How Schools Are Bridging the Coding Gender Gap

Turning girls onto computers and coding requires strong leadership, said Superintendent Dr. Kristine Gilmore of the D.C. Everest School District in Wisconsin.

Computer science classes have long been the domain of boys. While girls and boys are now equally represented in advanced science and math classes, girls still are not flocking to classes like Programming in JAVA or Mobile App Development. With the growing need for computer scientists in the workforce, school leaders are trying to convince girls that these classes aren’t just boys’ clubs.

“Things don’t happen by chance,” said Gilmore. “You have to ask, ‘Do all kids have opportunities?’ As a superintendent, my job is to remove barriers for kids.”

Girls only made up about one-fifth of all AP students in computer science in 2013, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project, even though girls are equally likely to take the science and math AP exam. This gender gap continues into college. In 2015, only 18 percent of all computer science college degrees in the country went to women.

Read more here.

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5 thoughts on “How Schools Are Bridging the Coding Gender Gap

  1. I’m making my daughter take an afterschool Python class. She was like “there are no other girls”. I told her to tell her friends to sign up. It isn’t a money thing. I’m trying to tell her at any opportunity that a job in tech can pay for a lot of tickets to Hamilton…sigh. I think my younger one got inspired by Hidden Figures. She is still talking about that movie.

  2. Women are now the majority of med school graduates: https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/medical-school-graduates-by-gender/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D.

    I think part of the problem lies in the lower status of programming and computer science classes for college admission. As students need to have two or three lab science classes for college admission, many students aim for four years of science classes. The top students want four years of lab sciences.

    Computer science and programming doesn’t count, depending on the university. So if you’re an ambitious, top student, who dreams of becoming a neuroscientist or cancer researcher, there isn’t any time in the transcript to devote to computer classes.

    And they’re not necessarily wrong, because the quality of teaching and subject knowledge you may receive at a garden-variety school is…variable. Someone able to program computers well enough to structure a class to explain computing to adolescents would be able to get a job that pays more than teaching, with more control over his schedule. They also get to determine when to use the rest room, and don’t have to deal with parents. Win/win/win.

    I once spoke with a woman whose son, a recent college graduate, was taking on consulting jobs as a programmer for short stints. In between he would use the money to go skiing. He’s still making much more money than he would ever make as a teacher.

    I would ask Dr. Kristen Gilmore what she’s doing to keep boys in school and interested in higher education.

    1. I think that the emphasis on credentialing classes for college admissions definitely plays a role in the choices not to take CS. It is treated like an elective at most elite HS, not a core class. And the CS AP isn’t a great test of programming skills, testing specific CS language skills over computational/algorithmic thinking that matters more for successful programming.

      I think some schools are working on integrating more CS into their math and science classes, which I think is probably the more meaningful option, if the goal is to learn programming for goal oriented work. That curricular change, though, does make those classes align less well with the standardized tests.

      Med school is definitely becoming an option where one must stay on track with no digressions for most students.

  3. Catching up on my reading. Great article! This is my thing. I’m in an all-girls’ school and we have some more success, but the college thing is huge. Students who want to pursue engineering, even, have to fit in advanced physics plus extra math. Computer Science is helpful, but it’s not what the admissions guidelines recommend. Yet. I’ve had many students come back from their first year of college and say either, “Thank god I took CS in high school” or “Why didn’t you talk me into CS. I struggled and struggled in the intro class.” Increasingly, too, I suggest to students that lots of other fields use computing and that having some CS under their belt can land them better jobs. I’ve been doing a ton of research on girls/women in STEM lately. Fascinating stuff!

  4. geekymom said:

    “Catching up on my reading. Great article! This is my thing. I’m in an all-girls’ school and we have some more success, but the college thing is huge. Students who want to pursue engineering, even, have to fit in advanced physics plus extra math. Computer Science is helpful, but it’s not what the admissions guidelines recommend.”

    That is very interesting. It is true that it’s hard to squeeze all the courses in.

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