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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

51 mins ago - Health

CDC panel endorses Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12-to 15-year-olds, following the FDA's emergency use authorization.

Why it matters: Approval from the CDC panel was the final step needed before inoculations could be offered at any vaccination site for this age group.

  • Pfizer has said its vaccine is 100% effective at protecting against COVID-19 in a trial of more than 2,200 children between the ages of 12 and 15.

GOP lawmakers downplay Capitol riot at House hearing

Photo: Jon Cherry via Getty Images

Republican members of Congress sought to minimize the Capitol insurrection at a House hearing on Wednesday, with statements calling pro-Trump rioters "patriots" and other lawmakers falsely denying demonstrators were supporters of the former president at all.

Driving the news: The hearing comes shortly after House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from leadership over her criticism of former President Trump's actions leading up to and on Jan. 6.

McConnell, McCarthy say 2017 tax law is "red line" in infrastructure talks

The top Republicans in the House and Senate told reporters after meeting with President Biden at the White House that "there is a bipartisan desire to get an outcome" on an infrastructure package, but stressed that revisiting the 2017 tax cuts is a "red line."

Why it matters: Wednesday marked the first time that Biden has hosted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the White House.