Jun 24, 2019

Another century of gender inequality in computer science

Expand chart
Reproduced from Wang et al., 2019, "Gender Trends in Computer Science Authorship" ; Chart: Axios Visuals

Female researchers, for decades largely boxed out of computer science, have in recent years entered the field in record numbers, but new research suggests the current rate of change is not nearly rapid enough to bring parity to the field within a lifetime.

Why it matters: The direction of computer science research is determined by the people who make up the field.

  • "Diversity affects the types of problems we choose to work on, the types of datasets we lean on, the types of algorithms we train," says Lucy Lu Wang, the paper's primary author from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
  • And the field's longstanding male dominance is self-reinforcing. Among the biggest barriers to women's participation are a lack of peer support, role models and mentorship, says Tess Posner, CEO of the nonprofit AI4ALL.

Key stat: A new analysis of 2.9 million computer science papers found that if current trends continue, it would take over a century for the number of male and female authors of computer science papers to be roughly equal.

  • Wang and her co-authors examined a huge trove of papers in Semantic Scholar, a search engine for academic research developed by the Allen Institute.
  • They projected the current trend of growing female authorship into the future, assuming that the ratio of male to female authors will level out — eventually — at around 1-to-1.
  • The red-letter year would be around 2137, according to their research.

The researchers also examined how computer scientists collaborate with one another, and found that men are increasingly likely to co-author papers with other men, even as the number of women in the field is growing.

  • This has major implications for progress toward parity, says Wang.
  • "If female authors entering the field are having even a slightly harder time finding collaborators who are not women, that's going to be challenge, because right now the total proportion of women is lower than men," she says.

What's next: "This shows that we need to intervene far, far earlier in the pipeline than intuitions would suggest," says Jack Clark, policy director at OpenAI. "There's solid evidence that people start dropping out of the pipeline in high school (and sometimes even earlier)."

Go deeper: AI is the future of discrimination

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 13 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 718,685 — Total deaths: 33,881 — Total recoveries: 149,076.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 139,675 — Total deaths: 2,436 — Total recoveries: 2,661.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump says peak coronavirus deaths in 2 weeks, extends shutdown

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump is extending his administration's "15 days to slow the spread" shutdown guidelines for an additional month in the face of mounting coronavirus infections and deaths and pressure from public health officials and governors.

Driving the news: With the original 15-day period that was announced March 16 about to end, officials around the country had been bracing for a premature call to return to normalcy from a president who's been venting lately that the prescription for containing the virus could be worse than the impacts of the virus itself.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health