When I was 3, my mom was trying to get dinner started (oh mom, how I feel you now!) and she popped a floppy disk in our Apple II with the game Facemaker. I was mesmerized. I added beards and noses to my little guy like it was my job. From that point on, I was in love with computers. By the time high school rolled around, I was getting called out of class to help the media coordinator troubleshoot the lab. Computers are a part of who I am (well, not like a cyborg). I let that interest drive me to computer and electrical engineering degrees from NC State University.
I am proud to be a woman in computer science, even though women are a small portion of the demographic. In those math and programming classes, I was often the only girl. I stood out, but that wasn't always a bad thing. I took that as a challenge and learned to use it to my advantage. My hope is that the tides can turn to make more young women see the incredible potential of a career in computer science. While the number of women in STEM overall is creeping up a bit, computer science seems to be slipping.
"Computer science actually is more male-dominated today than it was two decades ago: Women received 29.6 percent of computer science B.A.’s in 1991, compared with 18.2 percent in 2010."
When I joined SAS Curriculum Pathways, I got lucky and landed in a team heavy with women. Nine years later, we still have some of the most amazing women programmers I have ever met. As of today, 58% of our team are women programmers, testers, teachers, project managers and graphic designers. It's empowering to be in such an environment, but we realize it isn't as easy for everyone. We think we know what might help. Education.
In those formative grade school years, students aren't taught enough about what computer science does for them. One line I hear often, from all genders, is "it's too hard," or "I don't get computers." To that, I say "So?" Coding doesn't have to be scary. It's simply problem-solving with a new set of words. Without proper education and awareness around computer science in our schools, we are doing a disservice to our students—in particular our girl students.
Simple fact: We are surrounded by technology yet the vast majority of people don't understand how it works. That's a little scary when you think about it. The following video equates programming to "the new literacy" and I totally agree.
So let's change it! Here are some things you can do to help:
- Learn some code! Code.org has tons of tutorials for students as young as kindergarteners. ANYONE can do it. I promise.
- Educate yourself and your students about what computer science is and what a career in it means.
- Partner with Code.org to bring computer science to your district.
- Put up a poster.
- Volunteer to get out and teach your community.
"Everyone in this country should know how to program a computer...because it teaches you how to think." - Steve Jobs
SAS is helping promote The Hour of Code. Are you?