According to a press release this week from UCSC (Baskin School of Engineering promotes increased participation of women in computing), UCSC has had 40% increase in the number of women majoring in computer science in the past 2 years. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it is just spin.
The article does not say how big the increase in the number of men majoring in CS was over the same period. According to the 3 Quarter Average of Undergraduate Declared and Proposed Majors (historical, HC), the total CS majors went from 185.7 in 2008–09 to 294.9 in 2010–11 (fractions result from averaging over 3 quarters and from double majors). That is a 59% increase, so it seems like the fraction of women in CS has been dropping.
Indeed, this quarter, Undergraduate Majors by Gender (HC) shows 30.0 women and 259.5 men, or about 10.4% of the majors being female. Even adding the proposed majors (many of whom will disappear to easier majors) only gets the numbers to 57.0 and 467.0 (10.9% female). This is not quite the lowest ratio of women of any of the engineering departments at UCSC (bioinformatics 29%, computer engineering 10.6%, electrical engineering 8.5%, bioengineering 26.5%, information systems management 16.9%), but is certainly not a number to brag about. Actually, none of those numbers are anywhere near what they should be. (The bio- ones look relatively good, until you compare them with MCD bio, which is 59% women.)
Unfortunately, I can’t find on the planning website historical information about majors by gender, so I can’t do direct comparisons of the same measurements, but it looks to me like the engineering disciplines are getting worse gender imbalances, not better.
If the article had been about the growth in CS majors (thanks mostly to the game design major), it would have been a good, honest article. The accomplishment of growing CS enrollment at a time when many colleges are seeing shrinking CS enrollment is a story worth telling. But trumpeting the growth in female computer science majors, when their fraction of the CS majors is probably shrinking, is just sleazy advertising. I’m once again ashamed to be associated with a university that will stoop so low.