I am a bloody idiot.
This year, as every year, I decided that I would have one major focus for Young Rewired State in addition to the general idea: introducing young programmers to open data. This year I decided I would try to really focus on the issue of the pitifully small number of girls in tech and specifically girls applying to join in YRS2012.
In previous years we have struggled enough trying to find any child under the age of 18 who could programme, let alone deal with the girl thing. Yet every year I come under heavy criticism for not having enough girls there and no matter how many times you say: ‘it is not for want of trying‘, there is only so much defending you can do before really trying to *do* something.
Cue me in 2012.
Every media event, every radio broadcast, every TV split-second and every speaking opportunity, blog post or “fireside chat” this year I have bemoaned the fact that so few girls sign up for Young Rewired State, and indeed how many of those who do sign up, tend to pull out at the last minute and called for more girls: welcome the girls, I cried – loudly! With a view to increasing our number from 5% to 30%. I wanted to draw the girls out, let them know about this, let their parents know – showcase and applaud them on the YRS platform – this year bigger and shinier than ever before…
I hope you can tell by now where I am going, but I am going to drag you through every painful penny-dropping moment so that you never make this mistake yourself, dear reader.
About a month ago, whilst on an hour-long telephone conference call with some well-meaning people helping me ‘get more girls’, I found myself nodding along as ideas were discussed such as: you need to find some more “girly data”… like nursing, is there anything like that in data.gov.uk? I *actually* found myself questioning my data for pink subjects, oh my god, even I knew this was a spectacular low for me. At this point I began to question my focus and modus operandi for getting more girls. The MO being: shout more loudly in forums where girls and their parents might hear – that’ll work, that and pink data.
At this point I allowed myself the special treat of discovering how many girls we had this year. I had put off looking, focusing instead on the drive to get more girls, trying to build and extend the amount of time I took to do the percentages, so that I could give myself a little pat on the back when I saw the fruits of my work.
Guess what? The number of girls applying to YRS this year have… dropped
Completely bamboozled as to why my monstrously massive effort to encourage girls into programming was failing, I even took boy photos off the new YRS website (yet to be launched, but coming soon) jic it put girls off, I began wringing my hands at public events. Not only were my efforts failing to increase the numbers, it was actively reducing the numbers who signed up – please help me, someone. Audiences chuckled and looked awkward, and I grew ever more concerned about this – what on earth was I doing wrong? Maybe I should wangle a slot on Woman’s Hour.
Through this trojan effort to get more girls I had the benefit of meeting lots of amazing people trying to redress the male/female balance in all sorts of walks of life – it had not ever been a raison d’être of mine, I have been lucky enough to never really be bothered by this personally, and I have worked in many *male* jobs, I just do my thing…
(:) sorry had to work that one in… I digress)
Yet I do not mean to detract from the people who do so, it is an issue, yes, a worldwide issue and especially in programming/tech.
Through a charity we had worked with: Refugees United, I was introduced to the wonderful Kristen Titus, based in New York and running Girls who code. An ambitious programme and something I support hugely and wish we had here, big time. Kristen and I arranged a skype chat and riffed for an hour about how the UK and US were dealing with the broader issue of programming skills in a digital world with analogue schools and inevitably came back to my baffled moaning about how the number of girls had dropped this year – could I blame the Economic Crisis? Could Kristen find some anthropological reason why no girls were signing up? I mean… I made such an effort *sigh*
Kristen said this (ish, I cannot remember verbatim)
So you identified that the girls were not signing up in their teenage years as they have a greater need to fit in. You identified that the girls dropped out the closer the event got as they were concerned about being showcased and ‘outed’. You know, as a mother of two girls, that identity trumps everything… yet you chose to publicly out this problem, to use your public platform to draw a big red ring around the issue and then essentially dared girls to sign up – after you took your sweet time to turn that massive spotlight directly on them and them alone – in advance of the week? Hmm… I can’t think why… maybe you need more pink data…
I have to say that I lie quite appallingly here, Kristen was very kind in her gentle admonishment and practical advice, but this is what my brain finally said to me as she spoke. So thank you, Kristen, and sorry for completely bastardizing your observations!
