Rebooting Recruiting to Get More Women in Computer Science
Cassidy Lamm, who grew up loving Disney movies like The Lion King, hopes to help create the next generation of animated films. When she checked into the credentials of current special-effects artists at Disney, she learned that many had majored in computer science.
Now in her sophomore year at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Ms. Lamm is among an increasingly rare breed—women majoring in computer science. Nationwide, women earned only 18 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science in 2010, according to the National Science Foundation. That’s less than half the proportion in 1985, when 37 percent of those degrees went to women.
Despite attending a high school where her computing class taught her only how to use Microsoft Word, Ms. Lamm persevered through her first year of college-level programming courses, in which she estimates that men outnumbered women nearly tenfold. She even found time for an independent research project, creating a mobile-phone app to help autistic students better understand the emotions of other people.
“When girls think of computer science, they think of the gamers and sitting in a cubicle to program,” Ms. Lamm says. “But I’ve found that you can do so much more with it.”
The lack of interest among women in computer science is nothing new—government agencies, universities, and technology companies have plowed tens of millions of dollars into trying to raise the numbers for almost a decade, to little effect.