Computer science – pushing women out?

Computer science – pushing women out?

I came across this article by Melinda Gates and couldn’t believe what I had just read:

“Computer science is one of very few professional fields where the proportion of women has actually been going down. In 1985, women made up 37% of computer science graduates, a high-water mark that still fell well short of gender parity. Today that number has been cut almost in half: It’s now just 19%.”

It got me thinking about my history with Computer Science (I graduated from Fordham University with a degree in CS – eons ago, wish I had a cool picture to share). And I’m not quite sure how I developed my interest/passion in CS, or tech overall (future blog post on that). First, I think that we need to do a better job at demystifying ‘Computer Science’ and try to focus on what is at the heart of it – Computational Thinking, which if you analyze a problem and plan out the solutions, you are using computational thinking. Sure, there are some specific things we can point out but I think we can agree that Computer science is a very large subject with lots of applications. Now, how do you cultivate the interest of those who have been left out – people of color/women from careers in CS?

It starts with a SPARK.

Some (like myself) get lucky and are sparked outside of school. I just happened to have a friend who had a computer and access to AOL (dating myself) and the rest was history. I also spent a lot of time on the computer checking out encyclopedias (getting my learn on!) and remember the feeling of being in control – for the first time – of accessing information (let alone altering/creating – thanks MySpace).

Another startling statistic:  

“In 2013, there were three states in the US in which not a single girl took the AP computer science exam. Even worse, there were eight states in which not a single Hispanic student took the exam, and 11 in which no African-American students took it.”

That’s a shame. So, what are we doing wrong? I think a huge part of it is the lack of professional development for our teachers. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace and, let’s face it, we can’t keep up. Unless of course, we start doing things differently and evaluate the way we currently prepare new teachers for life inside of the classroom and support existing teachers to better integrate technology. Because, let’s face it – Computer Science is everywhere.  

 

 

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