Yes that makes a lot of sense, it is actually the reason why I have never gone to a YRS. I am now 19 and will hopefully help out this year, but beforehand it was always a place for young programmers to go. Of course that is a good thing, but I started programming very young and have never liked to be considered a young programmer because (especially in web development where I have been freelancing for 3 years) I have always tried to be at the same level as adults… there is too much of a distinction between young and adult when in reality it is usually only a few years or even months.
That is the same thing going on here, the girls that do program don’t want to be scrutinised and a minority. Those that are new to programming think that because there is only 5% of YRS that are female, that girls are worse programmers.
Of course that is wrong and needs to be rectified. I have always found that women such as Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper (who were both essential to computing) is a nice way to inspire them. I hope you have better luck from now on!
Thank you, for helping as a mentor and your insight here. Would be good if you could help us/me get this right for more people like you who do not take kindly to this sort of separatism. I don’t know what the answer is, probably not a singular thing but it is deifitely not what I have been doing recently.
It is a very good question. I am not entirely sure how you can target girls. I don’t think I had met a female programmer until I had been programming for at least 8 years (so aged 14) and did not meet any female programmers under 25 until I started brick University last year!
I will talk to some of my friends (and perhaps some teachers too) to see if they have any ideas. I already have your email address so will let you know directly if I think of anything that would work well.
I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but I would talk to the girl geeks that you know and learn what drove them. The reasons might well not be gender-specific and they’ll certainly be more subtle attractors than pink data.
It’s not about removing barriers or creating overt welcomes.
Have the greatest respect for you Emma on what you have done, and what you are trying to achieve and for what you will achieve.
We’ve discussed this on another forum and I think it’s a case of JFDI. Let us, us girls, us women who are currently in tech/web/software/management roles to blaze a path for those younger than us to follow through.
We aren’t going to find all the answers, we aren’t going to solve this individually. But together, by leading by example and not sugar coating or “pink” coating in this case we can certainly shine a light in the direction that we need to go.
This isn’t a job for the “boys”. It’s a job for *all* of us.
Do you think it is because computing is considered (and in many cases actually is) a sit in the dark and program till you fall asleep kind of profession (or even hobby)?
Maybe, but so what?
So then maybe we need to find a way to portray it in a different light. Maybe Raspberry Pi can help, since many schools are going to be using it. If it is in the curriculum to be fun and not just making lines appear on a screen… it might help. Not in the short term, but hopefully in the long term (which in my opinion is far more important).
Being 17, I’ve only met one girl who can code and that was via Twitter. The ‘geekiest’ I’ve come to who I see on a daily basis plays playing games, and even that she’s quiet about. I’m sure there’s some similarity with girls coding as there is to engineers laying roads and building bridges.
I’ll go round and ask, but I’m sure 80% of the replies will be ‘it’s boring’ or ‘it’s not my thing’
I should clarify that the association is what society generally associates to an action. Clearly this is something which should be changed but it needs time.
A thought occurred to me – larger numbers of women are attracted to UI Design and Design in general. Maybe you could put more emphasis on the creative, the visual and the really cool/shiny/social aspects of the end product that they are coding for? Just saying, “Let’s all sit in a room and code for a weekend” is definitely NOT going to meet the needs of most of the teen girls I know – and yes, I know quite a few. Maybe create a group project to produce a new social fashion app and combine it with a really well known fashion or consumer brand? Make the project collaborative, not just lecture format and then individuals working alone. That would appeal to a lot of computer teen dudes but if the point is to attract girls think social and visual.
er… reply to get follow up comments 🙂 And if you like my comment pls follow me on Twitter to see more comments from me.
we have looked at this, but right now the problem is simply upping the number of programming kids, anyone who can work open data under the age of 21, but yes… I agree with you (in 2015 – sadly)
Also a lot of it is social. They do not want to be seen as geeks, whereas I know I don’t care what people think about me and am more than happy to be classed as a geek lol
By the way, added on Twitter!
