What a perfect day to launch the Boolean Girl website. We selected May 30th because it is a historical day of significance for women in computer science. May 30, 1944, Grace Hopper, Admiral US Navy, received her commission.
Who was Admiral Hopper? She was a female pioneer in the world of computer scientists. She is recognized as one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. She developed early compilers and popularized the term, “bug.”
During the 40s, most computer scientists were women. Times have changed.
In 1986, she spoke to my graduating ROTC class. Her stories were fascinating. From all her stories, the same trait carried through and stuck with me all these years, she was a risk taker and pushed others to take chances. Admiral Hopper, or Amazing Grace, inspired generations of women and men. She was the original Boolean Girl.
Fast forward 74 years, Google released its diversity figures today or, should I say, lack of diversity figures. I am not being critical of Google. At least, they are willing to admit there is an issue with diversity in the IT world.
While the numbers are disappointing, Google’s announcement does bring light to the bigger issue: “In 2012, 12% of computer science undergraduate degrees at major research universities went to women. In 1985 that number was 37%, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.”
Those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.
The chart below shows the progress in all Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. What happened to the days of Grace Hopper? Where did the women in computer science go?
Across the board, women earned 39% of STEM degrees in 1985. Women in Computer Science lagged at 37%. Since 1985, women have gained equality in STEM, earning about 50% of the degrees. But, in Computer Science, women earn less than 20% of the degrees awarded.
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