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Jobs Learning

The Public Image of the Female Programmer

(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

The Labor Department has estimated that there will be 1.4 million job openings for computer-related occupations this decade. On the heels of less-than-stellar jobs numbers, this should be welcome news to millennials planning their career paths. But, as Catherine Rampell wrote in this week’s New York Times Magazine, few young women are choosing the computer science field, despite its potential for high incomes and flexibility.

Why is this? Rampell suggests that computer science has a “public-image problem,” and there aren’t enough narratives of successful women in the field. There isn’t even a major pop-culture example. (The Social Network, for example, helped improve the public’s perception of programmers, but didn’t include many prominent female characters.) In real life, just a quarter of all Americans in computer-related occupations are women, and most students aren’t learning the right skills in school required to fill open jobs.

There are skills gaps in many other areas of the U.S. economy, but, as Rampell writes, “nowhere, arguably, are workers leaving more money and benefits on the table than computer science.” As young girls are pressured to balance careers and family, how can we push them to “Lean In” to jobs in computer science and engineering? Perhaps Hollywood will offer the best solution.

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