Network: Women reap rewards but prospects look grim

Silicon Goddesses have one thing in common - someone inspired them at a very young age to learn to love maths

ONE OF the best parties of the summer season in Silicon Valley must be the annual knees-up of the Women in Technology Association, where beautiful Pamela Anderson lookalikes get together to celebrate their love for technology and their wise career choice. This year, some 5,000 women programmers and computer scientists gathered in San Jose, California, to celebrate being in the right place at the right time.

They had good reason to break open the bubbly and toast their good fortune, since the past year has seen huge increases in salaries in the computing industry. Women have not only benefited from these larger pay packets, but have also been getting involved in leading-edge projects, managing larger teams and, in short, breaking all the ceilings that were left from the old macho days of computing.

A number of Silicon Goddesses, as they are called there - have joined the ranks of IT directors, and there has also been an increase in the number of women professors employed in computer science departments. So have we managed to complete the transition from Fifties housewives into Nineties engineers? Hardly, as Tracy Camp, an assistant professor of computer science from the University of Alabama, found in her recent study of trends concerning the uptake of computer science students.

Today's female successes in information technology were part of the peak intake of women computer science students in the early Eighties, when almost 40 per cent of entrants were women. Ten years later, Camp found that female intake had dwindled to around 25 per cent. She attributes the drop to women having less experience playing computer games as children, gender discrimination, the long hours programmers are required to work, the lack of role models and the antisocial image of the typical computer hacker.

This picture is even more worrying in the UK, where the last few years have seen the intake of female computer science students drop to less than 5 per cent, from 33 per cent a decade ago. So where have we gone wrong? The reasons Tracy Camp lists in her study are no doubt contributing to the problem. However, from reading the biographies of great female computer scientists or programmers such as Ada Lovelace and Grace Hooper (who published the first paper on compilers), and from chatting to the current Silicon Goddesses both here and in the US, it is clear that they have one thing in common. Someone inspired them at a very young age to learn to love mathematics.

Perhaps the biggest failure of our education system is that it allows girls to drop the subject at the tender age of 14. Talking to some of the key female players in Silicon Valley, I heard the same story: of women being encouraged by their parents to continue studying mathematics. Kathy Richards, of Digital Equipment Corporation, told of how her father encouraged her to stick with the subject when she was 15 despite her desire to be a ballet dancer. She took his advice and studied maths at Yale University (following in Grace Hooper's footsteps) and she has never looked back.

Mathematics are the cornerstone of computing careers, and young girls should be encouraged, be it by mild persuasion or bribery, to carry on with the subject at least until university age. Then they may want to take the traditional option and study for an arts or business degree, but at least they will have the choice of taking up computing. Someone who hasn't seen a maths book since the age of 14 does not have that choice any more. Those who have encouraging parents or inspiring maths teachers are in a better position to seek a computing career that pays well, is creative and provides the opportunity to work with nice, mild men (male computer scientists are not sexists, as Tracy Camp suggests in her study; in fact, they tend to be creative characters who in general make wonderful friends and colleagues).

So how do you help your little girl to become a Grace Hooper of the 21st century? Thankfully, in the Internet era this is a lot easier than before. Start her on http://www.horsewhisperer.co.uk where she can see the beautiful trailer for the chic-flick of the year. Then get her to create a website for her own horse, cat, or pop idol. Seeing her own pictures being published to the world and receiving some

e-mails as a result usually does the trick. Before you know it, she will be buying JavaScript for Dummies to work out how to do rollovers on her new, animal-oriented website.

Carry on until she is 18, and then call Janet Stack from Women Into Computing to help her get in touch with the rest of the Web crazy female gang (http://www.awc- hg.org). But that is assuming you have spent the first 18 years of her life holding her hand through homework on non-Euclidean geometry and advanced algebra. That is what helped Grace Hooper and many other women to become key computer industry players.

It is you, the parents, who can help get more women into computing. So if your little girl wants to be a computer scientist, start early; either sort her out with an Internet connection or drag her to your local cybercafe at least once a week to join other girls playing in cyberspace. Then a good computing degree from somewhere like Imperial or University College London should be followed by a PhD from, say, Standford University, and voila, she'll be on route to her first scientific breakthrough (and possibly first pounds 1m). You hold the key to her career; make sure she has all the options.

eva@never.com

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee