According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 18% of the bachelor's degrees in computer science last year were earned by women. That is a 19% drop in the percentage of female computer science degree recipients in the U.S. since 1986. Considering the current quantity of computer-based jobs and our ever-expanding and exciting world of technology, where are all the women?!
There are a few theories as to why fewer women are pursuing careers in computer science, though none are definitive. From a lack of involvement in grade school CS classes and activities to a lack of interest in the possible career opportunities, many of these reasons stem from not being introduced to the awesome side of computer science!
Let's take a look at some of the ways we can encourage more girls and young women to get involved in the field of computing!
Start Girls Young with STEAM
When it comes to determining one's future career path, school is an important factor. While students are young, exposure to different experiences and classes can help them think about what they want to do in the future and narrow it down. This not only prepares them for their transition to college but also provides them with the opportunity to pursue new interests, such as computer science.
STEAM projects are sure to pique student interest. However, according to research from the University of Houston and the University of Washington, “Gender-interest stereotypes that 'STEM is for boys' begins in grade school, and by the time they reach high school, many girls have made their decision not to pursue degrees in computer science and engineering because they feel they don’t belong.”
To maximize the engagement of all students, teachers should consider introducing CS-related STEAM projects early, and keep the groups small (only 3 or 4 max) as students benefit greatly from working collaboratively. Teachers should include a mix of genders in every group and give each student in the group a specific task that they are responsible for. This will ensure that each student learns at least one important CS skill — girls included!
To up the ante, choose more STEAM projects that involve something specific you know your female students are interested in. For some good ideas to get you started, Girls Who Code is an excellent resource for free projects that can be done at school or at home. Once your students begin to see the possibilities of computer science, the opportunities for imagination and creativity are endless!
For added inspiration, introduce your female students to some of the women who have revolutionized the world of technology. From as far back as Ada Lovelace to modern innovators like Facebook’s first female engineer, Ruchi Sanghvi, looking up to role models is a great way to help young girls see themselves in computer science.
We’ve listed a few project ideas and resources to get you started. Should you need additional STEAM ideas, check out Further, our online project library, complete with all of our hands-on, CS activities and lesson plans!
- Rover Tunnel Card Project
- Fairground Carousel Project
- Zoetrope Animation Project
- Girls Who Code
Inspire Girls to Stay the CS Course
Many students choose their fields of study based on the potential careers that they could lead. In the case of computer science, the job opportunities are endless! To encourage girls to pursue a career in computer science, teachers should emphasize the intriguing career opportunities that a computer science degree offers.
From a systems architect to a mobile app or video game developer, CS-based jobs can be very exciting and rewarding. Not to mention, most CS careers pay very well! Check out computerscience.org to see a list of CS-related careers and the relevant skills needed to pursue each one.
In addition to the intriguing careers a CS degree can offer, there are also many unique benefits that come with CS-related jobs. For example, many computer science careers are home-based or at least offer work-from-home opportunities, especially since the pandemic.
It is crucial that girls become involved and stay involved in computer science from a young age. We can encourage girls to become interested in computer science by keeping them engaged with CS-based STEAM projects in middle and high school. We can inspire young girls to stay the CS course by introducing them to unique CS career opportunities early on. And most importantly, we can increase the percentage of girls in the field of CS!