Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Building Strength in Computer Science: A new study from AAAS

28.06.2005


Employment in computer- and internet-related fields is notoriously volatile, but recent developments have raised concerns about the long-term future: The number of undergraduates seeking computer science degrees is down sharply since 2000. The number of women seeking such degrees has plunged. And few minority students are winning advanced degrees in the field.



Now a new study from AAAS has concluded that recruitment of "non-traditional" students into computer science studies and jobs will be critical in keeping the U.S. workforce strong. And yet, the report says, this growing pool of students often is overlooked and underserved by higher education, government and industry.

Traditional students fit a familiar mold: They start college at 18 or 19, and they leave four or five years later with a bachelor’s degree. Others, however, defy the stereotype: They’re older. They may have children. While working full-time, they’re seeking new skills or advancement. And many are women and minorities.


"Our workplaces are becoming more technologically dependent, not less so," said report co-author Shirley Malcom, AAAS director of Education and Human Resources. "If you accept that for economic and national security reasons we need people with skills in these areas, then how can you be sanguine with the idea that we’re not getting the people we need?"

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the authors conducted surveys, visited colleges and universities and interviewed students, instructors and employers from 2000 to 2004. Their report is entitled "Preparing Women and Minorities for the IT Workforce: The Role of Nontraditional Educational Pathways."

Tanya Gunn, today a high-ranking computer technology executive, embodies the trend.

Gunn studied psychology at Howard University for three years, but then, driven by a desire for financial independence, she left school and went to work as a secretary at the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C. She showed a flair for computers; though she won promotions, she knew that she needed more training and a degree to make the most of her potential.

By that time she was married and had two daughters. And so, in the early 1980s, she began taking night classes at the University of Maryland, University College.

She was older, she’s black, she’s a woman—and in those early years, she wasn’t always welcome in the world of computer geeks. "There weren’t that many women majoring in computer sciences," Gunn said in an interview. "I kind of struggled because a lot of the guys in the class, including the instructors, really were stand-offish. It was like I had the plague, and they didn’t know what I was doing there. ’She’s a girl—let’s don’t talk to her. This is a boys’ club’."

But semester by semester, she won respect; in time, fellow students and faculty members came to see her as a leader.

After 17 years of part-time study, Gunn graduated in 2001. Today, after a series of promotions, she is manager of change and problem management at the American Chemical Society, overseeing centralized communication and tracking of IT upgrades to promote better understanding of the changes across the organization.

The new report found such themes common among non-traditional students. Even now, the authors report, traditional four-year schools often are not structured to meet their needs. Instructors are not always sensitive. And the financial aid system gives advantages to traditional students.

One result: For-profit schools such as Strayer University and DeVry Institute of Technology were the top U.S. producers of computer science bachelor’s degrees in 2001.

Another result: Few women and minorities are getting advanced degrees in computer science. In remarks at a Capitol Hill briefing in May, Malcom said that of 866 computer science doctorates issued by U.S. universities in 2003, 20.2 percent went to women. She said 17 such degrees went to African Americans; three to Mexican Americans, two to American Indians; and two to Puerto Ricans.

Though the report was begun during the dot-com boom, its findings remain important for the future, the authors say.

Eleanor Babco, executive director of the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology (CPST), said a recent study by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles showed the percentage of incoming undergraduates who planned to major in computer science declined over 60 percent between 2000 and 2004.

"Alarmingly," she added, "the proportion of women who thought that they might major in computer science has fallen to levels unseen since the early 1970s…. It is difficult to see how computer sciences can match expected future demand for IT workers without raising women’s participation at the undergraduate level.

The report recommends more effort to accommodate non-traditional students at traditional schools; more faculty diversity; more public and private investment in schools that serve non-traditional students; and expanded financial aid to encourage internet technology students to study part-time in areas of "national need."

"Preparing Women and Minorities for the IT Workforce" was written by Malcom; Babco; Albert H. Teich, AAAS director of Science and Policy; Jolene Kay Jesse, formerly a senior research associate at AAAS who is now with the U.S. National Science Foundation; Lara Campbell, a senior program associate at AAAS; and Nathan E. Bell, a CPST research associate.

Earl Lane | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.aaas.org
http://www.aaas.org/publications/books_reports/ITW/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>