The Reality of Being A Computer “Nerd”

We’ve all seen the TV shows and movies that have one character who wears awkward glasses, always has their shirt tucked in, is a little quirky in social gatherings, etc. And every time that character happens to be that one person who’s extremely skilled with computers. As someone who loves technology, you have to wonder how accurate media’s portrayal of people who are skilled with technology really is. I mean, I’m not sure about you, but social skills aren’t lacking (for the most part) in my own life, I don’t wear crooked glasses or tuck in my shirt for every occasion. Perhaps this stereotypical narrative is changing over time, and if the times are as digressing as they seem, how does today’s representation of computer scientists affect the market place?

Thankfully, there is a multitude of research surrounding the public’s perception of computer scientists. Current studies show why it has been challenging, regardless of years of effort, to recruit women into computer science. This explanation, at its core, comprises the stereotypical depiction of the computer scientist – an image that is prevalent in popular culture and in the minds of students—as someone who is male, extremely intelligent, unusually obsessed with computers, and socially awkward. However, according to a recent study conducted by Christine M. Pearson, a Professor at UNC, and Mike Yang, a Professor at Temple, less than a third of computer science majors in their study described themselves at “geeks”. Computer scientist overall happen to create an extremely diverse audience making up dozens of nationalities, races, and genders; quite frankly most computer scientist understands they are not what the media tries to portray them as. One might ask, how skewed is this misconceived notion exactly?

Interestingly enough, Google’s Computer Science Media team discovered a variety of findings concerning the lack of women in tech as well as the causations behind the media’s portrayal of technical professionals. Their team performed a diverse and in-depth study of computer science related storylines through dozens of TV series and movies. They found that a vast majority of the computer scientist characters were cast as white and male. Only 25% of these characters were female and only 9% of the lead character roles (in the studied films) were female. In another research survey conducted by Google, they found that 27% of women make their decision on whether or not to pursue a career in tech based upon public perception.

 According to, there are currently over 500,000 computer science jobs available in the job market, but only 43,000 United States citizens graduating each year with computer science degrees. While this does include U.S. Citizens graduating with MIS degrees or Americans who received various tech certifications from tech institutions, this statistic helps identify the growing need for computer scientists. With President Trump’s new executive order on AI, one can only wonder how significantly the information technology job market might grow over time. This means that, now more than ever, it is important for computer scientists, programmers, developers, and IT specialists alike to understand the importance of the public’s perception of the computer science field. If women and other minority groups continue to feel like a career in computer science is exclusive to the “nerdy guy” or exclusionary to any one demographic sub group, then studies suggest they likely will not enter the tech workforce. Ever.

So what can be done to fight these rather negative stereotypes? What brought you into the tech workforce?