Thursday, February 28, 2013

What We're Not Doing to Tackle the Women in Tech Issue

Venture Beat recently ran an article about tackling tech's gender problem the right way (according to them, by teaching women to code). Part of the article discusses how initiatives like Hackbright Academy (a 10 week all-female programming boot camp), while positive, are not a long term fix.

A little light reading about women in computing! / coleypauline

From the article:
So while we wait to tackle the root of the gendered-tech problem (education of girls beginning before they enter school), decades are passing and tech is becoming more gender biased, not less. In a sense, Hackbright and its ilk are letting motivated, smart women cut the line, perhaps helping to take a few years off the depressingly long curve of qualified women engineers over time.

But the quick fix isn’t the ultimate solution. As Fernandez himself pointed out in a recent blog post, the learn-to-code movement is meeting a very immediate need and fixing a sudden engineer shortage, but it’s not creating a stable, nurturing culture of thoughtful, experienced programmers.
What is the ultimate solution? I don't know, but I often find myself frustrated by the fact that, in many cases, we know something about what works, but don't implement it.
As just one example, the National Center for Women & Information Technology has a wonderful set of resources that both gives insight into the issue and offers solutions.  Two of my favourite techniques that can be used in undergraduate classes are pair programming and peer-led team learning.  These are proven to help retain women and also benefit men.  So why do I see these approaches used so seldomly in formal school settings?

I'm pretty sure that a major part of my life's work is going to be continuing to tackling this issue in high schools and universities.  Bonus if it's connected to a paying job!  If we're lucky, I and everyone else working on this won't have to be at it for too long before there is no longer an issue.  Here's hoping!


Janet Gregory said...

It sometimes becomes a personal issue - for example, my daughter chose computer science... I would like to thing it is because I was her role model - a mature student who went to university and took computer science. Another friend's daughter is also in the tech industry - was it because it was her life's dream, or because she knew someone who..... It it often the little things in life that creates sustainability.

Gail Carmichael said...

So very true! The little things do matter. That's why having more women in tech would help get more women in tech I think - much more likely to encounter those important moments! :)

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