Brief from Google on the state of Girls in CS Education

March 22, 2017 at 7:00 am 3 comments

Following up on the brief that Google did last month on Blacks in CS, this month they’ve prepared a brief on the state of girls in CS.

Computer science (CS) education is critical in preparing students for the future. CS education not only gives students the skills they need to succeed in the workforce, but it also fosters critical thinking, creativity, and innovation. Women make up half the U.S. college-educated workforce, yet only 25% of computing professionals. This summary highlights the state of CS education for girls in 7th–12th grade during 2015–16. Girls are less likely than boys to be aware of and encouraged to pursue CS learning opportunities. Girls are also less likely to express interest in and confidence in learning CS.


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Expanding the Pipeline: Characteristics of Male and Female Prospective Computer Science Majors – Examining Four Decades of Changes – CRN Sepehr Vakil appointed first Associate Director of Equity and Inclusion in STEM Education at U. Texas-Austin

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bonnie  |  March 22, 2017 at 9:05 am

    A big issue is what is happening before the 7th grade. In my area, there is a veritable industry of afterschool programs, summer enrichment camps, and library clubs devoted to Legos, Minecraft, and Scratch. I quickly learned that the kindergarten Lego programs are the entry point to the pipeline. My boys did all of these programs, and so has my daughter. But she is often the only girl. In 3rd grade, she did an afterschool Scratch camp where they were supposed to work in pairs. She was the only girl, and she complained that the boy she was working with wouldn’t let her do anything. Being a very assertive person, she found an empty computer and announced she was working by herself from then on out. But a lot of girls wouldn’t have that confidence.

    Another thing I learned from her – in a later Scratch session during school, when she was paired with girls, she complained that the girls only wanted to change costumes and design shapes. Again, she went off by herself. This is something I have seen myself when running Scratch workshops for middle schoolers – the boys will try to create shooter games, but the girls get lost in creating artwork. If the workshop instructor isn’t vigilant, the girls can send up spending the whole session coloring shapes and making pretty scenes, and never learn any computing concepts at all. So it is very important that we find projects for girls to work on that are more interesting to them than shooter games, but still contain plenty of computational content.

    By 7th grade, it is already too late for girls (and for kids from poor backgrounds, who have similar lack of access to the early programs)

    • 2. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  March 22, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      I noticed the tendency of 5th grade girls to spend all their time on drawing and coloring in a tech club using Scratch 10 years ago. Eventually some of them got into using the programming to make a story line with dialog, but it took them a long time to get to that point, and their code was mostly straight-line code. I didn’t know then how to encourage them to explore the conditionals and loops, and I’d still be hard-pressed to come up with incentives for a purely voluntary recreational club.

      In the 10 years that Scratch has been around, surely someone has come up with better projects to get young girls interested in the programming aspects of Scratch.

      • 3. Guy Haas  |  March 23, 2017 at 10:33 am

        One year I had a pair of girls develop a game where the player dropped food into an aquarium with fish swimming back and forth. You got points when food arrived in front of a fish. When you think about it, this is just a nice twist on a shooter game.

        Also, in my experience, getting students out of straight-line code is always a challenge. But when I think back, my first programs when I was learning programming (in 1970-71) , I was guilty too – and I didn’t have cut-and-paste at the time. I eventually learned this was a problem when the program had to be modified in such a way that finding all the places that needed changed was painful. One exercise I’ve used is to have students draw a short word. I have a program that draws LOGO. When complete, I ask the students to modify their program to spell the word backwards. I show them that for my program, I only had to change four lines of code and it literally took a minute to do this.


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