Promoting Girls in CS: Why?

There are many organizations pushing for increased computer science offerings and higher percentages of girls in the computer science field. But, why? Why is the question I hear often. Why is coding so important?

It’s more than coding for me. It’s a way of thinking. It’s a different way of thinking. Those outside of the educational system ask me, “why don’ they teach cursive anymore…why don’t they teach [fill in the blank] anymore?” At one time, we taught girls essential skills like how to churn butter, how to press their husband’s clothes, and how to have dinner ready. At the time, we deemed those skills essential.

Well, our needs have changed. We no longer teach students how to churn butter. Latin is no longer a required language in Catholic schools. When the skill is no longer applicable in the real world, we need to phase it out of education. We certainly phase it out of business.

 But, education seems to be slower. We associate a nostalgia with learning certain items. We think that our children should have the  same experiences as us even though their world is very different. I grew up with cable TV and a private phone line. Both of my parents were lucky to have a TV and used party lines. Look them up if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Whether they wanted my life experiences to be the same or not, they could not control it. Party lines didn’t even exist when I was a teenager.

When I bring up coding, there is also a stigma that goes with – a social stigma. Recently, I was discussing the significance of computer science in the curriculum to a highly educated person. At the end of my conversation, he said, “but don’t computer scientists just sit at a computer all day…they don’t interact with others.” Apparently, there is not only a nostalgia for teaching the same things we have taught for generations, but there is also a social stigma about computer-based jobs. Ironically, there are days when the developers in my life spend more time socializing.

There is a giant hole in the developer market. We aren’t producing enough to fill that gap. As a result, we are losing out on earnings and…spendings for our economy. And, we are losing 50% of our work force. The number of females in computer science has dropped since I was a child.

There is a stigma that, if you go into computer science, you lack social skills. You are a…nerd.

We need to address several things:

  • Why is being a “nerd” considered undesirable?
  • Why do feel feel nostalgia over teaching the same concepts as before (especially when they have little impact on our life)?
  • Why do we consider computer science a socially limiting field?
In education, we need to less judgmental about what we learn and more critical of why we choose not to learn other things. 
When you ask “why” coding is a big push right now, it’s not because we all need to be coders. However, it is a skill that is around us. Coding dictates much of what we do. Coding is in our own health, it’s in our finances, it’s in our fun. It’s everywhere. So, why wouldn’t we teach it? We need to teach it so students have the opportunity to decide if it is a path for them. If we don’t teach it, how would they know? And, we need to lose the stigma that is is socially-limiting field. Shadow a developer for a day or two. Take a moment to learn about the different fields. We need every career. 
So, to help you get started on computer science and in getting girls into the field, I’ve compiled a presentation of my favorite resources. You can find more coding resources on fennovation.org.
Happy coding!
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