How To Cultivate Computer Science Interest Among Girls
Last week, Accenture and Girls Who Code released a new research report entitled ‘Cracking The Gender Code’. The research goal was to determine what factors influence a girls’ pursuit of computer science with the hope of using such information to address the gender gap in computing jobs.
While demand for skilled computer workers grows, the gender gap has widened. Over the last 30 years, for example, the percent of computer science majors that were woman decreased from 37% to 18%. And the share of women in the U.S. computing workforce is projected to decline from 24 to 22% by 2025.
The report outlines steps that can be taken now to inspire girls to pursue technology jobs. And it highlights that middle school is the critical age at which girls often opt in or out of STEM pathways such as computer science.
Some of the recommendations for working with middle school girls include:
- Expose girls to computer science by middle school - 74% of women working in computing were exposed to computing in junior high, compared to 49% of those who are not working in computing
- Encourage girls to play computer games - girls who play computer games when they are young are four times more likely to go into computing or coding roles as adults than those who don’t
- Help them see that computing is for girls - those who think computing is “for girls” will have a 25% higher interest than those who don’t
- Show them how a computing job can help them make the world a better place – many girls want to address societal problems in their careers but just 17% of parents and young people working in computing believe this kind of work can change the world
We incorporate many of these concepts in the Couragion app. First and foremost by highlighting female computer science role models. For example, Aileen is a software engineer that helps create the game DragonVale. Aileen gives girls a firsthand look at what it is like to be a game developer and even talks about how she loved to play games as a kid (tip 2 above). Or we feature Dr. Diane who is a climate scientist. Diane highlights for girls how she is using computer science technologies, such as Python or Fortran, to help protect coral reefs that are dying off due to climate change (tip 4 above).
We are excited to be doing our part to help change the perceptions around who codes and what coding can accomplish for the world. To get additional tips on inspiring girls of all ages to pursue computer science, read the entire report here.