I remember in middle school, we learned about the magical "Copy and Paste" in computer class. The problem is we don't have strong enough computing teachers! I think it's hard to get computing teachers, when a job in computing is so great!
I saw a great talk last month by Jessica McKellar showing how few people take AP CS in high school -- there are entire states in the USA where not a single woman writes the AP Computer Science exam. But she also demonstrated that committed teachers who personally encourage women to take the course can move the needle A LOT.
Girls also need to talk about 'why' not just 'how', in order to feel inspired and that the efforts have meaning.
My inspiration is my Dad - Paul Lamere, who has made some cool stuff on the music tech front. He showed me that programming isn't dealing with 1s and 0s - it has some really fun aspects to it.
Role models that are close to family or teachers at school are critical. They can look at anyone who is inspiring for them, doesn’t have to be a female figure, can be their science or math teacher, the closer the person is the better, not just as a historical figure like Augusta Ada King or Madame Curie, or somebody who is popular now like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. I will offer them to come to work with me and see how life is in the world of a technologist and talk to the engineers.
Lack or tech-savvy teachers is definitely a HUGE gap and part of this challenge. How can you inspire when you aren't inspired yourself? This is why supplementary learning opportunities are so critical and popular these days.
My father encouraged me to pursue all things science and computing. When I was 6, he bought a Commodore Vic 20 it was my first forray into coding. I remember doing a very basic line of code that did an infinite loop, which was printing my name on the screen and getting colors to flash across the tv screen. I was hooked. Fast forward later, and I thought myself how to code html and java script. I don't code anymore but it gives me the ability to understand the challenges businesses face when having to adopt new emerging technologies to remain competitive.
he also encouraged me by getting me books on biology, a telescope to look at the night sky and a microscope to understand the unseen world. And he wasn't a scientist, he was a sales man! He just understood the importance of curiosity.
My inspiration was my dad as well, he was a mathematician and en
couraged me to be a problem solver.
When I was in university, some of the women on the faculty started a group for women in CS where we could just get together and talk about how we felt about the program. It made a world of difference to me feeling like I had some company!
It inspired me to keep going through the tough times.
Good point. Empowering teachers with technology in the classroom will help spark the imagination for all present.
Ha! Melanie...I had a Vic 20 too. My mom was a systems analyst, and bought me one when I was 5. Thought I took more to the social side of things vs programming, she played a big role in making sure I never feared technology.
Bring your kids to work is another way to inspire more girls into technology and science, imagine at Silicon Valley - how this can work.
I didn't become inspired until a few years into my career, when I realized how technology is critical to me being successful and effective! My lack of tech savviness was holding me back and I saw so many young people entering my network that were empowered to do such creative things with tech.
Yes, bring your kids to work is a great idea (especially when so many tech companies have gorgeous offices :P)
My one concern with bringing in kids to the office, is they should choose a career in computing because its something they're passionate about, not because they are interested in the perks that come with it.
What do you see that schools are doing well to combat this and what still needs to change? What would you say to a school age girl pondering a future STEM path?
I see a lot of women get inspired by building things other people can use, rather than the machinery or the programming itself. And I think that's fine.
Steven Institute of Technology (@FollowStevens) is one of the top schools for #WIT, very strong #mentorship program - #STEM. They invite high school students to live technology demos on campus – works very well. Stevens students also teach in local area school, which creates role models for those students, topics like Robotics, Phyton, mobile development, etc.
Girls Learning Code runs 'We'll Take Your Kids to Work' where we take 30 girls into 5 tech companies. It's a pretty epic and eye-opening day for these girls. We see the 'whoa' moments when the realize how exciting the industry is. Some of them have no idea! In order to ensure they aren't just inspired by 'perks' the girls participate in hands-on, relevant activities in each office, that allow them to experience some of the realities. It's only a start though.. I don't know how far anyone will get in pursuing a tech career, without enjoying the work. Thoughts?
My advice to a school age girl would be to find the fun parts, and just jump into building things. I would especially emphasize not worrying about "geek cred" -- that's one of the major things that make people feel like they don't belong, or that they shouldn't be there.
Good point Melanie. So many women come to Ladies Learning Code to skill up for their existing jobs, not because they are planning a career move necessarily.
There is a great movement here in Montreal called the KidsCodeJeunesse.org which aspires to get every child in Canada the opportunity to code. Elementary education is the great equalizer and will push today's girls to explore the industry with the most promise and the least women - the IT business.
there are quite a few female leaders at the tech giants nowdays...Ginni Rometti – IBM, Marissa Mayer, CEO yahoo, Sheryl Sandberg – facebook, Meg Whitman – HP, Ursula Burns – Xerox ...but most of them tend to come up through the sales and marketing channel...(Marissa is the exception there...maybe one or two others above)..vs the hard science.....maybe this high profile visibility will get more girls interested in the space in general.
Yes, Laura! I am seeing a lot of impact with programs that aim to teach programming skills to librarians, writers, scientists in other fields, etc.
RE the term GEEK >> I asked a group of girls what a geek is the other day. They said, it's someone who is really into something. Like, a foodie. It's becoming a cool thing to be. This new gen (19 and under) is really more about being unique and different and quirky than gens of the past.
I am so impressed with the TPL and Librarians interest in becoming tech-savvy! It's awesome to see.
For any school girl or boy: do what you are passionate about and study technology to support that!
Steve this is a good point. More female role models in tech will definitely help.It's so important.
When I run game development workshops, I like to talk as well about how programming isn't the only skill that matters when it comes to working in technology. It helps the participants feel like they're bringing something to the table, and it's true.
Another essential tool which I feel is direly lacking in early education: courses on critical thinking and asking questions. That gives girls the tools to challenge the status quo, empowers them in front of bullies and enable them to challenge stereotypes.
Post college, what are the biggest challenges facing women who want to either teach or work in STEM fields? Have those challenges gotten better or worse in the past few years?