Cross-stitch patterns? C’mon, Shane! Also, you do know at least one female programmer…
I think a lot of girls (and some boys, for that matter) don’t get into programming because they think it’s much harder than it actually is. It’s the same problem as with math – “No, I can’t figure that out, I’m too stupid.” At least, that’s what I hear when I ask my non-programming friends.
So if you can convince the girls that they’re not stupid, and that basic programming is easier than high school math, they may come around. Also, please forget about pink. Programmer girls are generally not pink girls.
> “No, I can’t figure that out, I’m too stupid.”
That seems to match up with me – pretty much the reason that I’m addicted to programming is that what I get out of it is proportional to what I put in, so I put in as much as possible. If girls are being raised to think that their odds of success in life are a fixed number and they don’t get the hang of programming straight away, it would take /way/ more determination to carry on trying.
Maya!!! Yes but I didn’t meet you till last year :p And also you are into game development which is what I was trying to avoid hehe
That mirrors my experience in that I’ve encountered a higher proportion of women at events such as LUXR than ones which project a ‘pure coding’ atmosphere. Ironically design and a sense of aesthetics is a highly respected ability within the ‘clean code’ movement yet hack days, by their nature, tend to play down that aspect of our vocation.
You are wonderful, so don’t beat yourself up.
Have you spoken with @teknoteacher? He will have some ideas.
Read “Unlocking the Clubhouse” by Margolis and Fisher, I’m reading it atm.
I think less girls will have done any of this stuff already so you could try having a focus on ‘no prior experience necessary’ so that no one putting themselves forward thinks they may end up looking like a dummy.
Also maybe ask all the adults coming to bring a girl or two that they know.
With the #gototech event that we just ran with 7-9 year olds we wanted there to be something for everyone, so we had Apps for Good (design focus), Raspberry Pi (hardware focus) Scratch (software focus) which painted a more holistic picture.
I blogged about it here, the kids (girls and boys) and the teachers loved it
Let me know if I can help in any way.
+1 for Sue’s first sentence. You’re doing a great job, and occasionally getting stuff wrong is an essential part of getting stuff right. 🙂
I’m a professor and academic director for IT at Adolfo Ibanez University in Chile. Our curriculum for Engineering includes selecting a minor that can be: Energy, Bioengineering, Environmental, Mining, Civil and IT. For the last 5 years IT is among the most popular minor among females, which includes programming. Moreover, students decide their minor after having two programming courses so we could argue that the experience was a positive one for them. I’m not saying we have the solution to a very difficult problem, but I just wanted to share our experience.
In the last 5 years (and particularly the last two years) we have made a conscious effort on trying to approach girls in the introductory programming courses. We basically focused on two aspects:
1. Putting the social issue as an important objective for the course. The final project for CS101 is a Facebook app which topic is decided by the students and the only requirement for them is to attract a certain amount of friends to install the app. Most first year girls have female friends.
2. The Facebook project is developed in groups which we allow students to form. Naturally girls tend to group together and choose “pink” topics for their projects such as Pub and restaurants directories, recipes and forming couples among their friends to name a few.
This is coherent with your ideas (and from others in this forum) which could be summarized in: Including a social aspect to the activities you are going to offer to girls so they want to show their friends what they are capable to do, and letting girls group together so they can support each other and choose their own “pink” topics.
All the best on your efforts!
Jorge Villalon, Ph.D.
Professor, Faculty of Engineering and Sciences
Adolfo Ibanez University
Have you heard of rails girls (railsgirls.com)?
self organising one and a bit day events to get people (moslty girls) to experience building a web application. The experience of actuallly building something and having fun gets people excited!
