Getting Girls to Code

The media is taking notice of the fact that there are few girls in computer science courses or professions these days. EdWeek reported in January 2015 that girls constituted just 20 percent of the Advanced Placement computer science test takers in 2014. That percentage was just 19 the previous year. The question remains of how to encourage more girls to want to study and pursue computer science.

In response to the need for more females in computer science, organizations like Girls Who Code are helping girls explore STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math – careers. This particular organization provides camps and coding clubs through chapters across the nation that instruct middle and high school girls in programming. Providing learning opportunities, however, may not be the only component of efforts to increase the number of girls in STEM courses and careers.

Girls may feel isolation and loneliness if there are not many other females studying and working with them in computer science. If more and more visible role models encouraged girls to persist in STEM studies and work, they may be more apt to enter the field and stay there. One study found that female students in classes in math and science taught by female instructors were more apt to graduate with a STEM degree.

Girls Who Code understands this need and recruits mentors from Google and Goldman Sachs who encourage students to pursue their interest in STEM. In addition to these efforts, it may help to put more women in computer science in the spotlight on television or in movies, explains Kelby from appendTo. As it is, there are not very many characters who play computer scientists. Should the media focus attention on computer science as it did forensic science, it’s possible that more young people, both male and female, will become interested in pursuing computer science careers.

Demonstrating that computer science is applicable to improving society may also help attract more women. The National Science Foundation’s “Computer Science Can Change the World” film is one such effort. If girls see that there is a direct connection between computer science and making people’s lives better, perhaps some of them would move from social science study to computer science.