, writ large statistically?"

                          Depends how broad we wish to call external coercion. If it was so easy parents wouldnt have such difficulty getting their kids to get a job and do stuff in the place they live.

                          "And "personal desire" is a fine thing, but what about those (and I include myself here, to some extent) who only realised their desire through external encouragement?"

                          The joy of broadening your horizons because schools one size fits all doesnt fit all. Been there done that too. And yet the measurements taken are of boys and girls exposed to these same topics and choosing different interests as they experience different subjects.

                          "And what about those girls who are never even offered the option to develop an interest in computing, due to family, social and educational perceptions of computing as a man's game?"

                          And where is this? We have a gender imbalance as the information but where is that in the discussion? Again to me a gender imbalance is choice and I await an actual problem. You seem to be making explanations for the 'problem' that you disagree with a gender imbalance. Why is it wrong for a gender imbalance? What is wrong with different interests?

                          "Cheers to that; so especially, let's not put barriers of gender-stereotyping and societal prejudice in the way of young people finding their way to their personal life-enriching spheres!"

                          Is that there though? I know in odd instances there will be just as dawkins managed to find faith schools teaching bible antiscience to kids who would like to be doctors. But is it the mainstream? And where is the evidence that its the mainstream? You also took issue with me saying top down but this assumption of social prejudice assumes some barrier being enforced too.

                          "in the complete absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that predisposition towards computing falls entirely on the "nurture" side."

                          I dont even care about discussing that nature/nurture part of it as I dont see its relevance here. As we agree there doesnt seem to be a 'capability' issue here, its a preference issue. I assume people are free to choose unless demonstrated otherwise and you seem to assume its being forced on them.

                          "it is in everyone's interest to cut the nonsense and welcome the "weaker sex" [sic] back* into the world of computing."

                          That assumes they are being excluded or made less welcome than the males. Again I havnt seen evidence for that.

                          1. LionelB Silver badge

                            Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                            '"I'm frankly surprised that you seem to think it okay for women to be alienated by toxic boy's club IT work environments"- assumes they are."'

                            Not everywher, but a fair assumption, and a situation I have experienced personally (at a company that shall remain anonymous).The few women techs - they tended not to hang around for very long - were quite upfront about their experience. Anecdotal, sure, but look around. And talk to your female colleagues.

                            '"whether societies might be better off if those effective barriers to participation were lowered."- to lower would require action'

                            That, in response to my "[I am] not proposing that we actively attempt to change the course of women who have chosen to move away...". Seriously?

                            But yes, lowering barriers of prejudice may well require action. Action like, ooh, maybe education? Protest? A little empathy, consideration and plain good manners on the part of some men?

                            '"But people can, of course, also change social attitudes."- which would require action.'

                            Ditto. But not top-down coercive action, and again twisting my words regarding the "action" I was not proposing.

                            And ditto,

                            And ditto,

                            To put it as plainly as I possibly can: I was not, and am not proposing that we take action to coerce those women who choose, or have chosen different paths, into the industry. On the other hand, I have nothing against action to lower social barriers to entry of women into the profession - action in the form of education, for example. I really, REALLY, do not want to have to reiterate that.

                            "These are only some very selective pickings from your comments and I may have them out of context ..."

                            Yes, you did :-)

                            "... but thats how they read to me."

                            I'm going to have to put that down to some stubborn misperception of me on your part.

                            "This is why I am trying to find out why you want to look for a problem because reality doesnt meet the 'expectation' you have of gender balance."

                            "Gender balance" is not my "expectation". My "expectation" is that women not be discouraged from entering a profession through gender stereotyping and archaic social attitudes.

                            "I find that a very odd question. Not invalid just odd. That kind of question of why anyone does anything and why people have preferences or motivations. For understanding thats one thing but I always imagine it to be for 'nudging' behaviour (such as adverts)."

                            I find that a very odd answer. Okay, I've just said upfront that I would like to see the end of gender stereotyping, etc., etc., simply because those things make all of us poorer. To achieve that requires understanding, and to understand requires, amongst other things, asking questions.

                            Are you completely devoid of idealism? Are you blind to social ills, or just happy to accept any status quo because "that's the way it is"? I don't know... I was born and grew up in South Africa under the Apartheid system, so perhaps on the one hand I'm just hyper-sensitive to that kind of thing, and on the other hyper-aware that change can be achieved.

                            "When I hear gender imbalance I immediately assume personal choice."

                            Perhaps you need to think a little more deeply about what "personal choice" actually means in practice. We do not make choices in a vacuum, but rather in a world of social pressures and constraints.

                            "Depends how broad we wish to call external coercion. If it was so easy parents wouldnt have such difficulty getting their kids to get a job and do stuff in the place they live."

                            Sorry, but in the context of what I wrote that is just disingenuous.

                            "And yet the measurements taken are of boys and girls exposed to these same topics and choosing different interests as they experience different subjects."

                            Again disingenuous. Have another read of that Swedish report.

                            "Is that [barriers of gender-stereotyping and societal prejudice] there though?"

                            Yes. Have another read of that Swedish report.

                            "... but this assumption of social prejudice assumes some barrier being enforced too."

                            I'd say that left to their own, social barriers seem to be quite stubbornly self-sustaining. (Of course there are always those who, for whatever reasons, will be happy to encourage their enforcement too.)

                            "As we agree there doesnt seem to be a 'capability' issue here, its a preference issue. I assume people are free to choose unless demonstrated otherwise and you seem to assume its being forced on them."

                            I refer you back to my comments on what "free to choose" means in practice. Choices do not necessarily require overt "force" to be skewed. Differentials in opportunity and social attitudes can be very effective at skewing "free choice".

                            "That assumes they are being excluded or made less welcome than the males. Again I havnt seen evidence for that."

                            What can I say? I have. Certainly the "less welcome" part. As for the "exclusion", well I think we've been over that - it's not exclusion in the sense of "you're not allowed here", rather as a more insidious "well... if you really have to... but this is not really for you...".

