Racial diversity of the CS pipeline

Data about our progress regarding diversity of gender plus race/ethnicity in the computer science pipeline over the past decade.

I’ve previously written a couple of articles about the male/female ratio in the tech industry (computer science) pipeline.

I didn’t include the race/ethnicity breakdown because I didn’t have a good source that had both race/ethnicity and gender. But I found one! I had previously looked through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tables, but those didn’t have the breakdown I was looking for. However NCES also publishes a web site, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), that basically lets you query their database in some very painful and constrained ways. After much wrangling, I got the data I was after – but I could only query the last 10 years.

So let’s look!

First, an area-chart showing the proportional makeup of recipients of US bachelor’s degrees in computer science, broken down by gender and race/ethnicity.

CS Degrees awarded broken down by gender and race/ethnicity (area chart) (larger image)

Men are on the left in lighter colors, women on the right in darker colors. Forgive the numbers 1-6; that was the only way I could get Excel to show race/ethnicity in my desired order. I excluded 2010 due to some changes to the way they did the counting that caused some distracting discontinuity.

Some immediate observations:

  • The percentage of white men in CS dropped steadily from around 53% to 40% over the decade.
  • The percentages of both Asian men and women are increasing steadily.
  • The percentages of both Hispanic/Latino men and women are slowly increasing.
  • The percentages of both Black men and Black women are slowly decreasing.
  • The percentage of women is slowly increasing, mostly driven by increases in Asian women.

I’m happy to see at least some modest increase in the Hispanic/Latino community! But dismayed to see that we’re losing ground with the Black community. We need to do better!

Let’s see how that breaks down in absolute numbers:

CS Degrees awarded broken down by gender and race/ethnicity (bar chart) (larger image)

As I’ve written before, you can see that we’re experiencing a period of strong growth in computer science overall, which is great. Even though the percentage of white men is dropping, the total number is still growing, so our modest diversity gain isn’t because they’re being pushed out.

Let’s filter down to our most under-represented races/ethnicities so we can see the numbers better.

CS Degrees of our most under-represented races/ethnicities (larger image)

I’ve tried to add labels in a readable way. You can see that in all groups, the total numbers are growing. But because the computer science community is growing so fast on all fronts, only in the Hispanic and Latino community is the growth fast enough to lead to an increasing percentage of the CS community.

Even though the number of Black graduates to receive CS degrees has more than doubled in the last 10 years, the overall percentage of CS degrees going to Black graduates has fallen slightly.

And of course, we need to bring our Native American, Alaskan, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community more into CS, too.

So – we still have a LOT of work to do!

Note: cover image courtesy of #WOCinTech, wocintechchat.com

Leave a Reply