Fascinating post and comments. This resembles a problem found in trying to get children to eat more fruit and veg (bear with me). All the experiments and schemes to up intake fail. A group of social scientists ( institute of education in London) finally went to ask the kids who said “you tell us that fruit and veg is healthy and good for us, but that’s not cool. Why not tell us which ones taste good?”
The comments about the identity-attention problem are well made. But, you and a bunch of other women ( I’ll name check Dr_Black and Reena Pau cos I know them) role model cool computer science, everyday of the week. Don’t give up, it’s a long haul but the girls now have some leaders to follow (and like medicine, and accounting, and other ‘boys’ subjects) they will follow you.
A fascinating article and having tried to encourage Girls into IT at School I know the frustration. In a mixed School we now have ICT (no sniggering) as the most popular option (thanks to ignoring the National Curriculum for years)and we actively encourage students to go down the A level programming or A level maths route – if ICT GCSE hasn’t put them off. Probably one girl has gone into Programming at Uni each year and they don’t fit any geek stereotype.
We have been programming for a number of years at KS3 but to be honest I’ve not encountered one girl who has continued to do it at home. Most of the girls are coming to programming via Maths. Which does make we wonder if coding should be a Maths discipline?
Makes you wonder how other minority groups have felt in the past about schemes to “level the playing field”, be it ethnicity in employment or religious beliefs in schools. I don’t doubt your good intentions, but I think, generally speaking, these “issues” will only go away by not treating them as issues and instead concentrating on the business in hand, whether that’s giving kids the opportunity to code or staffing a company with suitably-qualified people.
I think the way to encourage girls to code is not to overtly make it about programming in the first place. I believe it is possible to gradually “sneak in” elements of programming into other areas.
This is one of the aims of my open source text adventure engine, Quest – http://www.textadventures.co.uk/quest/. It’s already being used in a number of schools, and what has surprised me has been that it’s not always within ICT lessons – it seems to be within English that it’s getting the most interest at the moment.
It introduces programming concepts gradually, as you can make a very small game without doing any “coding” at all. Then you can build up by adding simple scripts, which are presented in a Scratch-style plain English kind of way so there’s no syntax to learn. This way pupils can be introduced to concepts such as variables, “if” statements and so on.
So, perhaps this is a way to encourage girls into coding? Get them to write interactive stories which they can share with their friends, and maybe they’ll “accidentally” learn a bit about programming while they’re at it!
Alex – that’s *exactly* how I got into coding. I built things in Hypercard (old Mac application that hardly anyone remembers now), got frustrated at not being able to make exactly what I wanted and decided to take a look under the bonnet. The creativity was a big motivator for me – putting something together that quickly produced results, something tangible, which in turn made me want to make more. Result, positive feedback loop: “well, if I can do THAT – I wonder if I can do this?”
Fantastic comments here. I love the internet.
Definitely not cross stitch patterns, but I do (personally and with only anecdotal evidence) think that girls tend to be more goal-orientated. I never programmed “just because” as my brother did, or sat playing games for hours/days on end – there had to be a *point* to it – I learned languages because I needed them to solve a problem. So I suspect girls might respond better to a specific end goal (ideally a competitive one) than to a general “because it’s fun to programme”
More educated people can shoot that theory down in flames – but as the one and only female undergrad on an Engineering and Computing Science degree (decades ago now, but it doesn’t seem to have changed much) it was certainly true for me.
Catherine, your comment is perfect! I’ve just spent 10 minutes trying to come up with something to add to it, but from my point of view you’ve said it all. Programming is problem solving – there needs to be a reason to do it.
What a great post, thank you. It sparked a couple of ideas in me.
First, I was reading a post recently which I wish I could find again but perhaps you read it anyway, which was about a woman trying to organise a developer conference and the trouble that she had getting female speakers. There were two points that struck home to me: women needed to be asked, personally, to be involved because they wouldn’t volunteer themselves; and women needed help identifying a topic to talk about, possibly because they were concerned that the stuff they were interested in wouldn’t be interesting to other people.
