How Other Coders Can Encourage More Women to Study Computer Science
by Emily Tran
Technology has played a major role in all aspects of society and is continuing to do so. Although women and girls make up a large number of technology users, there is a lack of them in the development of it.
According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, girls make up fifty-six percent of all Advanced Placement test takers, however only nineteen percent of girls take the AP Computer Science exam. Various reasons for girls being underrepresented in the learning of computer science can be due to an inefficient curriculum, a teaching environment that discourages collaboration with other peers or any hands-on projects, as well as a lack of encouragement for girls that leaves them less confidence in themselves in comparison to males who take the class. As for the fifty-seven percent of women who earn an undergraduate degree, only eighteen percent of them earn a degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field.
Personally, I have experienced these issues this previous year when I took AP Computer Science. When I first registered to be in this class, I was ecstatic and excited to learn something that I had been so interested in. Yet, as weeks passed by, I steadily became disinterested in the class and would continually dread going to it. Out of the forty students in the class, there were only four girls. Instead of getting the chance to work together,we were separated and I was placed in a section with only boys.
Feeling discouraged and in need of help, I began to research websites and videos for encouragement. I came across websites such as Code School and Code Academy, both of which have interactive ways to learn a wide range of programming languages. Other sites such as Computer Science Education Week Tutorials－a site that offers introductory tutorials that allows anyone to learn how to code－and Khan Academy－which allows one to not only create their own program, but also share and view other ones－were also helpful resources that immensely benefitted me.
Not only are there websites that offer a free learning experience for those who want to learn how to code, but there are also non-profit organizations such as Girl Who Codes and Girl Develop It, that offer computer science programs for women who are interested in it. Girls Who Code is an organization that was founded in order to close the gender gap in technology and aims to not only educate women but also support and increase the number of women in computer science. This nonprofit offers after-school programs for sixth to twelfth grade girls that include project-based learning, an environment of sisterhood, exposure to engineers, mentorship programs, and the Summer Immersion Program, an intensive seven-week-long computer science course where tenth and eleventh grade girls learn everything from robotics to mobile development. Girl Develop It offers a similar experience by providing affordable opportunities for women interested in software or web development through community support and in-person classes. Their mission is to “create a network of empowered women who feel confident in their abilities to code and build beautiful web and mobile applications” by educating women from diverse backgrounds.
In order to encourage more women to learn computer science, we can talk to girls about why they should consider a career in the technology field and talk to them in regards to how to handle inherent bias from others. We can also advocate for the need for computing education and provide young girls with early technology experiences. Although it sounds very simple to do, we must, before anything else, provide ongoing support for those that do have an interest in it.