                            1. codejunky Silver badge

                              Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                              @LionelB

                              "Not everywher, but a fair assumption"

                              How is that a fair assumption? You have gone from observation that there are more boys than girls in a part of industry to accusing the boys of effectively being abusive and unwelcoming. This is based on your anecdotal experience and your preassumed assumption that there should be more girls in IT than are choosing to.

                              However there is a problem with the idea, the assumed conclusion is an assumption. You acknowledge men and women are different by making the dividing line gender, then assume they are the same that they should have the same desires and motivations aka more women in a job they dont choose.

                              "But yes, lowering barriers of prejudice may well require action. Action like, ooh, maybe education? Protest? A little empathy, consideration and plain good manners on the part of some men?"

                              Right so imposing change, which is why I believed you were after imposing changes to fix a problem you have yet to establish. So lowering barriers by action (no legal barriers so imposing on peoples decisions to fix a 'problem' you believe exists), Education aka indoctrinate early to coerce- regardless of coercion against women making their own choices or guys 'attitudes' (look at teaching CRT and racial guilt to see how thats going). And your assuming there are no good manners on the part of men after they have been through the adjustment that gentleman behaviour is sexist (then causing a fuss because men dont give up a seat for a woman).

                              All to 'correct' a 'problem' there has been no demonstration of existing.

                              "Ditto. But not top-down coercive action, and again twisting my words regarding the "action" I was not proposing."

                              Ok, so how? Education is top down, protesting is to get the top to change their impositions down. I am willing to believe you I am just asking how when your comments seem to read differently (again I am assuming no malice on your part, just trying to find the 'solutions' you believe in).

                              "My "expectation" is that women not be discouraged from entering a profession through gender stereotyping and archaic social attitudes."

                              Agreed. But are they? Thats the missing piece for me. For example there seemed to be a lingering stereotyping by women that the army is limited to males as it was a legally imposed barrier. That takes a little time to work through so actual sexual discrimination of who gets shot and blown up can be more balanced. But such isnt in IT.

                              "Yes. Have another read of that Swedish report."

                              Your gonna have to point out where it claims to know. I honestly may have missed it but from what I read it is assuming a conclusion and expecting problems.

                              "I'd say that left to their own, social barriers seem to be quite stubbornly self-sustaining."

                              And what if its free choice instead of 'social barriers'?

                              "Choices do not necessarily require overt "force" to be skewed. Differentials in opportunity and social attitudes can be very effective at skewing "free choice"."

                              How about other differences such as gender? Could that factor into the calculation? That be the thing skewing the choice, people freely choosing what suits them?

                              "What can I say? I have. Certainly the "less welcome" part."

                              Ok. So does an instance of someone forced into the sex trade suggest its the norm? An instance of murder? An instance of sexism? An instance of racism? Unfortunately some of these have led to an assumption of it being the norm against reality.

                              Have a look at the ritual child abuse witch hunt in the UK. The certainty that there was a problem, the push to action to resolve it and the damage caused by chasing the wild goose.

                              1. LionelB Silver badge

                                Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                                Okay, I think we're just going round in circles now.

                                I think there is a problem and would like to see change.

                                You think there is no problem and are happy with the status quo.

                                Notably, the voices almost entirely missing from this comment section are those of women -- the people whom this is actually about -- because... oh, wait. A shame, really - they might have enjoyed the mansplaining ;-)

                                Anyhow, all the best, and thanks for a lively debate.

    5. Alex Stuart

      Quite.

      There's an assumption baked into these sort of discussions that the gender split of people interested in computers (and by implication any hobby/profession) should be 50/50, and anything other than that is therefore a problem of some external cause that needs to be fixed. That assumption is deeply flawed.

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Agreed we should not automatically assume that unequal gender splits are inherently problematic; but is it nonetheless not worth inquiring into why those skews exist?

        1. Alex Stuart

          Absolutely - one very easy thing to do would be to simply *ask* girls/women why they don't (or do) want to work with computers. Maybe this has been done - but I've never seen such a survey mentioned in the multiple articles on women in IT I've seen. They just state the gender split, imply it's a problem, and leave it at that.

          IMO, the vast majority of the gap seems explainable by natural average differences in interests - see https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19883140/ as one example of a study looking at this - there are many others.

          So I think the answer would most often just be 'I don't want to'.

          But of course we should work to fix any issues making up any genuine negative external factors.

          1. LionelB Silver badge

            "Absolutely - one very easy thing to do would be to simply *ask* girls/women why they don't (or do) want to work with computers."

            The following Scandinavian report does exactly that: https://plan-international.org/publications/programmed-out-gender-gap-technology-scandinavia

            Ironically, that link was posted earlier in this forum by someone as "evidence" that freer choices lead to greater gender skew in computing - I do wonder if they'd actually read the report*.

            *It's a long read, but there is an executive summary.

          2. LionelB Silver badge

            "So I think the answer would most often just be 'I don't want to'."

            Indeed, and the study you cite backs that up.

            The practical question, though, is why don't they want to? The Swedish report I (and others) have cited looks for answers to that question.

            "But of course we should work to fix any issues making up any genuine negative external factors."

            And again, the Swedish report identifies some of those factors.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because 6x as many boys are on the courses, there is 6x more dross whereas only the most interested girls are on the course.

      I taught engineering at Oxford for about 20 years. Very few - perhaps 10% - of my students were women, but almost without exception they were the best students I had. I don't think that's because women are innately good at engineering; I think it's it's because schoolgirls are so consistently deterred - explicitly and implicitly - from considering engineering as a career that only the very keenest and most determined make it through to university.

      This is evidence of people choosing different things, not of sexism or whatever is being alleged here.

      Why not both? The reasons for the choices can be and almost certainly are rooted in ingrained sexism.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Just assume that if men outnumber women 6 to 1, then maybe the top 60% of men and the top 10% of women try to get in. Don't know how they would compare if you took the top 10% of men, but as it is, the women will be better on average.

        And sometimes women are socially better adapted, and adding one woman to a team of man can improve overall performance.

    7. LionelB Silver badge

      "This is evidence of people choosing different things, ..."

      That statement is devoid of any content whatsoever. The point is that the "people" are girls/boys, and the "things" are taking compsci classes/not taking compsci classes.

      "... not of sexism or whatever is being alleged here."