I think these issues probably apply to teen girls as well, perhaps more so. So perhaps it would work to approach ICT teachers, ask them for the names of their brightest students (emphasising that you’re particularly interested in certain groups such as women, ethnic minorities, poorer students and so on if you like) and then invite them all — boys and girls — personally, because they are bright and good and should be there whatever social group they fit into. That’s (a lot) more work for you, I know, but I think it will make girls (and members of all the other minority groups) feel personally wanted in a way a general plea does not. (Don’t just ask the girls personally and not the boys, or mention anything about them being female: if they think that’s the only reason you’re asking them it will make them feel like tokens.)
Perhaps it would also help to emphasise that there will be loads of ideas for interesting and good things to do provided by YRS, so there’s no need to have picked something. Of course you actually want to support whatever ideas the developers arrive with, but saying they don’t need to have an idea up front might make it less daunting for people who perhaps don’t feel confident about their abilities.
Second, I bet there are loads of fears that teen girls will have simply about mixing with the rest of the crowd (which they’ll guess will be predominantly spoddy boys). They’ll be worried about being left on their own when teams are formed because no one wants to work with them, or ending up with some arsehole who hits on them or patronises them. At least these are my fears about these events (well, not the hitting on part; I know *that*’s not going to happen ;).
So what about asking them (when you invite them) to bring a friend, even if that friend isn’t a coder. Friends can act as muses and supporters, as testers and gophers, and knowing you have a friend with you (especially as a teen girl) means you know you won’t be alone and if you’re stuck with a dweeb; at least you’ll have someone with you to back you up. Added bonus: I bet a bunch of these friends will actually sit and contribute in other ways: draw some graphics, learn enough CSS to make something look prettier, a little bit of data munging, small things that will also draw them into the computing world.
Anyway, YRS is fantastic however many girls go, simply for reaching and supporting young coders, so don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing great work and I’m sure I’m not the only one who admires you hugely for it 🙂
I agree with often-raised point that a lot of this is to do with varying social pressures on teens. More that once at YRS events we’ve asked young coders where they’ve learnt there skills and the answer invariably is “on my own in my bedroom”. Both teenage lads and girls do this *but* guys find it much easier to say that to their peers. Girls, from what I can tell, don’t want to admit to doing anything “weird” that might make them an easy target for ridicule.
So, my suggestion is a simple one. When targeting teenage girls try focusing on “bring a friend”. When two (or more!) girls, who know each other outside of the confines of YRS, are doing the same thing it’s less likely that their hobby will seem “weird”.
You might also want to think about how the work during the week is pitched. From working with kids in YRS weeks I observed that lads are happy to be given something to do and sit and do it on their own (often for hours on end) whereas girls are much more comfortable working collaboratively. Have a think about how you can communicate that programming doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor (which I’m positive is how it’s thought of by pretty much all teenagers).
I’m not normal, and I’m old, and male, but I guess I must have been very lucky. I was taught to program by a brilliant grey-haired woman who, in her youth, had worked at Manchester Uni on some of the original mainframes that Turing’s team had built.
When I got my first job, I worked in an IT department that was almost 50-50 male-female, and had lots of powerful female users to try and keep happy. And yet, even that kind of environment was still intimidating for women who worked there.
It’s a paradox, I think, that the most inspiring thing for girls and women is to see other women doing something well, and yet they are often afraid to be seen themselves. Maybe the answer is to create ‘girls-only’ spaces. Or possibly, following Sue Black’s and Jorge Villalon’s ideas, to allow girls to form themselves into teams where they feel safe and more. And to give them a chance to work on something that has meaning and purpose they can relate to. I liked Jeni and Catherine’s idea on that.
