Girls and computers, high-tech education

Date: Wed Apr 12 2000 - 11:52:03 EDT

Forwarded by Linda Purrington, Title IX Advocates,

Tuesday, 11 April 2000

A new report says many female students avoid studying computers and shy
away from technology-related careers.

A national report from the American Association of University Women,
scheduled for release today, says female students account for only 17
percent of the high school students who take the College Board's
advanced placement exam in computer science to seek college credit.

In addition, it says, women earn only 28 percent of the bachelor's
degrees in computer science and make up only 20 percent of information
technology professionals.

The report, "Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age,"
contends that the male-dominated computer culture must change in order
to attract girls and women to technology.

Unless that happens, the nation's shortage of skilled high-tech workers
will continue, and women will lose out on opportunities for high-paying,
high-tech jobs.

"We are used to hearing about math phobia for girls," said Pamela Haag,
director of research for the association's Educational Foundation.

"But the girls are not anxious or phobic about technology. They are
disinterested in the computer culture. ... Girls are saying, 'We can
do these things, but we don't want to.' " Sherry Turkle, professor of
sociology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-chaired
the commission that wrote the report, said girls' criticism of the computer
culture should be taken seriously.

Female students said they were turned off by violent software games and
felt the computer world is dominated by adolescent males.

Girls said they use computers to communicate and perform specific tasks,
while boys have underdeveloped social skills and use computers to play
games and "fool around." Turkle said: "Instead of trying to make girls
fit into the existing computer culture, the computer culture must become
more inviting for girls." The report said girls and women cannot settle for
being consumers of technology. They must be prepared to become designers
and creators if they are going to fully participate and shape the new
computer age.

When asked to describe a person who was really good with computers, they
described a man. In a 1997 survey of 652 college-bound high school
students in Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin, Texas, 50 percent of all
students said the field of computer science was "geared toward men." The
commission concluded the girls' interest in technology should be
nurtured from an early age through activities such as after-school computer
because boys get more opportunities to master technology.

Because girls know little about the range of careers that involve
technology, they cling to the stereotype that computer careers are
tedious, unchallenging, anti-social and focused on materialism.

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