      Having re-read the article, absolutely nothing is being "alleged here". The article attempts no analysis of the reasons behind the highly-skewed male/female balance in computer science education.

  2. DJO Silver badge

    Why I got involved in computers

    Back in pre-history when I was at school the local tech college had a mini-computer (and 8 x ASR33) that they let groups from local schools play with after hours.

    Time was obviously limited so two schools were assigned to each session.

    I found out that the school we were paired up with was the posher of the 2 local girls schools and one of the students playing with the computer was the best looking young lady there so drawn by my testicles I enrolled.

    Got nowhere with Clair but found the computer to be quite interesting.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Why I got involved in computers

      Yes that happens. Happened to me too although the relevant girl was already my girlfriend so I probably didn't behave worse than usual. But maybe in the general case that's _another_ reason girls and women avoid the computer courses.

  3. Altrux

    Bring back the girls!

    My fledgling Raspberry Pi Code Club, at my son's primary school, has 11 attendees and 4 more on the waiting list. 100% boys. Seems we've achieved almost nothing on gender balance in the last 30 years...

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Bring back the girls!

      What do you suggest? Compulsory membership for girls?

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Bring back the girls!

      Seems my comment was worded too loosely for some people. I felt it was an important point, so I'll try again.

      In an attempt to address what might be "going wrong" with female participation in what is seen to be the important skill of coding, our Local Education Authority set up a number of special out-of-school coding clubs for girls only, aged 7 to 15. This required an additional funding stream because they usually only support "daytime" activities, so they obviously felt this was important. These funded clubs were IN ADDITION to volunteer-led clubs of a similar nature but open to all in the age group, which received only bare-bone support from the LEA. The new clubs were led by skilled female tutors as well, which is one reason why additional financial support was needed - the volunteer field isn't exactly awash with these, and even where they are available it can mean increased distances travelled.

      When these "girls-only clubs" were announced in the local newspaper it appeared to upset a particular class of individuals who, with great enthusiasm, will jump up and down on top of anything they consider to be an example of reverse bias, this one being no exception. I find this reactionary behaviour to be perplexing and amusing in some small, wry, way. No-one was being disadvantaged by this initiative; the same equipment and the same curriculum was available under existing arrangements.

      It's unclear exactly what effect this has had yet, or what its potential might be. The scheme's been running only 3 years now, and for 2 of those it was suspended due to COVID.

      1. cornetman Silver badge

        Re: Bring back the girls!

        The answer to sexism isn't more sexism, just like the answer to racism isn't more racism.

        It might be more encouragement and an aim for a more equitable society by positive messaging, but you also have to start by looking to see if it is a problem that needs to be solved first and I'm not entirely sure that this is the case.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Bring back the girls!

          The answer to sexism isn't more sexism, just like the answer to racism isn't more racism.

          A sentiment invariably expressed by people who benefit from sexism or racism. There is nothing wrong with offering help to people who bear the brunt of structural inequality in society.

          1. cornetman Silver badge

            Re: Bring back the girls!

            > A sentiment invariably expressed by people who benefit from sexism or racism.

            And also from people who don't want to see sexism or racism.

            I don't subscribe to the popular notion these days of "you're either with us or against us". Please take your political polarisation somewhere else.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Bring back the girls!

              Sexism and racism... '-isms' are ideologies, not biases. Many ideologies manifest as biases, and -ists denotes either people or their actions, intentional or otherwise, that practice or exemplify an ideology.

              Biases can occur as a result of the practices of certain ideologies as they can equally result from non-ideological roots, or even through a combination of this. Certain ideologies can even arise as a result of the observation of these non-ideological roots - humans love to explain things, draw inferences and categorise things in order to make predictions. I did exactly that, just then, see? When I categorised humans as "inference engines".

              When applied to the observations about the gender make up of compsci classes, how can one dissect out any root explanations for that observation of a difference? From what we've learnt about society in the widest terms, encompassing work, home, leisure, economics etc. how can we be sure that there isn't a hidden or intrinsic mechanism at work, be that a conscious or an unconscious ideology, or one with an inherent biological root? How do we even dissect biology from society? Should we even try to do that? What is the profit in such activity? We know that different social structures display different group biases, although who is to say that our imposition of groupings is not artificial in itself? If we accept that there has been and/or still is an implicit and unfair ideological bias in, say for example, employment field (income) by race, can we extrapolate that there may be a hidden "-ism" behind other observed biases?

              To return to the biological basis of society, I think it stems from our understanding of fairness. Much research has been done on this topic, and some (many) researchers say that fairness is a pre-requisite for long-term cooperation within a species, and that such long-term cooperation accentuates reproductive success and individual survival, thus presenting an evolutionary bias towards a sense of fair-play. We value fairness highly, and, therefore, when we see evidence of a bias which appears unfair, we (in general, as humans) question it on an intellectual level.

              Personally, I wouldn't say it's a good idea to dismiss an observed bias out-of-hand and put it down to some intrinsic property - it should at least be investigated.

              When the argument about "most programmers were female in the past" is trotted out, I think it's valid to question if that factoid is a result of another "historic -ism" around keyboard operators and the biases evident in their contractual obligations such as pay, hours, age, qualification, career guidance/expectations etc.

        2. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Bring back the girls!

          As I took pains to point out, this initiative didn't mean boys were deprived of access to a similar club. It's not sexism if handled like this. The fact it had female tutors was exactly to try to set up role models and break preconceptions about gender and tge subject.

          You can try to draw a parallel with a blacks only computer club if you like. That would be emotive but somewhat of a straw man argument. There's clearly evidence of a strong gender bias in uptake of the subject and there's no clear indication of why that is excepting that it results from self-selection.

          As I indicated it's not been officially reported what the uptake of these clubs has been and the longitudinal picture is distorted by Covid. From what I understand in the year it was running all the places were filled and there was a distinct bias towards girls of Indian / Asian descent taking part. I don't find that particularly surprising myself.

          But that was just rumour I picked up on the parents network rather than an official account.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bring back the girls!

        The reason would be probably using additional money to provide the same course as already done but for only girls. Where that money could have been put into something else, but for both sexes.

