Girls and Technology
Math Forum's Conference Within a Conference
at the NCTM National Conference
April 24, 1999
Research now confirms what teachers have been observing since we started using computers in the mathematics classroom. In general, girls just aren't as interested in technology as boys are.
The American Association of American Women's (AAUW) recent study, Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children documents a diminishing gender gap in achievement in mathematics and science, with one exception -- technology. The study concludes, "While girls have narrowed the gender gaps in math and science, technology has become the new 'boys' club.'"
Only 17% of the high school students who took the Advanced Placement Computer Science test in 1997 were females - the lowest percentage of all tests given. AB Calculus is up to 47%, Chemistry is 42%, Biology is 56%, and Physics, although still dismal, is over 20%. Complete data was published by the College Board.
The AAUW study also concludes
- Girls are significantly more likely than boys to enroll in clerical and data-entry classes, the 1990s version of typing. Boys are more likely to enroll in advanced computer science and graphics courses.
- School software programs often reinforce gender bias and stereotypical gender roles.
- Girls consistently rate themselves significantly lower than boys on computer ability, and boys exhibit higher self-confidence and a more positive attitude about computers than do girls.
- Girls use computers less often outside of school. Boys enter the classroom with more prior experience with computers and other technology than girls.
What Can We Do?
Assess where you are.AAUW's Tech Check, a guide to help schools assess the technology opportunities they offer female students, is available from AAUW's HELPLINE, 800/326-AAUW , firstname.lastname@example.org
Intervene with Effective StrategiesThrough GirlTECH, a teacher training program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation headquartered at Rice University, we have developed suggestions on getting girls interested in computers.
Use Web ResourcesTake a look at computing magazines and notice the gender bias. Girls aren't going to find role models there. The web can provide these much-needed resouces.
What's the Big Deal?
We need women in the highest levels of the computing industry. Computer science and computer engineering are the routes to the top, and we must find ways to encourage young women to pursue those routes. This technology gap threatens to disadvantage girls as they confront 21st-century demands. The problem's repercussions are staggering. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists computer scientists, computer engineers, and systems analysts as the top three occupations with the fastest employment growth, 1996-2006. We must find ways to include girls in computing, without excluding boys at the same time. Read Getting Girls Interested in Computer Science.
And to give you something to think about, USA Computing Olympiad Team- What's wrong with this picture?
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These pages were developed through GirlTECH, a teacher training program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.
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