Wanted: Women Hackers

Legitimate hacking is more commonly known as computer science.  The field is expected to grow throughout the decade.  The latest estimates indicate 1.4 million computer-related jobs will open up in the next 10 years.  Americans can let these jobs be filled by foreign graduates of computer science or they can take steps to encourage their daughters to learn to design software and analyze code.

According to multiple studies, two of the most important factors for women choosing a career are a good salary and flexibility.  Along with engineering, computer science is at the top of careers that provide both.  In addition, computer skills are extremely portable, giving women the ability to move more freely around the country, or the world, without losing seniority or tenure the way they would in teaching, nursing, and other so-called “pink collar” jobs.

The salary difference alone is significant.  The average teacher earns $45,000 to $55,000.  The median salary for someone with a computer science degree is $80,000 to $100,000.  Do the math: that’s virtually a doubling of salary for the same four years of study at the same college.

women codersThe numbers, however, are far from promising.  Despite the fact that computer science careers offer the elements women want, only 0.4% of women entering college choose that field of study.  Even more dismally, the percentage of women graduating with computer science degrees has fallen dramatically just as computers have gained importance in society.  Today, only 18% of degrees are earned by women compared to 29% in 1991.

Several organizations and programs are working to improve the participation of women in computer science.  These vary greatly in focus, though the intent is the same: get young girls and women to consider computer science as a career.

One such program is “Girls Who Code,” a special program for middle and high school students that teaches programming skills.  Another example is the Sciences and Entertainment Exchange that offers science consulting to television and movie writers and producers to increase the visibility of science professions and give girls — and boys — visible role models.

Angie Perlman is an education and tech blogger whose work has been published on tech, news, and education sites for nearly a decade.  She has written about everything from high school lesson plans to degree planning and intertwining of tech and education.