GirlTECH: Girls and Technology



Getting Girls Interested in Computers

AAUW Joins the Fight

Introduction - Tips - Links

Introduction Although the numbers and percentages of science and engineering bachelor's degrees awarded to women in most fields are increasing, they have decreased drastically in computer science. Degrees awarded in computer science decreased among both men and women from 1985 to 1995, and women went from earning 36% of those degrees in 1985 to only 28% in 1995. A full report on these statistics was published by the National Science Foundation.

The immediate future looks no more promising. 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 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.

Teachers working with high-school students using technology observe that, in general, girls don't seem to be as intrigued by computers as boys are. GirlTECH, a teacher training program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation headquartered at Rice University, addresses this problem.

We must find a way to include girls in computing, without excluding boys at the same time. Below are a few tips that we have learned on getting girls interested in computers.

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Ten Tips

on Getting Girls Interested in Computers

1. Girls like to join clubs and take classes with their friends. A lone girl, who likes computers, is unlikely to join a computer club by herself. So if you sponsor a computer club, or teach computer science, invite girls to join clubs or classes as a group.

2. Girls need role models; they need to see women using computers competently and confidently. Check out computing magazines - almost all of the photographs are of men. On high school campuses, being a computer geek raises a male student's coolness factor; it doesn't have the same effect for girls. To offset this, when you invite speakers to classes or clubs, make sure you include women. Share information about women who are leaders in the field.

3. Make a conscious effort to encourage girls. Make them lab assistants. In class, call on girls more often, even if they don't volunteer. Ask them difficult questions that require higher order thinking. Try to find time for girls to be on machines when the boys are not around. (Then they won't be tempted to ask the gurus for help.) Choose a girl to help set up new hardware or software. Start a club designed to appeal to girls. Make sure they take the highest level of computing offered. Personally invite them to go to a computing contest. Don't let anyone deter them.

4. Inform them of what computer science as a career is really like. Girls may perceive it as a job spent all day in a cubicle with nothing but a machine.

5. When they ask, don't tell. Girls tend to ask for assistance when something won't work. Boys tend to try to figure it out. Encourage them to be daring with the machine. It's a real confidence booster when they succeed. Only step in if you really need to, and then try just a hint or help them to read the manual.

6. For young girls, purchase games that appeal to them. The more time a young child can spend on a computer, the more confident she will become with the machine.

7. In class, collaborate more; compete less. (I need to add a disclaimer here because I am so competitive myself.) In general, girls respond better to collaborative projects rather than competitive. Encourage collaborations, but be alert to boys dominating the group.

8. Girls like to see what computers can do for them. They see computers more as a tool and less as a toy. (Maybe that's a good thing, huh?) Let them type their papers on the computers, show them how to write web pages, or teach them to make a graph using a spreadsheet.

9. Put the home computer in a centralized location and give girls equal access with their brothers. Is it any wonder that girls aren't using the computer at home if it's in the boy's room?

10. Find out what percentage of the students in the highest level of computer science taught at your school (Computer Science II or AP Computer Science) is girls. If it's not at least 50%, make the school aware of the problem. Talk to counselors, parents, and other teachers to enlist their help in encouraging the girls in your school into the highest levels of computer science.

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      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. Read Getting Girls Interested in Computer Science.



My Mail on this Topic

And if you have comments...

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Links To Women and Girls in Technology

Articles on Women's Underrepresentations

What Draws Women to Computing by Anita Borg A must read
Accessibility to Computer Science
CRA Testimony on the underrrepresntation of women and minorities in computing
Ensuring Equity and Excellence in Mathematics
Ensuring Equity and Excellence in Science
Games for Her
Nine Steps to Achieving Gender Equity in Science Classrooms
Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists?
Women and Computer Science
Women and Computers
Women in IT - What are the barriers?

Related Organizations

American Association of University Women
Association of South African Women in Science and Engineering (SA WISE)
Association for Women in Mathematics
AWC Houston Chapter
Society of Women Engineers
Institute for Women in Technology
Computing Research Association(CRA) - Committee on the Status of Women in Research

Biographies of Women in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology

4000 Years of Women in Science
Grace Hopper: The Woman, the Legend
Profiles of Women in Mathematics
Women of NASA
Biographies of Women Mathematicians

Sites for Girls

A Girls' World
Club Girl Tech
Cybergrrl Webstation
Design Your Future
Girl's Place, Inc.
Girl Power for Girls
Girl Zone
Girls Are Powerful
Planet Girl
The Role Model Project - Computer Science
The Backyard Project - For High School Girls Exploring a Career in Computer Science
New Moon Magazine for Girls
The Adventures of Josie True
Girl Games, Inc.

Technology Information

TAP:The Ada Project
WITI Campus-Women in Technology International

Academic Centers

Center for the Education of Women
Center for the Study of Women in Society
Gender School works towards Equity

Send comments to Cynthia Lanius at

Next: AAUW Joins the Fight

These pages were developed through GirlTECH , a teacher training program sponsored by the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education (CEEE) with support from the National Science Foundation through EOT-PACI. Copyright 1997-2000 by Cynthia Lanius.

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