Reversing the Gender Computer Gap

According to this New York Times article, “women accounted for only 12 percent of undergraduate degrees in computer science and engineering in the United States and Canada granted in 2006-7 by Ph.D.-granting institutions, down from 19 percent in 2001-2. Many computer science departments report that women now make up less than 10 percent of the newest undergraduates.”

Obviously, this trend should not continue. The increasing pervasiveness of technology points to two reasons that this gender gap must be reversed: 1) Women who lack computing confidence may miss out on the increasing number of technology-related job opportunities and 2) Technological industries will lose out on the talent of skilled women to help fill the shortage of trained workers.

According to Gender Relations in Educational Applications of Technology (GREAT), “Research shows that children initially have equal affinities for computing and other technology fields, but that in early adolescence, the cultural factors and personal frustration turn the girls away. To counteract the gender gap in computing, thus, children must be exposed to and made comfortable with computers before they can be turned away.”

Here’s an amazing example of how this can be done.

Mr. Richard Colosi’s class at Canandaigua Primary School in Canandaigua, N.Y class submitted a music video to the Interwrite Interactive Classroom Makeover contest that ended up being named the K-5 winner in November 2005.

The rules for the contest were pretty vague: “Make a music video with your class that shows how amazing it would be to have a technology-fueled classroom.” Mr. Colosi and his class chose to make the gender computer gap the focus of their video. Check it out:


One response to this post.

  1. Great post Jenny! I shared this post to my sister who is a 3rd grade teacher to inspire her students.

    Though women account for only 12% of undergraduate degrees in CS, I think those numbers are transferring to other computing disciplines outside of CS, such as User Experience and Information Systems. From personal observation, I’m seeing a trend of more women in larger roles in computing (Margaret Schmidt – VP of User Experience Design & Research at TiVo and Marissa Mayer – Vice President, Search Products & User Experience) and the numbers seem to be increasing in the industry.

    Although the CS numbers are decreasing, I’m curious to see if the undergraduate/graduate/PhD programs in UX, Interaction Design, and other emerging computing fields are increasing.


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