Sunday, July 23, 2017

What are the top Computer science programs for women?

What are the top Computer Science Programs for Women?

How would one even answer the question?

Some people did a study based on National Center for Education Statistics and Payscale. The results are here.

1) While I believe the top X school listed are pretty good for women in computing I don't believe that (say) the Yth school is better than the (Y+1)th school for some values of X and all values of Y.

2) I appreciate that they put in the work for this.

3) Overall good news and bad news:

The number of female professionals in computer science has fallen by 35% since 1990

The number of women  finishing a comp sci degree has increased by 75% in the last five years.

4) Why do we care? If there are many talented people in group X who are being discouraged from going into field Y, but society needs more people in field Y then YES we should do something about that. Also, if a certain group of people is shut out then a group-think might occur.

5) What to do? Organizations like Girls who code are good. The younger they start the bettter.

6) Is there a social stigma for women to go into computer science? I think the answer is yes. How can we break that stigma? Realize that the notion of a female lawyer or doctor at one time had a stigma but I don't think it does anymore. What did they do right? What are we doing wrong?

7) Personal note:

I have mentored 58 High School Students. 56 were male, 2 were female.

I have mentored 45 ugrad students. 33 were male, 12 were female.

I have supervised 17 Masters students. 15 were male, 2 were female

I have supervised 7 PhD students, 6 were male, 1 was female.

The HS students stats are the most startling (at least to me). I don't have much control on this one as HS students seek me out and they happen to mostly be male. Reading that over it sounds weak on my part.


  1. I don't see any details on that site; the ranking appears to be based entirely on the percentage of undergraduate CS majors that are female. Are those inherently programs the "best" for women?!

    Stanford did not make the top 20, but Emory did. If you were a female high-school student interested in CS who got into Stanford and Emory, does that mean that (according to this study) you should go to Emory?!


  2. I do not take the ranking as in Emory better than Standford seriously. I do take the stats they do provide seriously and one can decide which stats one cares about.

    Emory has 26% of all CS majors are female

    Stanford has 20%

    Stanford has a lower acceptance rate and a higher starting salary. Using this information to inform your choice of where to go makes sense. Using just the ranking does not. And of course there are many other factors that are not here.

  3. You're ignoring biology and assuming that uneven distributions must be the consequence of people being "discouraged". There are widely documented differences in preferences between the sexes, which extend to preferred fields of study.

    1. Is this the guy who used to work at Google? ;)

  4. 1) Please provide pointers to such studies.

    2) The book I refer to about, inferior, debunks some such studies

    3) It is hard to disentangle biology from societal factors. Hence while the studies you refer to may exist and may be done honestly, its hard to do right currently.

    4) One reason why the studies may be incorrect is that soe schools (notably CMU) have made the atmosphere for women more welcoming and have had more women in CS do well.

    1. OH- I didn't refer to the book `inferior' in this post,
      it is in a later post. Here is the pointer to the book

    2. 1)

      2) I never said anything about inferiority, I talked about differences in preferences.

      3) That biology is hard to disentagle from societal factors is an ambivalent argument. Unless you have a preferred conclusion, the studies could be done wrong in both directions.

      4) You are already starting from the conclusion that the studies are wrong. Contrary to your assumptions sex segregation becomes stronger in more egalitarian countries:

    3. Apologies- despite you CLEARLY saying `preferences' I misread your original post.

      Thanks for pointers. Unfortunately they are behind paywalls but I'll see what I can do to find them.

      Studies could be wrong in both directions. Hmm:
      If society discourage X from doing Y then a study showing that X does not like doing Y could be biased by not being able to disentagle. I can't see that going the other way.

      Assume that the studies you point to are correct (I am not trying to back you in a corner or prove they are not- this is not a prove by contradiction). I would be interested in the folloiwng train of thought:

      a) In the year 1900 women did not do mathematics much. Societal reasons or natural preference. Lets say X% society, Y% nat pref. I would think that X sould be large and Y would be small.

      b) In the year 2017, assuming you are correct, X is now much smaller. (You think it is smaller than I think)

      So--- when did it change and why?

      Also- programs like CMU's and others seem to be generating interest in computer science and math in females. How does that square with the studies? I ask with respect and nonrhetorically.

    4. Also- if you email me privately we could continue this converation and perhaps make a joint co-post out of it.

    5. If biology is hard to disentangle from societal factors, then societal factors are hard to disentangle from biology. If the accepted narrative is to disregard biology from these phenomena, then studies could be biased by claiming that all effects are societal and not biological. See eg

      I agree with your characterization in principle, since it acknowledges the presence of biological factors, which is what I was arguing to begin with. Regarding X and Y, the societal factors diminish up until in the limit of an egalitarian society the biological factors become dominant. This is consistent with the fact that advanced egalitarian societies produce _larger_ sex differences, not smaller, indicating that biology is clearly (though not necessarily exclusively) at work. In these cases individuals are freer to express their "natural" preferences. This is the point I made at the end of my previous comment.

      Of course, any intervention that encourages certain behaviour may have effects, whether or not biology is a factor. However, what you will usually get when you're trying to counteract biology is that the intervention has more resistance, and even more significantly (and empirically distinguishable), it's results will regress as soon as your intervention ceases. There is a reference to this in a norwegian documentary that I can't remember right now.

      I am happy to continue this discussion privately. I am not so happy to express these opinions publicly because they usually entail unjustified accusations of sexism and bigotry.

    6. I have not gotten email from you yet- please email and we'll have a private conversation. Will make a joint blog post out of it ONLY if you agree to, and OKAY if you don't.

  5. If College Park has more female CS majors than Harvey Mudd has female students in total does the percentage matter so much?

    1. AH-the survey should have also included just total number of women. Both percent and total matter

      percent matters- if the percent is low then a women may likely be one of very few in a class.

      but number matters also-- For example UMCP has enough women to have a Women-in-Computing club and things of that nature.

      This brings out another point- rankings are a bad way to present data. An excel spreadsheet of the data where you can sort it on whichever col you want:
      percent of women
      number of women
      acceptance rate
      cost for 4 years (complicated because of financial aid)
      avg starting salary

      and then the user can look up and rank on whatever criteria they want.

  6. BTW the numbers on that list are not even remotely accurate (I am faculty at a school low on the list).

    1. I wish to alert the authors of this and get their take on it or have them correct it, but
      1) What school are you at (you can email be privately if you want)
      `the numberS on the list are not even remotely accurate'

      Do you know of other schools where it is incorrect?

      bill g.

  7. To add some more (readable) data to this discussion on biology: 1.
    2. 3. cheers, Valeria

  8. I did my bachelors in Iran. Our class's composition was ~10 males and ~40 females. I think this was partly because CS was not considered a top choice for males, they preferred engineering degrees which were more prestigious at the time and CS was a science degree.

    Same thing was true for math department, they were overwhelming females.