        But, I also understand why the course is needed. To see if girls would do it when it was only girls. Children in general, usually didn't mix too much in terms of gender, when younger from my memory when i was a kid. Boys probably would make fun of the girls if the saw them as not doing as well because they didn't have as much experience as the boys did due to it already being an interest at home, because kids can be dicks to each other.

        This being the experience that the girls may have had at or outside of school with other stuff. So only wish to do it with their other girl friends.

        1. cornetman Silver badge

          Re: Bring back the girls!

          In my memories of growing up as a primary school kid, I didn't really see that difference.

          I had a birthday party entirely of girls once and it didn't seem particularly weird. They just happened to be my closest friends.

          Things inevitably change with the onset of puberty though. Boys in particular start to compete with their male peers for status and this can lead to boys and girls separating out socially. The trick is for us parents to make sure that that competition doesn't morph into something antisocial, something that I feel that many parents check out of. There is room for competition and status without the darker side of how that can manifest.

        2. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Bring back the girls!

          It was an unusual step for the LEA to subsidise an after-schools club beyond use of the buildings, insurance etc ( Bare-bones enablers) which is why I think they must view it as a concern. There are also girls football clubs and rugby clubs in the area, which is understandable and not uncommon.

  4. Dave 126 Silver badge

    An additional way of looking at this is to ask: what subjects are girls studying in place of Computer Science, and the why aren't boys as interested in those subjects? I'd assume (until presented with evidence) that this might have at least some bearing on the matter.

    Of course these questions are likely outside of the scope of the BCS report.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      An additional way of looking at this is to ask: what subjects are girls studying in place of Computer Science, and the why aren't boys as interested in those subjects? I'd assume (until presented with evidence) that this might have at least some bearing on the matter.

      The article doesn't make it clear, but as far as I can tell it's about numbers studying Computer Science in school. That's a dead end. My Computer Science colleagues (HE lecturer here) want entrants to have strong maths, but would much prefer further maths to computer science. Some other places want CS, but most, I gather, don't.

      So it may be that plenty of girls are making subject choices which could get them into HE CS, but aren't choosing to go there.

  5. jumblist

    Anecdotal of course, but I've been completely unsuccessful in my attempts to encourage my daughter to code and now she's turned down the chance to take Computer Science GCSE. I've never pressured her, but I've been trying to gently nudge her towards it for years. Despite being incredibly similar to me in most ways and a massive dweeb she's just not having it.

    I wonder if this might in part be due to the way the subject is approached. Her teacher says she's good at it but lacks the patience to deal with the frustration of trial and error, so she quickly becomes annoyed and gets despondent. Learning that perseverance brings rewards is definitely an important factor I think.

    But then maybe it's just not for her I guess.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      re: Trial and Error

      "Her teacher says she's good at it but lacks the patience to deal with the frustration of trial and error"

      I am confused, don't the draw flowcharts these days to design code so that the 'trial and error' of coding is minimised?

      When I did 'O'-level Computer Studies* in ninety-seventy-something, there were six boys in the class, and the teacher was female.

      *(I got an 'A', thanks for asking, but I was doing 'A'-level mathematics at the same time, so I found the arithmetic parts of the examination trivial.)

      1. jumblist

        Re: re: Trial and Error

        More the syntax I guess. TBH I only had 5 minutes with the guy at parents evening.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: re: Trial and Error

        I have no idea what they teach nowadays. Recently I had to complete documentation for a third party piece of software that was under review for adoption by the central IT service. The sheer level of documentation required is staggering. Anyway, I found myself drawing on skills taught in mid-70s to early-80s computer sciences lessons, presumably in the days when schools had just the one practical resource for all 1,000-odd pupils, so they taught three and two-third years of theory and you got hands on for just one term and possible in an after hours computer club. Flow charts, network diagrams and (and this is the bit that got dredged up from long-term storage) data-mapping diagramming for relational databases. I mean all stuff straight out of the IBM playbook. It all seemed very advanced and technical at the time, but now if feels all dry-as-a-bone. Who wants to know about the various ways to depict many-to-one mappings when you can draw yellow and red boxes on a screen using LOGO and turtles and stuff, or make a beeper play Three Blind Mice?

        I'd be interested to know what passes for Computer Studies nowadays. Really I would. My son did a BTec in the subject, but he didn't take to it at all. It seemed a mile away from my experiences - all K'Nex and robots... my experiences feel a bit like the nostalgia associated with my old maths textbooks that had entire chapters on the use of log tables and slide rules.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: re: Trial and Error

          My son did a BTec in the subject, but he didn't take to it at all.

          A friend of mine teaches CS at a Russell Group university. Heedful of WP (Widening Participation) pressure, they started accepting BTechs in CS for entry .. until, a few years later, my friend pointed out that no student admitted on that basis had every completed the first year, let alone a degree.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: re: Trial and Error

          "It all seemed very advanced and technical at the time, but now if feels all dry-as-a-bone. Who wants to know about the various ways to depict many-to-one mappings when you can draw yellow and red boxes on a screen using LOGO and turtles and stuff, or make a beeper play Three Blind Mice?

          I'd be interested to know what passes for Computer Studies nowadays. Really I would. My son did a BTec in the subject, but he didn't take to it at all. It seemed a mile away from my experiences - all K'Nex and robots... my experiences feel a bit like the nostalgia associated with my old maths textbooks that had entire chapters on the use of log tables and slide rules."

          The current fad for making learning "fun" does seem to be detracting from actual learning. AT the early stages of learning, making it "fun" to help the pupils find an interest is very worthwhile. But at some point, one has to knuckle down and actual learn the hard stuff. I did great at biology and chemistry when it was all experiments and practicals and funny smells, sparks and flames etc, but soon lost interest when it got all theory and technical. I ended up doing Maths Physics and Computer Studies at A level because I really got into the theory and technical side of those subjects.

          And no, it wasn't the teachers fault either. My Biology teacher was especially upset when I dropped the subject in favour of Tech Drawing because I was top of the class that year. I explained at the parents evening that it was the only way I could get to do Comp Studies. If I stayed with Biology, I couldn't later switch to CS, but I could do so if I did a year of tech Drawing first. The vagaries of school time tabling was to blame!!