More and more, I’m beginning to feel this isn’t a problem with technology – it’s a problem with society, and what it takes to get girls to say “I’m going to do what I want, and I don’t care what other people think.” If we can solve that, the world will be a much better place for everyone. You have been brave, Emma, and I hope we both live long enough to look back on this as the ‘bad old days’.
programming ain’t no boy v girl thang you just need to engage young people in the unbounded possibilities. Take a brownies troop to smartlab and chat to lizbeths crew about holodecks and replicators cud b inspiring, imagine never havin to buy another Barbie Princess Charm School Princess Blair Transforming Doll
Love what you are doing. I’m not a teacher, academic, professional coder, but I have 3 small girls (5,4,1) and a tendency to tinker.
The realisation that all the promotion only highlights even more that any girls taking part would be the exception is very insightful.
I remember seeing something a while back that said girls in mixed groups do not come forward as much so boys end up dominating. Then when you take a domain like computers where historically for many reasons boys have dominated you have history and social interactions working against your wish.
Could a good start be multiple groups/projects where the girls can come in as a formed team. Maybe part of the bigger group, but possibly working in isolation and then coming back to the main group with their results.
I also liked Tiffany’s suggestion about design.
Make it more visual rather than practical.
Start with graphics, drawing pictures in code. Building images rather than focusing on coding. Coding the means to an end rather than the end in itself.
Also, at Raspberry Jam (http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1396) there is a piece about a girl who coded pacman in Scratch (sorry for the RPI reference – it’s everywhere). And the recent BBC video of Kids doing Raspberry Pi where they turned on and off an LED showed how simple it can be for it to be interesting to some. I believe this is the session Sue Black is linking to above.
In both cases it is visual winning over code.
There are SO MANY reasons why girls don’t get into tech. They are scared of coding. My thesis looked at this very issue. I have blogged about it here: reenapau.wordpress.com I am happy to work with you on this, I’ve run a lot of coding camps for girls. Best of luck!!!
I have no great insight or expertise to share, and i often worry that the thoughts I have on how to make programming appealing to girls is based on deep engrained biases or predujices about ‘what girls like’.
However I have do wonder if some barriers to getting girls to engage with programming could be overcome by presenting it as a design process, a creative problem solving issue rather than an instructional or algorithmic issue. Reframing programming to not be about getting the computer to do what you want, but rather presenting other computer users with visualisations and interfaces that help them.
This is not to say that the things that need to be learnt are any different, kids still need to learn languages, syntax, algorythms, patterns, development processes, etc, but we express the objective as being people centric rather than about controlling a machine.
Having said all that I suspect that many many kids of either gender will be far more attracted to programming simply as a puzzle solving exercise (as I do).
The problem (at least in the UK) is secondary school. I teach A-level computing at college however our local schools only teach ICT (if they are lucky) at gcse.. This means that the majority of students (both boys and girls) have no idea at all about what a Computing A level actually is..and consequently we end up with ,generally, boys who are the ‘sit in the dark bedroom tapping away’ types.
Things in school are changing slowly but I am convinced that is the main problem.
For info we teach visual basic in year 1 which usually develops into one of the variants of C (C++) etc in year 2
I wish I had some worthwhile ideas for this but I’m at a loss, myself.
FWIW, from ’89 – ’04 I worked as a civilian programmer for the US Army. Depending on the project, we had anywhere between 35% to 75% women coders. This was everything from COBOL/CICS to Java to Web UI work. And, in all honesty, the best programmers I’ve ever known were all women.
Came across this via twitter RT. I’m surprised at the lack of girls doing programming. I came to it very late, during my PhD years in the 1980s, and at least half the first-year uni students (in the US) in beginner-level programming classes were female. There were fewer in the upper level graphics and simulation classes, but still a reasonable number. It was great, because I’d been put off programming in my undergraduate years (in NZ) by a biostatistics lecturer who said I’d never be any good at it. Yes, I groan too when I think back.
