Computer Science Education is the Answer

Computing is a huge industry in the U.S. with lots of potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an 18% increase in projected employment[1], which translates into 1.2 million job openings by 2022[2]. However, women only make up a fraction of the computing workforce. In 2013, women represented 57% of professional occupations but only made up 26% of such occupations in computing[2]. What gives? We have heard many possible explanations, however I argue that one of the larger issues is a lack of computer science exposure in education.

In today’s digital age, every profession uses computers in come way, but that reality is not being translated to schools. Not a single state in the US requires a computer science course in order to graduate despite many educational studies calling on secondary schools to take such action[3]. Fourteen states don’t offer any upper-level computer science instruction whatsoever[3]. The Association of Computing Machinery has called on the nation to implement computer science in schools arguing that it will help us in turn grow economically[3]. I fully support this initiative and further argue that in order to get more women in computer science, early exposure to computer science in school will help change the current outlook.

So, how exactly does computer science education help get more women into a male-saturated field? Early exposure shows girls what computer science is all about and shows them that it can be learned. If students realize that computer science is not an innate ability, girls are especially more likely to think they can succeed in it[4]. I believe we have failed a generation of girls by not introducing them to the world of computer science, where creativity and code can translate into real world solutions. If girls fall in love with computing early, in middle or high school, I doubt any silly bro-culture stereotype could sway them from entering such an amazing field.

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Computer Programmers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm (visited September 19, 2014).

[2] National Center for Women and Information Technology, By The Numbers, on the Internet at http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/btn_02282014web.pdf (visited September 19, 2014).

[3] Association for Computing Machinery, Running on Empty: Computer Science in the Digital Age, on the Internet at http://runningonempty.acm.org/fullreport2.pdf (visited September 19, 2014).

[4] Schwartz, Katrina, Giving Good Praise to Girls: What Messages Stick, MindShift, on the Internet at http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/04/giving-good-praise-to-girls-what-messages-stick/ (visited September 19, 2014).

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