Where Are the Girls?

This past August in Los Angeles, Google held the finals for its annual Code Jam computer coding contest. Of the 26 finalists, there were no females.

Last year the San Dieguito Union High School District began offering a coding elective in its middle schools. Ninety-five percent of the students who enrolled were boys.  This year the percentage improved somewhat to 88 percent boys.  Where are the girls?

Computer Science/Information Technology continues to be one of the fastest growing and highest paid fields. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. Yet U.S. universities anticipate that they will produce only enough qualified graduates to fill 29 percent of these jobs.

In light of this information and when I consider what the future might hold for my 10-year-old daughter, the following statistics from the Girls Who Code website (www.girlswhocode.com) are equally alarming:

•Despite the fact that 55 percent of overall AP test takers are girls, only 17 percent of AP Computer Science test takers are high school girls;

•In middle school, 74 percent of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, just 0.3 percent of high school girls select computer science;

•While 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees are earned by women, just 12 percent of computer science degrees are awarded to women.

This is not OK.  Is there something more we can do at our schools to encourage more female participation?  I believe there is.

There used to be a similar issue with girls and science, but for the last five years the San Dieguito School District has had a 50/50 gender balance in the AP level math and science courses.  Part of the solution is to recognize the problem.  Once we shed light on it the School Board can encourage actions that increase enrollment.

Rimga Viskanta

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