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Description: It’s often said that women are under-represented in high-tech careers because they’re not studying computer science in school. And that’s true!

Source: forbes .com

Date: March 15, 2012

Angie Schiavoni didn’t know what computer science was as a kid. “Pursuing a career in computer science never crossed my mind,” she admits. “No one ever said, ‘Hey, you’re good at math. Maybe you should try this.’” She eventually learned to code as an adult and co-founded Code Ed, a national program to teach web design to middle school girls in underserved communities. Schiavoni says she wants today’s young women to get the head start she never had. “Girls have to know what computer science is before they can consider it as one of their options.”   Read Rest of Story

Obviously, not every girl is left in the dark about computer science, but many are. In a national survey conducted by the WGBH Educational Foundation in 2008, college-bound teens were asked to describe how good a choice a career in computer science would be for “someone like you.” The results found that 67% of boys described a career in computer science as very good or good, whereas only 26% of girls felt the same.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why don’t many girls not really know what computer science is?
  2. What are some possible solutions  to educate young people about the field?

18 Responses to “Solving the Pipeline Problem: How to Get More Women in Tech”

  1. Paige Magnussen

    I thought that this article was really interesting. Although it did not surprise me at all that there was not as many woman in the computer sciences field. That can be found in numerous industries. Usually there are more men than woman in many different work forces. This usually means that woman have to work harder to get recognized at their company. Although genders are suppose to be equal these days, I still think that their not. However trying to attract woman to the computer sciences field is very interesting, and a great opportunity out there. Now a day everything is run my computers, there isn’t a job that does not have some piece of technology to do with it. And why couldn’t woman do these jobs? I think that it is all about advertising and trying to educate not only woman, but mean about the jobs that are available in computer sciences. Schools do need to offer more programs based around computer sciences. These jobs are really jobs of the future, and will be in such high demand as the years go on. Computer sciences can offer an individual allot, and would be a great asset to be educated in. I appreciate that this field is trying to get more females involved and wants to market the jobs that are available.

  2. Ashley O'Donnell

    I think the largest barrier for girls not knowing really knowing what computer science is is the lack of education and training that are available to them at a young age. There are a lot of schools out there, that are not equipped with computers or tools to teach girls what computer science is so they never really get experience at it or know what it is so they may determine if they like it.
    I was fortunate enough to attend a high school was equipped with lots of computers and knowledgeable teachers. I did have experience at writing codes and designing websites and from that training I was able to determine that I did not like that field and computer science was not for me. I really believe girls like to have a long range goal in their head at a young age so if they are not introduced to computer science young enough, that career path just isn’t an option a girl will consider.
    I think the solution is to expose girls to computer science at a young age. Code Ed is an excellent way to achieve this. If these sort of programs tour the country and visit middle schools to teach them about computer science, we may see more girls getting interested in it and eventually choosing it as a career path.

  3. Lesley

    I’m not sure why most girls don’t know what computer science is. I suppose its that they aren’t that interested in knowing what it is.. Many women prefer to stick to traditional career paths and avoid techonological fields, but that is also changing dramatically as time passes. The best solution in getting more women in to the field and knowing what computer science is would be to educate them in elementary on these new career paths. I think computers are going to be used in grade 1 classrooms more frequently and computer programs will be taught much earlier because computers are madatory in most industries today and even more in the future. The earlier women learn about computers, the more comfortable they will be with working in computer science and other tech fields.

  4. Nichelle

    Well I would have to agree with the article when answering that the reason many girls do not know what computer science is – is due to them being kept in the dark about the career opportunities available to them. As a child, I also remember not hearing much about computer science career choices. Especially during your younger years, it is hard to make any decision of your own without some type of influence. Career choices such as doctors, firefighters, and teachers are all well known careers in the eyes of young children. Educating girls, and frankly children of all ages, needs to be done as the article suggests. Career fairs, and school media promoting computer sciences needs to be incorporated within school systems to ensure that students of all ages are aware of these opportunities. For a career that is in such high demand of workers, it would be ridiculous not to. I think Code Ed is a great program because middle school girls in underserved communities are getting a wonderful opportunity that they probably never would have received otherwise. It is opening the door for young girls and women; giving them an understanding they never had before.

  5. P

    I think girls may not have been very educated in computer science because they were not taught about it in school. I don’t think I ever heard about computer science until I was in University. I wish I learnt about it earlier and I may have been in a different major! I believe computer science isn’t the only industry that has few women involved. In many diverse organizations, the ratio of men to women is quite large. I think this bias is slowly starting to disappear and it is great that create opportunities for women in any industry. I think it is a great idea to raise awareness on computer science for everyone, not just girls. Technology is constantly evolving and becoming a huge part to our everyday lives. All different kinds of industries rely on the Internet and technology to improve their performance, attract customers, give information on new products, etcetera. It is important to be literate with computers and really utilize the benefits. Starting young will make the process a lot easier for children to expand on and maybe one day could benefit society as well.

