Minding the Confidence Gap: How 16 Top Computer Science Programs Measure Up

The difference in self-confidence between male and female computer science students can vary significantly across the leading departments

Mind the Gap painted on a train platform
Credit: rjp

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In their book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman presented compelling evidence that women, in general, have less confidence in their abilities than men, which negatively affects their outcomes in the corporate world. Is this difference in self-confidence a real thing in the tech world? To help examine that, Piazza, a platform used by college students to ask and answer each others’ class-related questions, recently used data on more than 2 million questions generated by almost 1 million undergraduate and graduate students at schools in the U.S. and Canada to calculate the “gender confidence gap” in various fields of study.

Defining the gender confidence gap as the percentage difference between the average number of questions answered by male and female students, Piazza found a confidence gap of -37% between men and women in computer science. This gap was greater than that between the genders in non-CS STEM fields (-18%), humanities (-7%), social sciences (+5%), and business (+11%).

While the Piazza findings provide evidence of a confidence gap in computer science overall, how does the gap vary by school? Click on the Next arrow above to see gender confidence gap as calculated by Piazza for U.S. News & World Report’s top 16 graduate computer science departments in 2014.

See also:

Female programmers are less confident than male programmers

If this then that: 9 programing skills and the jobs they could lead to

Diversity among tech workers: How 11 well-known companies stack up

15 GOTO schools for the best programming jobs

Show me the ROI: The 10 computer science programs with the biggest payoff

Female software engineers may be even scarcer than thought

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Confidence gap: -35%
Credit: See-ming Lee
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 1st (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.69 (51%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 2.29 (60%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 0.84 (37%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.55 (44%)

Confidence Gap*: -35%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

Carnegie Mellon University. Confidence gap: -62%
Credit: Nida Haider
Carnegie Mellon University

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 1st (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 4.09 (25%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 4.18 (30%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.25 (20%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.48 (33%)

Confidence Gap*: -62%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

Stanford University. Confidence gap: -49%
Credit: Hammerin Man
Stanford University

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 1st (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.77 (40%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 2.24 (59%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 0.85 (23%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.43 (52%)

Confidence Gap*: -49%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

University of California, Berkeley. Confidence gap: -51%
University of California, Berkeley

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 1st (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 2.00 (46%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 2.39 (55%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.76 (32%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.86 (40%)

Confidence Gap*: -51%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

University of Illinois at ​Urbana-​Champaign: Confidence gap: -49%
University of Illinois at ​Urbana-​Champaign

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 5th

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 2.27 (47%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 2.64 (52%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.33 (25%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.67 (27%)

Confidence Gap*: -49%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

Cornell University. Confidence gap: -60%
Cornell University

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 6th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.73 (49%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 1.94 (62%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.04 (34%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.41 (43%)

Confidence Gap*: -60%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

University of Washington. Confidence gap: -32%
University of Washington

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 6th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 0.71 (28%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 0.78 (45%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 0.33 (14%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.22 (13%)

Confidence Gap*: -32%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

Princeton University. Confidence gap: -32%
Princeton University

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 8th

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 3.09 (54%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 3.41 (67%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.25 (46%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.85 (57%)

Confidence Gap*: -32%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

Georgia Institute of Technology. Confidence gap: -56%
Credit: Will Folsom
Georgia Institute of Technology

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 9th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.69 (37%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 1.88 (56%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.31 (15%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.58 (37%)

Confidence Gap*: -56%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

The University of Texas at Austin. Confidence gap: -33%
Credit: Guðsþegn
The University of Texas at Austin

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 9th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.78 (46%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 2.34 (59%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.65 (23%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 1.11 (34%)

Confidence Gap*: -33%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

California Institute of Technology. Confidence gap: +22%
Credit: Dhilung
California Institute of Technology

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 11th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.26 (44%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 1.08 (38%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 0.48 (31%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.58 (14%)

Confidence Gap*: +22%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

University of Wisconsin-Madison. Confidence gap: -29%
Credit: Richard Hurd
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 11th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.27 (45%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 1.70 (61%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 0.75 (28%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.53 (50%)

Confidence Gap*: -29%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

University of California, Los Angeles. Confidence gap: -25%
University of California, Los Angeles

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 13th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.42 (51%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 1.98 (65%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.04 (33%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.78 (36%)

Confidence Gap*: -25%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza

University of Michigan. Confidence gap: -49%
Credit: AndrewHorne
University of Michigan

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 13th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 2.60 (53%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 2.86 (70%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 1.70 (22%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.86 (51%)

Confidence Gap*: -49%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Piazza 

Columbia University. Confidence gap: -30%
Credit: Urban
Columbia University

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 15th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.32 (55%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 1.48 (69%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 0.67 (37%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.47 (55%)

Confidence Gap*: -30%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World ReportPiazza

University of California, San Diego. Confidence gap: -18%
Credit: O Palsson
University of California, San Diego

Rank among U.S. computer science graduate programs: 15th (tied)

Questions asked per male (% asked anonymously): 1.25 (53%)

Questions asked per female (% asked anonymously): 1.51 (60%)

Questions answered per male (% answered anonymously): 0.85 (30%)

Questions answered per female (% answered anonymously): 0.70 (34%)

Confidence Gap*: -18%

* Confidence Gap = ((Average questions answered/female) - (Average questions answered/male))/(Average questions answered/male)

Sources: U.S. News & World ReportPiazza