High school senior Vanessa Pena fell in love with computer science the day her fifth-grade teacher brought a computer to class, dismantled it and told students to reassemble it.
The 17-year-old is looking forward to pursuing a career in programming or information technology but admits she sometimes feels intimidated by the male-dominated industry.
You have to prove yourself a little bit more in computer science when youre a woman, because people think its not a career for women, she said.
Officials at the National Center for Women & Information Technology say women accounted for 18 percent of computer and information-science bachelors degrees in U.S. colleges in 2010 a 51 percent drop from 1985, when a wave of women earned high-tech degrees.
The womens movement at the end of the 80s was very strong, and there was a spike in women going to college and also during the dotcom frenzy in the early 90s, but that momentum has slowed, said Ruthe Farmer, director of strategic initiatives at the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Its hard to say why. If we knew that, we could fix it.
A shortage of computer scientists is a problem in Idaho, where Treasure Valley technology leaders complain of a chronic talent shortage that stunts some software companies growth, even though the jobs pay well.
The Idaho Statesman contributed.