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Early STEM Education Will Lead to More Women in It


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Elementary school girls participating in class.

The nonprofit Girls Who Code maintains that if the technology industry wants to increase the number of women in its workforce, schools must develop mandatory computer science programs for K-12 (kindergarten through 12th grade).

Credit: iStock

Girls Who Code, which has drawn support from leading technology companies, is a nonprofit working to introduce more girls to computer science at a young age. If the technology industry wants to increase the number of women in its workforce, schools must develop robust, mandatory computer science programs in the K-12 education stage, says Girls Who Code curriculum director Ashley Gavin.

Gavin notes that advocates of expanding science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education often point out that many students who initially start toward a degree in a STEM field change course and pursue a different discipline, known as the "leaky pipeline." For example, only about 30 percent of students with early exposure to computer science stay in the field, according to Girls Who Code.

Meanwhile, although women make up 48 percent of the total workforce, they hold just 23 percent of the STEM jobs, according to the National Math and Science Initiative. In 1991, women received 29.6 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded in computer science; however, that figure fell to just 18.2 percent in 2010, which is part of a larger trend concerning a general shortage of STEM workers.

"Yes, there are very few women pursuing computer science, but there are also very few people pursuing computer science," Gavin says.

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