Programming for girls

The number of programs geared just for women or girls seems to be increasing rapidly. Almost every day, it seems, I read about a camp or a class just for the female gender. I have nothing against these programs. I teach in an all girls’ school. I think there’s value in single sex education. But I wonder if they are working. Will we see a huge influx of women in tech or programming jobs in 10 years? I’m honestly not sure.

I’m sort of inclined to think that these programs are separated from education in a way that may not be useful in the long term. There’s no continuity in these programs. They’re often one off attempts to teach technology x. After that, the student is on her own to figure out what to do next. Maybe it will inspire them to take a college course or advocate for CS to be taught in their high school or to enroll in the one class that exists but is always all boys. If so, that’s a good thing. I don’t know how some of these programs are measuring success, and if anyone is studying them in a sustained way.

I can’t help but think, also, that these programs may take away some of the incentive for schools to offer courses themselves or to recruit more girls to existing programs. I just feel a lack of connection between these programs and what I and many CS teachers are trying to do.

2 Replies to “Programming for girls”

  1. I tend to think that the gender gap is so deep and wide in computing, that every little bit helps. As you point out, these programs may be just providing a spark of interest for girls without continuity into follow-up programs. However, I don’t think these programs take away incentives for schools to offer these courses – I think they can help provide the catalyst. These one-off activities can be advocacy platforms as they raise awareness among the girls, their parents and educators about the opportunities they are missing because computing is not available in school.

    In 2010, Joanne Cohoon, Assistant Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Virginia gave a keynote to the “Women & ICT Lifecycle Conference” called “The Path to Full Participation”. In it, she acknowledges the complex problem of the underrepresentation of women in computing, while also emphasizing that the scope of the issue cannot stop us from attempting to make a difference.

    One thing I’ve been doing is collecting resources, data and programs at Teen Tech Girls. I recently read about the first ever International Day of the Girl and this has been a catalyst for me to try and build a coalition among a variety of programs aimed at raising awareness and changing the outcome of the gender gap in computing through Day of the “Tech” Girl on October 11. I hope it becomes one avenue to build up connections and I encourage anyone interested to participate.

  2. Hi, Kim. Thanks so much for your comment, and for the links to resources. I, too, am planning to participate in day of the girl. You are likely right about the severity of the gap. I do know that every little bit helps. I just feel like it’s a little like throwing spaghetti at the refrigerator. And maybe that’s what we need right now.

Comments are closed.