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: re: Trial and Error

            The vagaries of school timetabling used to be one of those intractable computing problems that were great fun to have a go at cracking.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: re: Trial and Error

              Our school timetable was generated on the mainframe at the local Town Hall.

              GIGO was one of the first things I learned on CS.

              The above two statements may or may not be linked :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Anecdotal of course, but I've been completely unsuccessful in my attempts to encourage my daughter to code and now she's turned down the chance to take Computer Science GCSE. "

      Funnily, I'm in the same boat: she was so good at coding everyone at university wanted to be with her in dual students projects !

      But without even discussing it with her, I know why: she never wanted to be compared with me :( Weird, but not something I could do anything about ... Now, she's in material engineering, I don't understand a single thing of it, that's probably the desired result :)

      Back to the article 1/6 th of ladies vs. 5/6 of dudes in comp-sci courses ! And you guys complain ?

      France, in my 90s experience, also refreshed by a visit to my university with my daughter 6 years ago tells me this number: 76 dudes vs. 4 ladies in comp-sci pre-master, 50 dudes vs. 2 ladies in master.

      Same goes still today in jobs. Coding ladies are as frequent as a Unicorn.

  6. Tams

    Perhaps there is something putting women off compsci? Perhaps it's the sex ratio itself?.

    But given how society is now, I think it may well mainly just be the different sexes tending to like different things.

    Oh, and are we going to have an article about the sex imbalance in nursing? After all, the number of male nurses is around 11%. Or around 1-in-9 for the hard of thought.

    What? No? Because it's not really a huge problem*? Well then....

    *actually there are reports of male nurses being bullied and abused

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gender-equality paradox

    If you want more girls in STEM you should strive for a more oppressive society.

    The gender-equality paradox is the finding that various gender differences in personality and occupational choice are larger in more gender equal countries. Larger differences are found in Big Five personality traits, Dark Triad traits, self-esteem, depression, personal values, occupational and educational choices. This phenomenon is seemingly paradoxical because one would expect the differences to be reduced as countries become more gender egalitarian.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-equality_paradox

    1. ArrZarr

      Re: Gender-equality paradox

      And yet there isn't a country on earth where the societal expectations on men & women are the same. We may have reached de jure equal rights in some countries, but society's momentum after 3,000+ years of male dominance in western society means that lots of people have yet to fully get with the programme.

      Even then, there are certain biological aspects where equal rights aren't there, even in the most progressive societies - one example is Maternity leave vs Paternity leave. Whether the two should be aligned or not isn't something I wish to discuss, just bringing up a discrepancy.

      1. cornetman Silver badge

        Re: Gender-equality paradox

        > And yet there isn't a country on earth where the societal expectations on men & women are the same.

        True, but we can draw conclusions from correlation between countries where there is a measurable difference in expectations. You don't need an example of a country with exactly 0 expectational difference, just a statistically significant difference and you extrapolate from there.

        And you just cannot wave away the biological imperatives or the practicalities that come from childbirth either.

    2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Gender-equality paradox

      And to get rid of the primary-care-giver pay gap we must ban women from raising their children.

      ( There isn't a gender pay gap, there's a primary-care-giver pay gap ).

  8. Aoyagi Aichou
    Holmes

    Problem?

    Is something preventing girls from choosing compsci?

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: Problem?

      Is something preventing girls from choosing compsci?

      Well, yes. That's exactly what the evidence suggests. But figuring out what that "something" is? That's the kicker.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: Problem?

        One of the problems might be that it's a subject that pupils are typically offered only at the point it becomes an exam choice. If it's not a subject to which you've previously had any exposure, you're unlikely to risk you exam grades on the offchance it might interest you.

        Also, I think timetabling constraints in some schools mean that it may not be possible to do maths+physics+chemistry+compsci at GCSE and dropping one of the other (real...) sciences closes off a lot of choices prematurely.

        When I went to University, you could only study Computer Science for 1 year as an option - it wasn't considered there was enough of it to make up a full degree course. I suspect even now there's not much point in formally studying computer science at school as you'll just be revisiting a lot of the subject matter at college.

        The sad part really is that there's very little room in schools these days for anything that isn't linked to an examination or assessment. I think there is a lot more value in allowing kids to get some broad experience of a wide range of subjects informally. After all, given the widespread nonsense that supposedly educated people were spouting about Covid, for example, formal education seems to have a very low success rate.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Problem?

          I suspect even now there's not much point in formally studying computer science at school as you'll just be revisiting a lot of the subject matter at college.

          Yup. For most universities, a school qualification in CS is useless and may even put them off. See also: psychology, economics, law ... all of which, taken at school, are poison to a UCAS form for the same subjects at university.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Problem?

            You raise a good point, but on the other hand, it should not be a problem on the UCAS form. There may be some "unlearning" to do once reaching university, but it shows the interest in the subject and I suspect anyone doing 2 years of an A level in Law is likely to really want to do Law at degree level. On the gripping hand, of course, there's probably stats to prove I'm wrong and most A level law students fail Law at Uni :-)

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Problem?

          "The sad part really is that there's very little room in schools these days for anything that isn't linked to an examination or assessment."

          Even sadder is that computers are used for almost all of the traditional subjects, but almost exclusively as a replacement for books, pens and paper. When in reality, if all kids were taught programming along with reading and writing, they could then go on to create and use their own programmes in so many other subjects. But no, all they get is Windows and Office. Rarely any database experience and usually not even any scripting. It's not like we want them to especially come up with original stuff, just be able to understand how the tool works and what it can do for them. I'm pretty sure the conversion tables I printed out under software control for my Physics class wasn't original, but I learned how to do it. And the layout was more useful to me than the ones in the textbooks!

      2. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Problem?

        That is most certainly not what the evidence suggests. The evidence suggests that, in the absence of any coercion, women choose different career paths to men.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Problem?

          "In the absence of coercion"

          Do you mean visible, active coercion alone or would you include invisible social pressures in that?

      3. Graham 32

        Re: Problem?

        I think Aoyagi is going with the view where equality means "equal opportunity" and you're going with the view where equality means the statistics must reflect the general population. Both views have their problems and, no, I don't have a solution.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Problem?