As a scientist, much of what I do requires use of software of various types, and I think you need to have a grasp of how it’s put together no matter what the application. So these days, seems essential that kids at least get the basics. I agree with Gordon and others above, it’s probably more a social thing. Those early female programmers were there mainly because all the blokes were off in the war or didn’t come back from it.
If I hadn’t been firmly in the biology track, and had met coding and especially computer graphics earlier, I might have gone that way, it’s so much fun. I chose the university for my first biology job – Ohio State – because the Computer Graphics Research Group (now ACCAD) was there, and continued with computer graphics in my spare time. There seem to be so many opportunities now for such interesting work. I might even go back to it when I retire! Maybe the fun, design side needs to be emphasized, as suggested by others in earlier posts? As a basis for artworks or designing clothes or buildings or whatever kids do at school these days.
As part of my job I teach other scientists to use complex instruments and the main reason they don’t want to use them is because they’re afraid, they want me to do the work for them – this applies equally to the men and women. But they don’t get away with that! If they want to investigate that aspect of their project, they have to learn how to use the instrument and how to interpret the data. By the same token, if a student needs to create some package on the computer, they’ll need to learn how to programme it.
Hey, what about needing to learn CAD to programme a 3D printer to make something? That’d be fun! I’ve been trying to think why we need to get one of these at work…
Well, I’m a girl and I’ll definitely be at YRS2012… that helps, right? 😛 On a more serious note, I got into coding because I was fed up of being taught how to use Office and thought AS Computing would be better… little did I know I’d fall in love with coding, want to do Computer Science at uni and it’s now what will shape my career. The guys in my class even got me playing minecraft… I don’t think you need ‘pink data’ – I love coding for being coding, not for being appealing to teenage girls. Hmm, maybe I’m just not normal 😉
Poppie, you are perfectly normal. The fun of hacking code is the code hacking itself. At least it is for me and others I know.
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My experience with STEM subjects at university level has revealed a 40/60 split between genders. There is no explicit call for female candidates. Most of the time they express resentment for being treated differently.
This did not align with my expectations.
Interestingly, and be aware that this is a conjecture based on my own experience, almost all of the candidates I’d deem outstandingly talented (by this stage) teach themselves a majority of their skills outside of an educational establishment; none of whom are female.
I conclude that the problem is not a lack of female scientists or engineers, it’s two things:
– a lack of female scientists from the perspective of the critics (the primary issue, discussed elsewhere)
– a lack of female candidates who are even aware of their interest in the subject before college. This cannot be addressed by seeking out those people at a young age since they do not know themselves.
There are, of course, a growing number of young women exempt from my conclusion that need nurturing (thanks to society, for now) to preserve their enthusiasm and these are accurately modelled in Kristen Titus’s response. There will never be as many females as males for reasons I cannot be sure of: for now, your challenge is to find 20% of those females and 2% of those males to glitz up the presentations. I hope that there will be sufficient feedback to improve uptake the following year.
The challenge for society, however, is to find a way to show to those people destined for a STEM career that:
– they will be accepted and applauded for this, let alone to know that their peers deem it ‘okay’
– they indeed are destined for such a career and to act upon it as early in their life as they possibly can
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I am a 21 year old hacker programming since 15. Do not worry, I am amongst the ones that have understood this problem very well and decided to strive to make it look “cool”. Currently, there are two young females (22, ~24; also many males) under my tutelage (I teach hacking/thinking; tutorials are used extensively, so it takes up little time).
Looking cool is an inevitable result for this, from many angles. Here’s one: no matter how “cool” you are, your boss (or whoever controls you: gov, doctors, teachers, etc) will be nerds. I estimate that in the next few years, you won’t have to set up topics for girls, they’ll be on the same forums as the rest of us.
Posted this just as an FYI in case you haven’t started yet: Just display all the advantages of being a programmer. I focus on showing how it “expands” your mind.
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