This article is published in the September 2006 issue.

Sustained Fall in Share of Undergrad CS Degrees Granted to Women

Computer science has the dubious distinction of being the only science field to see a fall in the share of its bachelor’s degrees granted to women between 1983 and 2002. Among all S&E fields tracked by the NSF, linguistics was the only other discipline to see its share of women drop—but it is a field where the majority of degrees (71 percent) are granted to women.

Between 1983 and 2002, the share of CS bachelor’s degrees awarded to women dropped from 36 to 27 percent. The number of female degree recipients grew by 50 percent in that period, and in 2002 numbered 13,504. Nevertheless, this was lower than the 15,126 degrees granted to women in 1986, during the last boom in degree production.

It is notable that the drop in women’s representation did not recover during the surge in bachelor’s degree production that occurred in the late 1990s. In fact, the interest of incoming freshmen women in CS as a major has fallen for the past several years, and is now at its lowest point since the late 1970s.


National Science Board. 2006. Science and Engineering Indicators 2006. Two volumes. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation (volume 1, NSB 06-01; volume 2, NSB 06-01A).

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, Science and Engineering Degrees: 1966-2001, NSF 04-311, Project Officers, Susan T. Hill and Jean M. Johnson (Arlington, VA 2004).

Sustained Fall in Share of Undergrad CS Degrees Granted to Women