I am planning to apply for postdoc positions in computer science (CS) departments, preferably in the US or Europe. I have searched several computer science departments/research groups at different universities to see the current projects and Postdoc researchers. I saw that most current postdocs are men. So, the following questions came into my mind:

  1. Is it because either women did not apply for the position, or were the women's applications unsatisfactory to get the position?

  2. Is it true that women do not have much interest and hence success in CS than men? or lets say are men in general better in CS than women?

  3. Although it is unethical, is it true to assume that the CS members have tendency to hire men more than women in reality?

  4. If answer to Q3 is "yes," what would be the most effective motivations to encourage the hiring of women postdocs in CS?

  5. For women who have recently finished their PhD's, is it better to apply for academic research fellows or industry research positions?

  • 1
    I think the best one to answer this question is @JeffE since he is "the chair of the faculty recruiting committee in a top-5 US CS department".
    – Espanta
    Dec 26, 2013 at 4:53
  • (With rare exceptions, CS departments in the US don't hire postdocs; individual faculty do that. But I'll try to answer anyway.)
    – JeffE
    Dec 26, 2013 at 4:55
  • A slideshow about whether CS being heavily male-dominated is due to innate differences in ability: slideshare.net/terriko/…?
    – Liana
    Dec 26, 2013 at 11:07
  • 2
    I don't think there is any discrimination - our CS dep. in Canada is full with female post-docs. I think however that - in general - there are less female CS students compared to male students. In a typical CS undergrad class in my school, 10% of students are female students - on average.
    – AJed
    Dec 26, 2013 at 20:25

3 Answers 3


I can only answer for Europe, but I assume JeffE is going to provide high-quality info for the US anyway.

I saw the most of current postdocs are men.

With some exceptions, this is unfortunately very true across Europe. And not only post-docs. It gets worse the higher "up" you go in hierarchy.

1- Is it because either the women did not apply for postdoc or women's applications couldn't make the CS community or individual faculty members satisfied?

In Vienna, where I did my PhD, we simply received basically no female applications. It was not a question of my professor not being satisfied with the female candidates - in the majority of cases, there simply were none.

2- Is it true that women do not have much interest and hence success in CS than men? or lets say are men -in general- better in CS than women?

I am sure that women are able to do CS just fine. We just "lose" them some time during school. How this happens is a question of reasonably heated debate (gender studies etc.), and I do not feel qualified to answer it competently.

3- Although it is not ethically feasible, is it true to assume that the CS members have tendency to hire men more than women in reality?

This will surely be true for some individuals, but by and large the official university policy in most places is that "equally qualified" female candidates should be hired over male ones, and this actually seems to be the case. In general, as most universities are pretty desperate to increase their quota of females in higher positions, being a top female researcher will actually make it easier for you to get a strong postdoc or junior faculty position in Europe. Edit: I should make clear that the last sentence is based on personal opinion and anecdotal evidence more than anything else.

5- For the women who newly finished PhD, is better to apply for academic research fellows or industry research positions?

Follow your heart. I don't feel gender should play into this decision. Anyway, in Europe there are preciously little industry research positions, so for the most part it's either academic research or industrial practice over here.


Is it due to lack of applications or lack of qualifications?

I am sure it is mostly due to the lack of applications due to the extremely small number of women studying computer science. Listen to episode 54 of the stack overflow podcast where they discuss how few applications they receive from women. If you consider women are a very small minority of people who have CS bachelors degrees (qualified for SO position) then we can assume that only a tiny percentage of those will continue studying for a PhD.

Is it true that women aren't as interested in CS? Or are they not as good at it?

It is obvious it is the former, women are not as drawn to the profession. Although they are as good as men at CS, if not better. There are societal pressures and influences that may subconsciously guide women to work in a profession that is considered more feminine (humanities, nursing and teaching for example). In this way women are more attracted to other areas because of social influence and simultaneously pushed away from CS. I feel that most of the time these are not conscious decisions. However it may be a conscious decision but women don't like explicitly stating social pressure as the reason for their career choice.

There is also the case where women would like to work in the profession but are repelled by the idea of working alongside mostly men as they feel they won't fit in with the group. They may also feel that they would be discriminated against in the hiring process and career progression. There are many reasons why women are not as interested in CS but not being as good as men is not one of those reasons.

Do some members of the CS community favour men over women?

Some, but only a small minority of people favour men over women. In fact many organisations encourage the hiring of women.

Should a woman apply for an academic institution or for an industry position?

This is up to the specific person and you cannot simply generalise by gender in this situation.

  • 6
    I've worked alongside female computer scientists – programmers, analysts, testers, students – in both academia and the workplace. They weren't inferior in any way, and many of them were damn good at it. If the numbers are relatively low, though, it's hard to pinpoint why that might be. I tend to think (or at least hope) it's more due to stronger interests in other areas than because social pressures pushing them away. Shame on anyone who would either squash the dream of an interested young woman or be skeptical about ability based on gender bias.
    – J.R.
    Dec 26, 2013 at 13:10
  • @J.R. My point about social influence was not so much "women can't do CS because of X". Rather I was describing the more subtle and subconscious social influences that over time push people in certain directions and which explain why women have stronger interests in other areas. For example they might not be aware that they are interested in teaching or nursing because society prescribes these as feminine jobs. There is a push and pull effect. Women are attracted to those jobs and men aren't. Vice versa for CS. Dec 26, 2013 at 22:29
  • "In this way women are more attracted to other areas because of social influence and simultaneously pushed away from CS" this seems like something that would need a reference.
    – wimi
    Oct 10, 2020 at 11:43

Something to consider is the atmosphere at a particular institution. Where I attend, about 20% of our CS staff are female. That is, unfortunately, quite high for a CS department. But the problem is not unique to Computer Science. This disproportion exists across many of the sciences. Try to find an institute where the number of women---both faculty and students---is high. That department will be one that is already proactively hiring females. If the tables were turned, I would be more comfortable in that setting, anyway, but that may be my personality.

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