NYT on Tech Gender Gap

Linda Purrington (lpurring@earthlink.net)
Sun, 18 Oct 1998 21:41:42 -0700

October 14, 1998

Report Explores Serious Gender Gap in


Although high school girls have been catching up to boys in math and
science achievement over the last six years, there is a serious gender gap in
technology, according to the latest report on girls' education by the American
Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

The report, "Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children," found, for
example, that in 1996 girls made up only 17 percent of the high
school students who took that advanced placement computer science exam, about
the same percentage as in the previous year.

"While there are more girls taking computer classes, they tend to be in data
entry, while boys are more likely to take advanced computer applications that
can lead them to careers in technology,"
said Janice Weinman, executive director of the association.

"And it's not just what courses they take," Ms. Weinman said. "What
we've learned through the studies is that girls feel much less comfortable
with technology than boys, that they see computers primarily as a matter
of word processing rather than as an opportunity for a different kind of
problem solving."

The association's 1992 report, "How Schools Shortchange Girls," which
found that girls were often ignored in the classroom and neglected in the
curriculum, and generated a nationwide debate on gender equity in
education. But that report also came under fire for its failure to address
the overall cultural and educational issues that left boys receiving lower
grades, dropping out of high school and underperforming girls in English,
social studies and foreign languages.

The new report rejects the view of boys as advantaged top performers
and girls as victims who need to catch up. It argues that true gender
equity would benefit all students, giving both sexes encouragement to
excel in every subject area.

Still, the report focuses mostly on girls' progress. For example, it found
good news in girls' increased presence in advanced mathematics and science
classes. In 1990, boys made up a higher percentage of pre-calculus,
trigonometry, statistics and calculus classes, while in 1994 there was an equal,
or higher, percentage of girls in all those classes except calculus; and even in
calculus, the gap had narrowed. In science, girls are predominant in every
subject except physics, and that gap, too, is narrowing.

But it does little to resolve a basic conundrum in the debate about gender
equity. Even in areas where girls historically outperform boys, they tend to get
lower scores on standardized tests like the Advanced Placement
Exams, Scholastic Assessment Tests and Preliminary Scholastic
Assessment Tests, which play a large role in determining merit scholarships and
college entrance.

Generally, the report found, boys do better on multiple-choice questions
and girls on essays. And, with the addition of an essay question on the
PSAT in 1997, girls' overall score was just 2.7 points lower than that of
boys, compared to a gap of 4.5 points the previous year.

"Now that we see what the writing sample does on the PSAT, I think that
clearly needs to be addressed on the SAT," Ms. Weinman said.

Forwarded by Linda Purrington, Title IX Advocates

new message to this message