      Well, from some comments on other Elreg article, I wonder whether part of the problem is that Computing has undergone some form of gender shift...

      There was a time when it was regarded as 'clerical' and thus part of what many (men) regarded as the domain of women's work. Hence why there are so many women among the pioneers (eg. Mary Coombs, Grace Hopper and others).

      I do wonder whether the "2-finger" typist mindset behind Unix and now Linux was part of an unconscious 'male' land grab (for want of a better phrase), so fluent typists - in the main women back then, were disadvantaged.

      It is interesting that the two women (Lorinda Cherry and Nina McDonald) identified as being at Bell Labs worked on the Writer’s Workbench - tools to help writers produce more readable prose...

      For those interested in inclusive design I would recommend reading: Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.

    3. Mr Humbug

      Re: Problem?

      Or it's something that is failing to attract girls to computer science and the only reason to study the subject is because you want to do more of it. Otherwise there are plenty of alternatives that leave your options open.

      To draw a parallel that may be relevant:

      My older daughter did maths A-level because she could get a good grade and it would support what she wanted to do at university. College tried very hard to get her to do further maths, but she refused. Her maths class was predominantly male, but it was nowhere near a 5:1 ratio (possibly 2:1 or even lower).

      My younger daughter is currently doing further maths because she and, I gather, most of the others in the class want to explore maths for its own sake. The male:female ratio is just over 4:1. On the other hand, her chemistry class is close to parity, but is mostly people that are not interested in the subject but need it for what they want to do next (medicine etc).

      The point really, is that until computer science is an option that enables further study of other subjects it will only attract those that want to do computer science later on. For some reason that doesn't happen with many girls when they still have time to choose it.

  9. mpi

    Is the access to these educations somehow limited by a persons gender? Pretty sure the answer is no.

    If so, then the rest is up to individual decisions.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      It's an age old problem - equality of access does not always translate to equality of uptake. Should it? That's a debate for sociologists!

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      Yeah, there's no law against women in CS. But literally "there's no law against it" is not exactly an endorsement, isn't it?

      Just because you're making an individual decision, it doesn't necessarily mean that all of the factors that go into it are all well and good and don't need looking into.

      Like, if property prices of a certain district plummet because lots of people are making the individual decision not to live there, and it turns out it's because criminal gangs have set up shop there, then some kind of action by authorities is appropriate and necessary. It is not okay to just let market forces sort it out.

      Similarly, if it turns out that the individual decisions of women not to pursue CS are driven by widespread mysoginy - or even just an undue reputation of widespread mysoginy - in the profession, or in education, or in the hobbyist circles, that would be something that could be addressed, and the field would have benefit from addressing it.

      Or maybe there's no such thing, and the odd ratio is really just due to individual preferences. It really could be.

      Studies such as this one are how we find out.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Whew! For a minute there I thought you were leading up to women being driven away from computer science by criminal gangs.

  10. Philip Stott
    Unhappy

    Very Sad

    I've been a professional software developer for nearly 30 years, and can count the number of female developers I've worked with on the fingers of one hand.

    See title.

    1. Philip Stott

      Re: Very Sad

      Not sure why I'm getting the down votes on this

      To be clear, I believe efforts to get more women into CompSci are a good thing.

      My point was that it's bad that I've only worked with a handful of women in entire career.

    2. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Very Sad

      Why sad? Would you rather force them into something they don't choose to do freely?

      1. Philip Stott

        Re: Very Sad

        Sad beause it's well paid career, where diversity of thought is probably more necessary here than every other area outside STEM subjects.

        I should also point out that the women developers I have worked with have been an absolute privilege to meet.

        Highly competent people, that make the team "better" (hard to define, but think it softens the banter) than all bloke teams.

      2. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Very Sad

        Erm, I suspect he'd prefer that they did choose to do it freely.

  11. werdsmith Silver badge

    I got involved in a tech career because it really was the only option. I had no chance of any other career, because I was crap. Fortunate really that the industry took off just at the right time, or I might have ended up like my parents. I wonder how many choose comp.sci as a last resort. Or put it another way, how many that choose comp.sci at GCSE go into a related undergraduate course, or career.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      @werdsmith

      "I got involved in a tech career because it really was the only option. I had no chance of any other career, because I was crap"

      I can sympathise with you there. IT was the only thing I was any good at and I know a lot of people took the course because they didnt want to get a job but also had no idea what they wanted to do.

  12. AMBxx Silver badge

    What about girls' schools?

    What percentage of girls in single sex schools are interested compared to boys in boys-only schools? Would be a more useful comparison.

  13. JDX Gold badge

    Why is it so important to chase parity?

    Seems like a mindset to pressure women into wanting to do IT... maybe they're smart for not wanting to get into the industry and the lads are the foolish ones thinking it's a lucrative career.

    There should be no barriers to entry but equally let people do what they want.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Why is it so important to chase parity?

      If definitely can be a lucrative career if you choose your sub-discipline well and have a good tolerance for tedium.

      Served me well in my career of imposter syndrome guilt.

    2. Philip Stott

      Re: Why is it so important to chase parity?

      Agree with most of your points, apart from "foolish enough to think it's a lucrative career".

      Software development is a pretty good living, as long as you're good at it.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Why is it so important to chase parity?

        Not just software development, there are many other roles that give good money. A colleague of mine retrained himself in IT security and is now a loaded Tesla driver who keeps a new Cayman S for the weekend and purchased a flat in London docklands. Another does the requirements specifications and analysis role for business systems and is raking it in.

        If you are absolutely clueless about all things IT but you can make up unrealistic arbitrary dates and timings you could always go into IT project management.

  14. Mike 137 Silver badge

    At least a small elephant in the corner of the room

    One of the most disappointing things about the UK's current "computer science" curriculum (even at A level) - such as this for example - is that it's not really computer science at all - it's essentially a mechanic's introduction to the internals of IT and 'coding'. The really interesting stuff that would make it genuine science (how and why things work or don't, the math, the history, comparison of models and architectures etc.) are dealt with very superficially if at all and underlying principles such as considering IT as an engineering discipline are not apparently mentioned. The net result is a syllabus with negligible coherence - leading to absorption of a 'bunch of stuff' to regurgitate at exam time rather than holistic understanding - a technicianship training rather than a science education.

