Females were very well represented at the cs4hs event and all were interested and passionate about computing and programming. It was (very well) organised by a female PhD candidate (@nickyringland), there were a number of excellent female presenters and OVER half the teachers participating were female. So there are talented females engaged in and teaching computing courses, but why are so few girls at school and university choosing them? Why are females so under represented? How do we change this?
So what are the issues that are stopping girls from learning to design and code computer programs? Girls use computers and play games, "Forty-five percent of all game players are women" (http://www.theesa.com/facts/). So what is stopping them from learning to code them rather than just being users?
Some of the issues that were raised in the discussions about why girls aren't doing computing courses and learning to code include:
- boys use computers differently and will have a go (and take over), whereas girls tend to sit back and think more
- the image of programmers is poor, students think "dorky, social inept boys with pimples who work in dark rooms", this is far from what most programmers do, based on what I heard the Google employees talk about at cs4hs
- parents/teachers discourage girls from learning computers, "girls can't code" because of a misconception of capabiliities and prospects
- there are few female computing role models, you only ever hear about males in the computing industry
So what can we do?
There is no single strategy that will make a difference, everyone needs to play their part to make a change. Some possible strategies include:
- providing parents/society with better information showing that girls can design and write code and that there are interesting and engaging programming jobs. Parents are important as they are usually the ones to make/influence subject selections in schools
- a need for positive female programming models in schools and the media
- more programs to pro-actively support and encourage girls into computing, some examples include
- Girls Programming Network, a program run out of the School of IT and Sydney University to support and mentor girls interested in programming
- Digigirls, a TAFE program for girls run by North Sydney Institute of TAFE
- NCSS (National Computer Science School) Summer School, an intensive 10 day course of computer programming and website development
- NCSS challenge, a 5 week, online course to learn the Python programming language
The biggest long term opportunity is the new National Digital Technology Curriculum, that in draft proposal talks about ALL students learning programming concepts. This will force all students to be introduced to computational thinking and the design and programming of code through visual languages like Scratch. This bring up a whole new problem of teachers having the skills and confidence to do this...
What other programs are out there to encourage girls into computers and programming?
What other strategies are people using in schools to successfully engage girls into computers and programming?
I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts.