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Technology and the Gender Gap: Strategies to Inspire Young Women to Explore STEM

January 31, 2020 Sarah Williamson By Sarah Williamson
Technology and the gender gap

We are excited to share one of our most inspiring podcast episodes yet! In this episode we take a closer look at technology and the gender gap. We discussed the challenges of engaging more females in computer science and effective strategies that can be implemented to inspire these young learners to explore computer science and technology courses and pursue careers in these fields.  

Our goal was to understand whether or not these strategies are making an impact and how other districts can replicate their success. We kick off the episode reviewing several statistics that illustrate the challenge we are facing with engaging females in computer science:

  • Nine out of ten parents want their child to study computer science, but only 45 percent of schools teach computer programming.
  • Computing makes up two-thirds of projected new jobs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
  • Computing occupations are among the highest-paying jobs for new graduates. Yet fewer than 3 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and only 10 percent of STEM graduates are in computer science. A computer science major can earn 40 percent more than the college average.
  • Schools are not required to offer computer science in 32 states.
  • Only 29 percent of AP Computer Science students are women. Only 22 percent are Black/African American or Latinx.
  • Women who try AP Computer Science in high school are ten times more likely to major in it, and Black and Latinx students are seven times more likely.

 

Our guests on the show, Sabine Thomas, the northwest manager for Code.org, and Misty Christensen, a computer science teacher at Dunwoody High School in Dunwoody, Georgia, help us to understand what school districts and other organizations are doing to improve these numbers.

Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. The vision of Code.org is to provide every student in every school with the opportunity to learn computer science, just as easily as they have the chance to learn biology, chemistry or algebra. Code.org also offers professional learning opportunities for middle and high school teachers and there are several scholarship opportunities available to teachers. Learn more about them here: https://code.org/educate/professional-learning/middle-high.

Misty Christensen is a business education and AP computer science instructor at Dunwoody High School. After pursuing her teaching degree, she was so inspired by the computing classes she was teaching that she went back to school to get her degree in business education. Within her district, she supports Girls Who Code, Code.org, the Robotics club, First Robotics Competition, and the Technology Student Association to help inspire both young men and women to pursue careers in computing.

 

Sabine and Misty shared their perspective on how computer science and technology courses are making an impact on their students, a few of the biggest hurdles they are facing and specific takeaways districts can apply within their own districts to inspire young women to pursue computing careers.

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