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The Gender Gap in Computing

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Girls Schools

Girls

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The Problem

Girls aren't interested in technology.

Why? Because most girls equate computing with geeky boys sitting in front of computer monitors all day playing games or programming. That seems like a pretty boring activity which is not worth getting involved with. They don't see the possibilities which technology offers. They don't understand the excitement of exploring and creating new worlds because we parents don't insist that our schools present the opportunity attractively.

The Fix

  • Encourage girls to explore technology by providing appealing activities.
  • Retain their interest by designing courses which appeal to girls.
  • Inspire girls to pursue careers in technology by providing attractive role models.

We can connect with girls by making technology appealing and useful in their lives. Girls adore their cell phones and iPods. So courses in digital photography and recording are the logical first step. Then stimulate their interest in Web design and video production. After they will see that the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Girls Don't Want To Be Geeks

Tech-Savvy points out that girls are not interested in programming. It further places the blame squarely at the feet of institutions and faculties which refuse to be proactive in making computer science more accessible and appealing to both genders. In other words, if we want to get girls to attend computer camps, Saturday camps or after school technology activities, we have to design them with girls' interests in mind.

Current Status

Barriers

Many subtle roadblocks discourage girls from entering the male dominated world of technology. Gender stereotyping is one barrier girls can encounter in school. Some teachers and administrators still send subtle signals indicating that girls should take home economics or art history as opposed to learning technology or advanced sciences. The issue of career paths builds on that very limited stereotype. If you subscribe to that point of view, then suitable careers for women are nursing or teaching. This kind of thinking prevents girls from getting the training which will ensure them high paying technology-related jobs in later life. What are the teachers in your daughter's school doing to encourage your child to pursue whatever field she chooses?

The AAUW Educational Foundation Commission on Technology, Gender, and Teacher Education takes aim at this prejudice with the following findings:

"Girls are an untapped source of talent to lead the high-tech economy and culture. Curriculum developers, teachers, technology experts, and schools need to cultivate girls' interest by infusing technology concepts and uses into subject areas ranging from music to history to the sciences in order to interest a broader array of learners."

"The commission makes it clear that girls are critical of the computer culture, not computer phobic. Instead of trying to make girls fit into the existing computer culture, the computer culture must become more inviting for girls."

Women make up more than half of the work force yet hold only 28% of technology positions. We need to attract women to technology to relieve our shortage of skilled workers. The technology industry has been screaming for several years now that it needs more skilled programmers and other technology professionals. Instead of raising the H1-B Visa ceiling, Congress should invest in the future of American technology by proactively training and encouraging women to enter the technology job force.

Initiatives such as GirlStart.org, GirlsGoTech and GirlTech.com are steps in the right direction.

Background

"When students see people like themselves in a field, they are much more likely to create goals for themselves within that field because it appears more accessible. Women students need exposure to women with a variety of lifestyles who are successful in SME fields so they can believe science is accessible to all, especially people like themselves." - Achieving Gender Equity in Science Classrooms

Positive Role Models And Constant Encouragement.

When my mother was growing up back in the 20's and '30's in Canada, the best a women in business could hope to be was a secretary or a stenographer. Or you trained to be a nurse or a teacher. Those were considered respectable professions. If a women had means, it was a different matter, of course. My grandmother Gladys Kennedy had financial independence, and I shall never forget her 'take charge' attitude which resulted from that freedom. Why, she even was one of the first women to drive an automobile in Montreal back in 1914! She frankly didn't give a damn what anyone thought as long as she enjoyed doing whatever it was she decided to do!

Fast forward to this century! Everywhere you look girls have terrific role models. Women are pilots, women are bank presidents, our Attorney General and Secretary of State have been women, and so on. We need to coalesce of all these wonderful examples into a nationwide crusade to empower girls to become whatever it is they wish to become. Let the sky be the limit! Insist that your child's school reinforce your wishes.

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