The University of Southampton

Shortage of girls in computer science worse than ever, says Wendy Hall

Published: 
10 January 2012
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The shortage of girls studying computer science is worse than ever before, says Professor Dame Wendy Hall, speaking in The Guardian today.

Despite huge efforts by the scientific community to address the issue over many years, Professor Hall told The Guardian that girls still perceive computing to be “for geeks”, and that this has proved a “cultural” obstacle, impossible to overcome.

One of the world’s leading computer scientists, Professor Hall has also played a prominent role in shaping science and technology policy across the globe, and the issue of female participation in computer science has been high on her agenda throughout her career. She was Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton from 2002 to 2007, and is currently Dean of the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences at the University of Southampton.

In The Guardian article Professor Hall calls for computer science to be “given a buzz” to all pupils in primary schools, with the curriculum being reformed at secondary level. “Girls have been further put off by dumbing down computing to IT literacy,” she says. “They think that if they study computing they are going to become secretaries.”

Official figures show that in 2004 women made up 19 per cent of all students in undergraduate computer science degrees in the UK; by 2009, the figure had fallen to 16 per cent.

“Women and girls use technology as much if not more than boys and men do and it’s important that women are part of creating the future of this industry,” says Professor Hall.

The teaching of computer science in schools was also criticized by Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google at his MacTaggart Lecture during the Edinburgh Festival last year.

The careers prospects for computer science graduates from highly-rated courses (such as those offered in ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton) continue to be excellent. ECS has one of the highest employment rates in the UK for its graduates, and the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences Careers Fair, on 7 February 2012, will be bigger than ever before, with 65 companies offering graduate roles and internships.

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See also: A new year challenge on programming ..., also in today's (10 January 2012) Guardian.

For further information on this story contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

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