STEMpower

Women Who Code: Bridging the Gender Gap

For quite some time, women have been under represented in several STEM fields, particularly in computer science. While women made up around 37% of the computer programmers in the mid-1980’s, that trend started to drop following the widespread use of home-based PCs (Fessenden, 2014). What happened to enlarge the disparity?

Researchers have noted that several factors have contributed to the downfall of women pursuing programming careers. The bulk of these endeavors has shown that this phenomenon actually begins as early as elementary school.


Despite overt teachers’ encouragement issued to girls in an effort to help them succeed in math and science, certain covert signals are turning these same girls off. One is simply lending credence to the claim that computers are “boy toys”. In fact, studies have shown that, while girls may excel in programming or a similar endeavor, they are fearful of the gender assignment that computers have taken on. That is to say, they shy away from (due to peer pressure or intense internalization) being associated with something that is not considered “normal” relative to their gender identity (Fessenden, 2014).


Additionally, there exists an equally disheartening narrative that programming is a defining element of “nerd culture”. Afraid of being labeled nerdy, some girls will immediately distance themselves from computer science, despite having the potential to succeed. In an effort to alleviate this kind of stigma, many universities have renamed their programming courses, and have attempted to relate the concepts into a broader, globally contextual way (Fessenden, 2014).


The question of how to get these girls tracked at a young age still remains. Thankfully, many curriculum experts and organizations have tackled this quagmire, offering programs or education specifically related to getting girls excited about math.


PCS Edventures, for example, has offered a wide variety of ways to remedy this problem. On March 10 of 2015, a product entitled “Girls Can Build” was released to market. PCS Edventures is dedicated to seeing young women embrace STEM, and this product does just that (PCS Edventures, 2015).


While its main emphasis is on the very notion of construction, girls can also explore urban planning, structural design, physics, math, and storytelling. This product is targeted to meet K-2 and needs of grades 3-5 students, and can even be used to help get girls excited about computer science. (PCS Edventures, 2015). Becoming interested in math and science at a young age is precisely what compels students to pursue related degrees and eventual careers in these areas. More specifically, empowering girls to become more excited about STEM is PCS Edventures’ aim, and helping them get there is the ongoing goal motivating any product’s design.


Fessenden, M. (2014, October 22). What happened to all the women in computer science? Retrieved September 10, 2015, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/what-happened-all-women-computer-science-1-180953111/?no-ist


PCS Edventures, Inc. (2015, March 10). PCS Edventures, Inc. announced girls in stem product release. Retrieved September 10, 2015, from http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12572450.htm

 

By: Lindsay Reeves