  6. PJ

    I believe one of the biggest issues surrounding woman in the field of computer science is a lack of awareness surrounding the field. There are really no courses that educate people about the career opportunity until they are in university, and by that point many people have already decided on a career or subject to study so it is to late. Another issue is that now there are no sexual preferences stopping women from working at one job or another. The freedom to work where ever they want may contribute to the dropping number of women working in the computer science field. I think the obvious solution would be to educate girls at a young age about the potential in the field. Instead of bringing in doctors and police officers on career days they should bring in more people in the technical field to educate young women about the oppurtunities

  7. Linli He

    I think this article reflects the real problem, why there is not many girls working or studying in computer science fields. People usually will be surprised if they heard that a girl is studying computer science. Because most girls do not really know what computer science is, and they are not as interesting in knowing that as males are. When I was in high school, I probably define computer science as how to use computer, not how to design a computer program. I wasn’t getting more sense about computer science until I was in University. Therefore, I think the way which is involving more girls into the computer science is educating them earlier in elementary on what computer science is, and give them experiences about computer science. Girls can love computing; someone just needs to show them what it is and how it work. As it is showed in article, Code Ed is the goos way to enrolling both male and female. Girls can also realize that “girls can do anything a guy can do”, and computer science is another career path for girls too. In addiction, people also need to break a stereotype that males do better than females do in computer science fields. There will be a dramatic change in future, females can also have greatest achievement in computer science fields.

  8. Kelsey Roberts

    Quite personally I don’t believe that women are held back from the chance to receive technological education, i.e. computer science. They are given the same opportunities through out middle and high school as male students, with many computer classes being mandatory. I believe however, that the difference occurs in the extent to which we make computer science apart of our everyday lives. By virtue we are just naturally less likely to partake in such activities. I think this comes as a result of intimidation by a male dominated field and therefore also a lack of understanding of the characteristics of computer sciences. As with many other careers, women are put at disadvantage in comparison to men when it comes to the hiring process. I believe that in order for women to become more involved in computer science related careers, there needs to be a change in attitude towards the stereotype behind the field. This can easily be achieved by integrating aspects of computer sciences into more educational backgrounds, such as arts and sciences. In todays society, a knowledge of computer science would come in handy no matter what career you are in, so if more emphasis was placed on educating oneself in the field then i believe women would be more inclined to not only become educated but also enter into the field.

  9. Sagrika

    It is surprising how a large number of females do not know what computer science is and when I think about it, most of the girls do not take up computer sciences as their major in universities. It is almost like the field of computers is only for males which is not true. I think lack of awareness is the biggest problem causing this. But at the same time I am sure the girls are not the only ones who are unaware of technology but there probably is a great number of males in certain countries who are unaware of computer sciences. Educating young people and spreading awareness all around the globe can be a smart solution to this worldwide problem. Code Ed is also a good attempt for getting the women in this field. With more females in the area of technology would give rise to new ideas and a new and different future. In this technology centred era, everyone has to be aware of technology to succeed in any particular field so why should women be left behind? That is why I agree with the article of providing women with every kind of education they need to keep up with the fast paced technology.

  10. Lacey Dodds

    Many girls do not know what computer science is because they were never exposed to it as a child. I have to admit, being a female University student in my twenties; I do not even know what exactly it is to this day. I wouldn’t single out computer science, however. How many little girls do you see saying they want to be an accountant when they grow up, or a philosopher? The truth of the matter is there are so many different career options available today that it would be hard to cram them all into children’s books. Another reason why I think girls are uninformed about computer science careers is because they are exposed to jobs like doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, etc. I think this is because these careers are straight forward and easy to represent. They each have something that can describe them like how a doctor has a stethoscope; a vegetarian is surrounded by animals, etc. I could not imagine how you would represent a computer scientist (besides the obvious computer).
    A solution to this problem is to try and education girls on computer science when they are young: maybe not necessarily in children’s books, but definitely in career days, and especially in high school by offering information on the career so that girls actually understand what it is.

  11. Dennis Zhong

    I have read this article lately about the women in CS. I think its very interesting, so i want to share this comment.

    “The rise of women concentrators in computer science is thrilling because it indicates an expansion of fields where women dare trod now. However, female computer science participation at Harvard still has a long way to go. For example, while the gender ratio in the concentration hovers tantalizingly close to 50 percent among sophomores, the gender disparity in more advanced computer science courses like Computer Science 124: Data Systems and Algorithms remains enormous. Though the increase female computer science concentrators indicates an increase of role models for future classes, what does the dismal lack of such role modes in higher level computer science courses tell contemplative freshmen?”

