Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What Eighth Graders Think About Women and Computer Science

On the last day of the 2015 edition of my week-long mini-course (Computer Science and Games: Just for Girls!), I held a discussion about women in computer science.  Below is a transcription of the notes I made on the white board.  The thoughts, if not the wording, very closely represent what the girls said.

"If it is not appropriate for women, it is not appropriate." (via Wikimedia)

Why do girls avoid computer science?
  • Seems nerdy
  • Stereotypes: man's job
  • Don't want to stick out as only female
  • Impression that you must love video games
  • Accused of being interested to attract guys
  • Stereotypes of femininity
  • Females more pressured to take certain programs of study
  • Pressure from others who don't think certain skills are valuable (e.g. video game development)
  • Too many guys, "I will never fit in"
  • Girls are less confident, partly due to society's messages

Why does it matter?
  • Girls can change an idea or product without destroying or outright rejecting it
  • Girls should have the freedom to choose their career without barriers
  • We are turning girls away from their passion
  • Discrimination is always bad
  • Women should have independence, especially financially
  • We need products designed by us
  • Women can change how women are represented in games

What would make you interested in trying computer science in high school or post-secondary?
  • Stop the stereotypes!!
  • Enforce a better gender balance, or provide all-female options
  • People around us have to stop talking down about CS
  • Give us a chance to try it out! We don't know what it is otherwise!
  • More interesting application in university-level courses (like robotics)
  • More positive attitudes toward college-level options [which typically grant diplomas in Canada, as opposed to universities, which grant degrees]
  • Avoid giving the impression that it's impossibly complicated.
  • More one-on-one time (and other better teaching strategies) to make sure we get a good base in math.

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