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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Science, Engineering Studies Are Still a Hard Sell to Women


Ph.D. student Caitlin Cramer uses a machine that can print electrical circuits and solar cells at a lab at the University of Washington.

Computer science and engineering are gaining in popularity as undergraduate and graduate courses of study, but men continue to flock to those lucrative disciplines in significantly larger numbers than women.

Credit: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Women earned just 21 percent of U.S. undergraduate engineering degrees and an even smaller share of computer science degrees, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Although almost half of all bachelor's degrees earned in the sciences and engineering in the 2015-2016 academic year went to women, more than twice as many women received bachelor's degrees in psychology last year as they did undergraduate degrees in computer science, engineering, and the physical sciences combined, according to the Clearinghouse study.

University of Michigan professor Erin Cech says reframing the skills needed to succeed in hard sciences and engineering, including communication, teamwork, and creative problem-solving, rather than just technical capabilities, could help draw more women to the subjects. Cech notes the biases that erode women's confidence in science and engineering are "pernicious and stubborn."

From The Wall Street Journal
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