  12. Tuan Tran

    Why don’t many girls not really know what computer science is? I think it has a lot to do with how they are raised at home and who are there child hood friends. Secondly, most parents who are not doctor, nurses or lawyer would most likely try to encourage their child to grow up and become one. In addition, the computer technology is new and not as advance compare to today. Therefore these parents only know that doctor, nurses, and lawyer are some of the top paying jobs and new jobs like computer programmers are new and not proven to be steady. As young girls, most play with dolls and cooking like their moms compare to boys who most likely play with car and planes for examples grows up to be more familiarized with the fields of study as they gets older. Whereas the girls are most likely grow up to become nurses or mom. What are some possible solutions to educate young people about the field? With Apple I-phone, Facebook, and wireless internet for example, these company could advertise the need for more computer programmer to young user. Show them how interesting a computer programmer is like the products the company is selling or being use.

  13. Laura

    It seems as though girls generally aren’t interested in computer science as a career and are extremely under represented in the field. I imagine that a lot of this can be contributed to video games to a certain extent. Ask most boys about their younger years, and many, if not all played video games, on a gameboy or Nintendo etc, but ask girls, and most probably rarely played video games. Most video games are geared towards males, especially video games of the past. Video games have moved towards women with the introduction of farm ville and the popularity of flash games on the internet, and it wouldn’t surprise me to know that the number of women in the computer science field is increasing as a result. Of course there are other areas of computer science outside of video game programming and the like, but I would imagine that most males that enter into a computer science degree are hoping to some extent that they will be able to work on all of the amazing games that are being released and that they remember from their childhood. Either way, I’m sure women will begin to populate computer science more readily as they have moved into other areas as well.

  14. Michael Holland

    One of the main reasons I think that many girls do not know what computer science is a historical trend of computer science being a male dominated field and it being one associated with “being a nerd” or “geek”. Up until recently, computer science and the understanding of computers was considered socially awkward and avoided. However, with the boom in computer uses and technology computer literacy and computer science are not the social stigma they used to be. With this change comes the change in the presence of women in the workforce. I think now the shift in computer science is allowing for equal opportunities in the historically male dominated field.

    Some possible solutions to help educate young people about computer science are introducing computer literacy, and also the uses and applications of computer science at an earlier stage. This also includes creating and presenting these uses in such a way that they younger generations can understand and actually connect with. If they do not understand or see the relevance in this field why would they bother or care about it? To bring about these changes may take some time and a little bit of work, but I believe the introduction of computer science at an earlier age will have a positive effect in the future of computer science and technology.

  15. Cole

    I think the main barrier is that many woman don’t know what computer science is and what kind of job opportunities are available to them at a younger age. Also I believe because the computer science industry doesn’t advertise to attract woman. What I mean by this is in the technological world we live in, things like xbox and playstations have games that are mostly orientated to attract males. This I believe is what starts to spark the interest for this field like gaming engineers/designers that you see on commercials which are always male people talking. If they started having women in these commercials I feel that more women will think that this is somethng that interests them and pursue a career in this field.

  16. Trevor

    Why don’t many girls not really know what computer science is? The answer is highlighted in the article – Education. Computer Science still carries an association with computer programming, which (still with the stereotype) is work done locked in a small dark office, long boring hours with minimal human contact. Reflecting on girls I know still in university, or in their careers, they generally gravitate to move social majors / careers (Marketing, Nursing, Dramatic Arts, etc).

    What are some possible solutions to educate young people about the field? Show young girls that computer science isnt just programming in a room by yourself. Illustrate that many programs work in groups towards a common goal – and it can be a social career. Also, have the work associated with the outcome of products be engaging. Working by yourself on a simple program to create a hangman game is hardly riveting/engaging (I’m looking at you Comp Sci 1620).

  17. Jay Retzlaff

    The reasoning behind why there inst many girls in computer science is because the are simply not interested. Getting involved and interested in computer science is a choice, and its a choice (according to this article) that most women do not take. Some women may not want to be seen as a geek or a nerd thats why they dont really get into it. They do not want the public image of that, and they may think it is a more masculine trait. The way technology is going right now and how the world is changing, every school talks about computers. There isnt much more you can do to educate young females about it. If they do not like it from an early age then the chances are they are not going to get into when they are making career decisions. Also there may be more men in Computer Science then girls, but as a whole there still isnt a great population of students in that degree. So the really problem shouldn’t be about why there isnt many girls in Computer Science, but why isnt there many people at all compared to all the other majors.

  18. Filomena

    I am not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this info for my mission.

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