Want More Women in Tech? Tell them what it is. Give them the choice.
Shuchi Grover nails the problem in her EdSurge article linked below. If you read the Slashdot responses to Barbara Ericson’s AP CS statistics (not on a full stomach, of course), you will see a lot of comments along the lines of “The PC BS has to stop at some point. There are some professions and things that men prefer more than women and others that women prefer more than men.” But all the evidence that we have suggests that there is a false hidden assumption in that statement: most students (male and female) don’t pick computer science simply because they have no idea what it is. If students never have access to computer science, never see computer science, never see programming or a programmer or any code, then it’s not a choice.
Here’s news for all: Even today, most children between the ages of 11 and 18 either have no idea about CS or overwhelmingly associate a computer scientist with “building,” “fixing,” “improving” or “studying” computers. While some add ‘programming’ to this list, most don’t see even that within the ambit of computer science.
Research also reports that students finishing high school have a difficult time seeing themselves as computer scientists since they do not have a clear understanding of what computer science is and what a computer scientist does. This is rather unfortunate in light Hazel Markus and Paula Nurius’ powerful study on the idea of “possible selves,” the type of self-knowledge that pertains to how individuals think about their potential and their future.