    An obvious example of these failings is that despite being at the foundation of all our computing models the Turing machine is not mentioned in the cited syllabus at all (come to that, neither is Turing himself).

    1. deadlockvictim

      Re: At least a small elephant in the corner of the room

      You make a good point: Computer Science as a name is misleading. I would just call it, 'Computer Studies', 'Informatics' or something like this.

      I like the idea of technicianship being primarily taught. I would like to see it as a subject like woodwork or metalwork. Pupils should should know how to build a computer properly. They should know the basics of electronics (what a capacitor or an integrated circuit is, for example). Honours students should do soldering and build working motherboards

      They should know what a network is and what its components are. They should know the journey of data from an app on their smartphone. Added to this are devices commonly found on a network: firewalls, routers, the NSA and so on.

      Alongside that they should be introduced to scripting and possibly programming: SQL maybe, Python or PHP. They should know what a database does (and is), what services are and what algorithms are. Added to this, they should learn about statistics and probabilities..

      And finally they should know what an OS is and does alongside the pros & cons of the popular OSs.

      Who chooses Apple and why? When is Linux a good choice? Why is Windows popular?

      I think that once these have been covered in a three year course, computers will become a lot less mystifying.

      Are there greatly fewer young women taking woodwork or metalwork in the U.K.? This course should present it all as a series of tools which are greatly relevant to the everyday world and one needs both experience and knowledge about these tools.

      On a final note, the bro-culture amongst developers that one hears so much about needs to be dealt with in a very public way. What self-respecting young women is going to choose to work with misogynists and endure humiliation even if the salary isn't bad?

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: At least a small elephant in the corner of the room

      > An obvious example of these failings is that despite being at the foundation of all our computing models the Turing machine is not mentioned in the cited syllabus at all (come to that, neither is Turing himself).

      If it's any consolation, there's no mention of Alonzo Church either. :-)

      Weird stuff in there that caught my eye: being required to be able to explain the basic operation of a laser printer, 3d printer, microphone... Laser printer I can understand but not a 3d printer - that's design and technology not computing. And microphone is also a bit of a stretch.

      Section 10.4: I must be old because when I started "stacks" and "queues" were data structures not abstract data types

      Section 10.2: search an array using a linear search. They've got to be joking right? That's 7-year olds' computer club stuff. At least make it a binary chop.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: At least a small elephant in the corner of the room

        "linear search"

        It's the best algorithm for sufficiently short datasets. It's also a fair comparison point if you think you've got a better algorithm and want to actually do some computer science.

      2. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: At least a small elephant in the corner of the room

        "when I started "stacks" and "queues" were data structures not abstract data types"

        That was probably, like when I started, before everything was an 'object' without the option. I've had lots of discussions about Java programming where my interlocutor has insisted on avoiding the use of static methods "because Java is an object oriented language" rather than considering whether they static methods be more appropriate than dynamic methods for the task being programmed.

        Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is a direct result of training on the lines of the "computer science" A level and it leads to extremely poor performance in the real world.

        It's called "learning by rote" and goes right back to the 19th century National Schools. It should most assuredly not have permeated tertiary education, but even at that level it has.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: At least a small elephant in the corner of the room

      I think all STEM A-levels are like that. Take the same subject at degree level and you'll spend the first year unlearning your A-level. It's not as bad as the GCSE to A-level transition, but the need to unwind "lies for children" permeates a lot of the higher education system.

  15. Dr. G. Freeman

    From what I've found doing "get kids interested in science" outreach over the years is, they both male and female, love doing the hands on, messy stuff, but hate the read chapter six and do the problems side of teaching.

    So my thought is, maybe Comp Sci is going up against other subjects in the timetable that let you do fun stuff, with less reading, so those with only a passing interest go "well, could do that, but techy drawing* is less homework, so I'll do that instead"

    know when it was my time to Choose standard grades (equivalent to English O levels) back thirty years ago- it was a choice of Chemistry, Computing or Geology as they were timetabled at the same time- Chemistry won, due to, well, a girl called Amanda....

    * don't know what it's called now, was rebranded as Graphic Communication when my nephew failed it.

  16. the small snake Bronze badge
    Boffin

    The really interesting figures

    are what has happened to the ratio over time. Well, friend of mine found those numbers for US a while ago. In 1971 14% of graduates in computing were female. In 1984 was 38%. In 2011 ... was 18%.

    Three things. (1) 38% is fully compatible with 50% given that certainly some sexism existed in 1984 (this was mostly before I was born but still pretty sure it did). (2) no such rapid change can be due to change in innate ability, which takes much longer unless you are bacterium or something. (3) therefore something has driven out about half of the women and girls from the subject between 1984 and 2011.

    Will not speculate what that is, but, well, it is not hard to draw obvious conclusions based on many commenters here sadly.

    Would also be easy for me now to say that all men are shits, but this is not true: I have many male friends and they are not shits (and some of them work in computing though I do not). But there is a clearly problem and denying the problem is like denying cancer: still it will kill you (or in this case, grope you).

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: The really interesting figures

      Eh? What is the problem that you seem to think exists?

      I think the stats prove that women are choosing to do more of what they want to, rather than choosing CompSci to fulfill some meaningless metric.

    2. Snowy Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: The really interesting figures

      Maybe they where not driven out but other options opened up for them?

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: The really interesting figures

      But was the "computing" they were graduating from in 1971 the same as the "computing" they were graduating from in 2011? There#'s so much mis-information, misunderstanding, mis-description, and plain outright lies and "computing" "IT" "computer science" "computing science", that it's impossible to compare things over different years.

  17. rbransonlover

    Personal Experience

    I can speak to this personally, having graduated from a RG in 2021, we had about 2 girls in a class of 120 - many of the boys seemed quite unmotivated by the topic, seemingly only interested in the job prospects, whereas the two girls were heavily involved in CompSci societies/extracurricular. No doubt they performed better than most.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. stylistics

    As anyone with experience of working with offshore/outsourced groups will tell you the gender ratio varies dramatically between countries, which speaks against it being down to natural inclination/ability.

