SWE and Oracle: encouraging women in CS
In recent years, there have been numerous articles pointing out the significant lack of women in the top executive positions. Things look great when you look at the bottom of the totem pole. In 2012, 44% of the Business degrees were awarded to women, which matched well with the percentage of women in the general workforce (46%; See Figure 1). However, the percentage of women at the very top drops off significantly when you actually consider who is in charge (19% in the executive board and 5% female CEOs).
This is also a common problem in science and engineering; however, at the college level business schools are doing a much better job of educating an equal number of men and women. Actually, the numbers are somewhat dismal in engineering. The percentage of engineering degrees awarded to women is around 18% (See Figure 2) and has been slowly declining for the past 10 years. The drop in females receiving engineering degrees is partially due to a large decline in women entering computer science in college. It will obviously be a difficult to increase the number of women engineers in the workforce, if there are not enough women graduating with engineering degrees.
Encouraging young women interested in Computer Science
Each year the Bay Area Society of Women Engineers (SWE) awards 5-7 scholarships to graduating female seniors that will be attending college for engineering or computer science during the following school year. In 2015, I was elected to the position of Scholarship Chair (yay!!), which provided me with some historical information about the awards — both donor information and awardees.
One of the biggest and most consistent donors for the annual GGS scholarship fund has been The Oracle Corporation, which is based out of Redwood City, California. After learning about Oracle’s historical contributions to GGS, I wanted to find out more about their efforts to improve diversity in computer science — both at Oracle and in the local community.
So what is Oracle doing to improve the future of STEM diversity?
Generally, it is quite difficult to know the demographic numbers release by tech companies. For example, women generally consist of a mere 25-30% of the entire workforce at the top tech companies, with Amazon leading at a whopping 37%. However, when you consider employees only technical positions (i.e. computer scientist or engineer), the numbers drop even lower to 11%. While the numbers can be quite misleading, if you can find them, there as been a shift in the top IT companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple to take a hard look at themselves to see how they can work to improve diversity in the workforce.
Oracle has published their own diversity report stating the number of women and minorities in the Oracle workforce (29% and 37%, respectively). While it is difficult to discern the breakdown of job titles, their report states that 34% of managers are minorities and 25% of managers are women. Looking at the top, Oracle’s executive board has one woman at the executive level (one of four) and five others on the board (19.3%). Interestingly, Oracle’s numbers are on par with other Fortune 500 companies, but are quite low in the general workforce (Figure 1). However, this difference is likely due to a higher percentage of tech positions versus nontechnical positions — similar to Google’s report.
Each year, Oracle’s donation to the GGS has honored two female students majoring in Computer Science. These students have attended top universities, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Yale. Similarly, Oracle has donated to other organizations to provide educational grants, including Girls Who Code, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and the East Bay National Society of Black Engineers. Providing students with an education scholarship in a specific area like computer science or engineering may provide extra support to those students to let them know that “Yes, you do belong here.”