According to the National Center For Women In Technology, while women make up 56% of the overall workforce, they make up just 26% of the computing workforce. And in 2015, although 57% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women, only 18% of the bachelor’s degrees in Computer and Information Sciences were earned by women. So clearly there is much work to do to increase interest in CS among girls. My co-founders and I have all spent the majority of our careers building software apps – we have seen firsthand the lack of diversity in tech and as such we have personal missions to help boost that diversity. So, we decided to make some of our app data public in order to offer insights and advice to others like us who want to help girls see the opportunities that CS provides. Here are 3 ideas based on Couragion’s CS Career-related data:
- Help girls see the applicability of CS in other fields – especially Science-related fields. When asked to select the STEM category of greatest interest, Science is the most selected category with 43% of girls choosing it. That compares to 22% of girls choosing Technology, 19% selecting Math, and 16% opting for Engineering. With Science being such a strong choice among girls, it may be helpful to share examples of how Science relies upon CS. For example, our Climate Researcher role model shared that she needs to use Python in order to better study the effects of global warming on coral reefs. She expressed regret that she didn’t take CS courses in college and instead had the tough path of teaching herself programming while also juggling the responsibilities of a full-time research job.
- Think beyond robotics projects! It seems that every time I turn around, I learn of another robotics camp or curriculum option. I get it, I think robots are cool and I like that they demonstrate how written code translates to action/movement in the robots. However, our data shows that middle and high schools girls have limited interest in robotics so these projects are not the best route to spark CS interest in girls. For example, one of our featured STEM role models is a Robotics and Computer Vision engineer. This is a popular Career Quest among boys with it being on the top 5 list of most selected Careers Quests. A high percent of boys (55%) also find that the Career Quest is a best fit for their interests, values, and desired work characteristics. But among girls, only 7% select the Robotics Career Quest and of those completing the Quest only a third find it to be a best fit.
- Select CS projects that focus on helping people, animals, or the environment. Our data consistently shows that girls want to have a greater purpose to their work. For example, in one of our profile questions we ask girls and boys how important it is to have a greater work purpose. Girls rate this as extremely important while boys rate it as just important. This trend remains true looking at the individual job level as well. For example, the CS job that receives the highest percent of best fits among girls (67%) is the CTO of a start-up that instantly mobilizes resources to help find lost children! So to spark CS interest in girls, consider selecting projects that incorporate a greater purpose – such as helping a non-profit with their website or designing an app that solves a local community problem.
How have you increased girls’ interest in CS? We’d love to hear your ideas (info at Couragion.com).