She++: The Documentary and The Audience
I was sent links to the She++ documentary by several people. It’s a nicely done documentary on the issues of women in undergraduate computing at Stanford.
The Twitter account for She++ posted the video link with the comment, “Show this to your daughters!” Others in social media are suggesting that this should be seen by all girls to encourage them in CS. This is a great video for describing the students’ experience. I’m not sure it works as a recruiting tool.
In some of our GaComputes work, we found that female workshop leaders were more likely to warn the girls in their computing workshops, “Now, I know that this is hard, but you’ll be able to do something cool here.” The male leaders were more likely to just say, “This is so cool!” The female leaders tended to get declines in interest in computing — girls left the workshop saying more often, “Computing is hard” and “Girls can’t do computing.” The male leaders tended to get positive improvement in attitudes. Notice that the male leaders didn’t say it was easy. They didn’t lie. They just emphasized the benefit.
This video feels honest and heartfelt. The women interviewed say things like, “It was really difficult” and “I didn’t feel I fit in.” And when they speak to the camera, they say, “Girls, it will be hard at first, but it will get better.” I believe that the speakers are being honest, but I worry that those descriptions might trigger stereotype threat. Does telling girls about imposter syndrome make it less likely? Some pretty amazingly successful people suffer from imposter syndrome.
I recommend that the video be seen by all computer science teachers, especially teachers of undergraduates. It’s important for teachers to know about the experience of women in their classrooms. I don’t recommend it for girls that you hope to recruit into computing.