Why Girls Are Less Interested In Computer Science: Classrooms Are Too ‘Geeky’

Despite billions of dollars in outreach programs designed to lure women into computer programming, and companies mandating that more women be hired, most females would rather go into something involving people. Yet a new survey of 270 high school students concludes that three times as many girls would interested in enrolling in a computer science class if the classroom was redesigned to be less “geeky” and more inviting. So we can knock Barbie dolls and pink clothes, but they are appealing to the market that is rather than the market some academics would like it to be. The notion that women and men are the same has become passe. “Our findings show that classroom design matters — it can transmit stereotypes to high school students about who belongs and who doesn’t in computer science,” said lead author Allison Master, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning&Brain Sciences (I-LABS). “This is the earliest age we’ve looked at to study stereotypes about computer science. It’s a key age group for recruitment into this field, because girls in their later adolescence are starting to focus on their career options and aspirations.” In the study, high school boys and girls (aged 14 to 18 years) completed questions about:

  • Their interest in enrolling in a computer science class
  • Their sense of belonging in a computer science class
  • How much they thought they personally “fit” the computer science stereotype

Then, the UW team showed the students photos of two different computer science classrooms decorated with objects that represented either the “geeky” computer science stereotype, including computer parts and “Star Trek” posters, or a non-stereotypical classroom containing items such as art and nature pictures. Students had to say which classroom they preferred, and then answered questions about their interest in enrolling in a computer science course and their thoughts and feelings about computer science and stereotypes. Girls (68 percent) were more likely than boys (48 percent) to prefer the non-stereotypical classroom. And girls were almost three times more likely to say they would be interested in enrolling in a computer science course if the classroom looked like the non-stereotypical one. Boys didn’t prefer one classroom’s physical environment over the other, and how the classroom looked didn’t change boys’ level of interest in computer science. “Stereotypes make girls feel like they don’t fit with computer science,” Master said. “That’s a barrier that isn’t there for boys. Girls have to worry about an extra level of belonging that boys don’t have to grapple with.” Previously they reported that inaccurate negative cultural stereotypes about computer science deterred college-age women from the field and that altering stereotypes can increase girls’ interest. The researchers say that changing computer science stereotypes to make more students feel welcome in high school classrooms would help recruit more girls to the field, which has one of the lowest percentages of women among STEM fields. “Our new study suggests that if schools and teachers feel they can’t recruit girls into their computer science classes,” Master said, “they should make sure that the classrooms avoid stereotypes and communicate to students that everyone is welcome and belongs.” Read the entire article here

Melinda Gates is doubling down on women in tech

 

Melinda Gates wants to put her muscle behind getting more women in tech.

Gates has focused much of her work on the well-being of women and girls around the globe — but this issue hits particularly close to home. Gates, a computer science graduate, joined Microsoft in 1987. She eventually married its founder Bill Gates, and the two launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. Gates is now creating a “personal office” devoted to bringing more women into tech, according to an interview with Jessi Hempel at BackChannel. It’s early in the process, and Gates is still figuring out the best way to get involved. She said she’s currently in “learning mode,” and looking at everything from education to venture capital funding for women. One thing is evident: Gates said data will play a big role in approaching the issue. Gates cited the fact that just 18% of women are earning computer science undergrad degrees in the U.S. That has fallen significantly from the 1980s, when women received 38% of the degrees. “Every company needs technology, and yet we’re graduating fewer women technologists. That is not good for society. We have to change it,” she said.

Related: Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science nears gender parity 

She added that her office looked into the number of patents received by female inventors. “Four decades ago, 3% of all patents listed at least one woman inventor. As of 2010, nearly 19% of patents did,” she said. While that shows a clear improvement, she said her team’s projections didn’t see parity until 2092. In recent years, companies like Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB, Tech30), Apple (AAPL, Tech30),Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) have released annual reports on workforce diversity in a bid to be more transparent. But there’s been very little progress. Microsoft’s 2015 report showed that its percentage of female employees actually declined from 29% to 26.8%. It cited massive layoffs as the reason. The transparency is, however, a start. And Gates notes that there hasn’t been a lot of research or money devoted to the issue previously. “In the tech space, men don’t really see a problem and a lot of the money is held by men,” she said.

Related: Melinda Gates: ‘Poverty is sexist’

It’s not difficult to understand why tech products and services would benefit from a more inclusive workforce. In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow last week, Gates also stressed the importance of diversity. “We know that more diverse teams put out a better product,” she said. This goes for people of color as well, which Gates also noted in her interview with Hempel. Gates cited Apple’s health app as an example of a product that has a “blatant error.” It didn’t include period tracking. Gates stressed that she was “not picking on Apple at all,” but “it’s just an example of all the things we can leave out for women.” Read the original article here

Do we still need Computer Science teachers?

These days it seems like “how to learn coding yourself” opportunities are everywhere. There are MOOCs from major universities, code.org has great online tutorials, Facebook just opened a website called TechPrep to help parents and students alike find resources and tools, and there seems to be a new edtech company starting up every week with online CS resources. The question for many becomes “do we still need computer science teachers?” The CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) Research Committee has been analyzing the High School survey results from May and below are some of the highlights. A detailed Summary of Results is available on our website.

  • 51% of the survey respondents have computer science teaching experience of 15 years or more
  • 45% of the teachers reported that computer science courses make up 50-75% of their teaching load.
  • 66% of the teachers reported that they are offering a CS principals course
  • 79% of the teachers reported that they offer the APCS A course.
  • 68% of those who offer APCS A course reported that half of their course enrollment are female, and between 20-40% are underrepresented minorities.
  • Majority of the teachers (68%) also reported that CS enrollment has increased in the past 3 years

These statistics are encouraging for the outlook of CS education and what is going on in the High Schools at this time. However, this data is self-reported and we need to examine ways to triangulate the numbers, especially the APCS-A enrollment numbers

Source: The CSTA Advocate Blog