Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where have all the women gone?

This is totally unrelated to designs.

I just replied to a thread on the CDF forums about the lack of women in CS. There are lots of studies about why women are not as interested in CS, but I haven't gotten around to reading them. There are hundreds of factors as to why women choose to go into CS. For me, I like building things and knowing that I've created something that other people can use to make their lives easier. Even if that isn't the present case, I'm working towards it. That is my reason to WHY. How did I know that I liked programming though? I'm pretty sure it started in high school. My first TIK course was in Visual Basic. I caught on to the syntax, structure, and ideas pretty quickly and the other girls envied me. I became the go to person if the teacher was busy. I was lucky though. The other TIK class with the same course code and description was learning how to use Microsoft Office. If I had been in that class, I may never had learned about programming at all! Crazy! But out of 100 girls, I was the only one in my grade that pursued a degree in computer science. I think one other person applied and started, but soon after dropped out and went into economics or politics.

I think it really depends on a person's personality. I like to build things and have since I was able to pick up a Lego block. I also dislike succumbing to peer pressure, so I tend to do what I want. However, for some girls in high school, they can't help but conform to stereotypes and crumble under peer pressure. So how do we reach out to them and expose them to programming? What about ENJOYING programming? We can expose them to it, but it doesn't mean that they'll enjoy it enough to pursue a degree in it.

I like the Storytelling Alice project for middle school girls, but I don't think it will work for high school girls. As a final project in high school, we were asked to create a game using all the structures we learned about. I made a short RPG whereas the majority made trivia games about pop culture since it was easiest and they like keeping up with pop culture. SO perhaps if we can incorporate an Alice-like software and integrate it with pop culture SOMEHOW, it could reach out to high school girls.

Since I've been in CS though, I have a tendency to think that I don't know as much as other people. I realize that in life there will always be people who like putting you down, but sometimes it feels like a lot of people in CS are like this. They may not intentionally mean to be condescending, but they sure come off that way. It may be because in their high school they were in fact one of the smartest people in the school. There are a lot of incredibly bright students in CS who were top (or close to top) of their class and perhaps feel a little threatened now to be a bottom feeder and competing against all the other top students from around the world.

Then again, what do I know? I'm just a woman. ;)


gvwilson said...

You might want to check out --- especially the second page.

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