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More on girls in CS, or the lack thereof

March 6, 2007, 9:23 am

Although this article is titled “Math Needs Girls”, it’s really about getting more girls interested in computer science and engineering at an earlier age (= middle school). Snippet:

“By the fourth grade, girls are stereotyped into traditional female roles and begin to lose interest [in math],” Huizinga said.

But according to Huizinga, this is only part of the problem. She said some additional reasons for the under representation of women in engineering and computer science include negative images of professional women in math-related careers and connotations that careers in this field aren’t geared for women.

“The last time I checked, girls aren’t sent to summer camps for computer science,” Huizinga said.

That may be changing. There’s definitely something that’s making science, math, engineering, and technology (SMET) more enticing to boys than to girls, just going by the differences in the numbers, and getting girls involved in SMET early on through things like the PACE program described in the article is a good thing.

However, you’re not going to get far if you play politics with this issue. The folks quoted in the article put part of the blame on a “predominantly male engineering faculty” which doesn’t know how to deal with women and concludes with “Men have had their time in the sun… It’s time to share the spotlight.” Isolating this phenomenon down to mere gender differences misses the fact that there is a deeply rooted cultural bias against doing well in math and science that is pervasive among both sexes. You have to deal with that first before you can make any progress here, and turning this into yet another boys-vs-girls issue is going to make the whole thing go nowhere fast.

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