    As to why it matters - the best way to create software that be used well by society at large is for the engineering profession creating it to more closely represent that society.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      "create software that be used well by society"

      These days it's society that is being well used by software...

    2. deadlockvictim

      Women in technical roles

      I've mentioned this before in these fora.

      The women I have come across in non-academic/research technical roles tend to fall into one of these two groups:

      a. Requirements Engineers — probably the most social of the technical roles;

      b. Data-people — data-scientists & DBAs.

      Furthermore, of the female DBAs I have met & worked with, they have all been foreign (relative to the country I lived in at the time), being from India, Russia, China & Spain.

      It seems to me that while culture plays an important role, women gravitate towards roles where there is a strong interpersonal element in the job and being alone with your code or your server is not their cup of tea. There is nothing wrong with this. It just needs to be appreciated.

  20. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    "girls are outnumbered six to one by boys in computer science classes across the UK."

    Who cares. It's much better that boys and girls study whatever interests them most at degree level rather than worrying about some pointless metrics that are meaningless in relevance to the actual workplace anyway.

  21. Binraider Silver badge

    CompSci is not a mandatory subject. So unless cultural drivers are addressed, why is this ratio unexpected?

    Making it mandatory might over the course of 20 years begin to generate the cultural change that simply cannot be magicked by wishful thinking in opposition to stereotypes reinforced by endless TV, toys and social media.

    Making it mandatory would have economic benefits given the importance of compsci to a service led economy.

    I'll grant a future hairdresser doesn't need compsci. They don't need English Literature either. So complaints along those lines can bugger off.

    Alternatively, compsci should and could be a module of a well-rounded maths course, or part of doing Physics & Chemistry. Hell, even a bit of excel "programming" goes a long way towards business demands on skills.

    I have had it with Noddy character building education theories that leave kids seriously underequipped for what employers want and need.

  22. pip25

    Six to one? Sounds like an improvement to me

    Back when I started out at university, 20 years ago, we could fill a 250+ auditorium. There were two girls among us. TWO. Granted, this was in Central Europe.

  23. Daniel von Asmuth
    Paris Hilton

    This only shows that.....

    girls are smarter than boys and less likely to opt for dead-end jobs!?

  24. AlJahom

    What is the actual problem here?

    There seems to be a subtext that more girls need to get into comp sci classes because they're actually better at it than boys. But this is unlikely to be true.

    More likely is that boys just sort of fall into comp sci because it appeals to their orientation towards 'things' and tech. Therefore a lot of boys study it without actually having exceptional aptitude.

    But the girls who do study comp sci REALLY want it, given that they're going into what might be considered a hostile environment. They're really motivated (by whatever - on the spectrum, older brothers etc) and they're mentally wired in a way that gives them a strong aptitude and a strong chance to succeed.

    If the problem is that girls aren't availing them of this opportunity to shape the future then maybe that's because they're too busy seizing opportunities to shape the future in fields that more naturally appeals to their predispositions... communications, marketing, education, psychology etc...

    What's the harm in that? Why must girls be strong-armed into a field they don't have any preference for? To make them miserable in order to prove some barmy feminist point?

    For girls who have an aptitude and a preference for computing, there are plenty of opportunities to succeed and plenty of men and women encouraging and supporting them to succeed.

    So I ask again, what is the actual problem here, and how would the solutions contribute to the sum of human happiness?

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: What is the actual problem here?

      The actual problem is a shortage of good developers in a world that needs more and more of them. Because of the current relative numbers, it should be (but for some reason isn't) far easier to recruit more women than to recruit more men. And the claim that the women are better than the men is not sinister, it's simply to satisfy the _good_ part of the requirement.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: What is the actual problem here?

        But the article was talking about developers, it was talking interchangably about computer science and computing, as though they were the same thing. But with that mess and confusion, maybe the article *was* talking about developers.

        But whatever it was talking about, you can't just force people into things thay have no interest in or aptitude for. Oi! We need more motor mechanics/vetinarians/highway engineers/gastric surgeons. You! You lot are going to be motor mechanics/vetinarians/highway engineer/gastric surgeons.

        People are people. It's not rocket salad.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Computing or computer science? Make your mind up. Only as far as the first TWO *****ing sentences as well.

    I read further and it swaps almost EVERY SINGLE PAIR OF SENTENCES!

    MAKE UP YOUR FUCKING MIND!!!!!!

    "Computing" !=" "computer science"

  26. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Pirate

    Morons Have Rights Too !

    "This matters because teams that develop, say, the use of AI in medicine, or algorithms that affect our financial lives or employment chances need to be diverse to ensure outcomes are fair and relevant to everyone in society.

    Article.

    .

    .

    Personally if I had to undergo medical procedures developed by AI, I would prefer the AI was created by people good at that, and not people included for the sake of fairness.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. Bbuckley

    Are there any Statisticians in the BCS

    Well duh! Anyone with an ounch of Statistics knows what the Central Limit Theorem is ... not the BCS though! Obviously the few females are from the upper tail of a (if there were more of them) normal distribution. The boys are numerous enough to have a normally distributed average. This is just another example of extreme left-wing soviet 'diversity and inclusion' from the Ministry of Truth. Or worse, maybe they really are that stupid.

  28. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Sally Ride Science

    In the US, Sally Ride, the first female commander of the Space Shuttle, formed a non-profit to encourage young girls that are interested in STEM to stay with it. One of the big problems in the past was horrible school counselors that would tell girls that girls aren't good at math and science so they should look to a traditionally female career/job. It might still be the case that society pushes girls away from math and science when they might be very good at it. I know many women in space and science fields that are very good at their jobs and love the subject. A side benefit is they are in a profession that is highly male dominated and those guys are often very steady and have really good well paying jobs so if they aren't gay, they'll not lack for dinner invitations of a weekend.

  29. Postscript
    IT Angle

    this buzzfeed article about the gatekeeping surrounding geek culture seems relevant here, if you are wondering why women might conclude CS is 'not for them' https://www.buzzfeed.com/mayaogolini/geek-girls-share-sexist-experiences

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