Introductory note: Following last week’s blog on Idaho Digital Learning’s efforts to expand access to computer science education and coding, we thought it appropriate to reprint a previous blog from Carol Ribeiro, President and CEO of The Virtual High School.
The diversity gap in computer science education today means the field is almost certainly not generating the opportunities or technological innovations that our society needs or demands. Women and racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in learning computer science and obtaining CS degrees. Many — including tech companies and educational institutions — have taken steps to make CS more appealing and accessible to these groups, yet the diversity gap remains. Enjoy these personal insights from Carol.
Why Don’t More Girls Compute? VHS CEO Reflects on CSforAll Initiative
In 1986, fresh out of college, I joined a group of four other women – all computer majors – hired by a Fortune 500 company to be new programmer analysts. So much has changed in the last thirty years and the world of course is different now – no longer do we need to share computers, debug our code on dusty green-bar paper, or physically travel at 2AM to the home office to fix a system crash because we can’t work remotely. Technology is at our fingertips and accessible, in the best of cases, to everyone. We sometimes hear that women “don’t do computing”. That we don’t like STEM. That we can’t. That’s simply not true. We can, and we did, and we do. Grace Hopper popularized the term computer bug. Ada Lovelace wrote instructions for the first computer program. Adele Goldberg helped develop one of the first object-oriented computer languages. So why aren’t more girls into computing?
“The demand for computing skills far outstrips supply, plaguing U.S. employers with a talent shortage. In 2015, there were more than 500,000 open computing jobs to be filled in the U.S. but fewer than 40,000 new computer science graduates to fill them” according to research from Accenture and Girls Who Code (https://girlswhocode.com/).
Computerscience.org notes that “Even with projected growth of 15-20% between 2012 and 2022, the vast majority of computer science jobs will be pursued and filled by men. As STEM-related industries on a whole add over 1.7 million jobs in the coming years, there continues to be a notable absence of women in the field. This trend begins well before entering the job market: girls account for more than half of all Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers, yet boys outnumber girls 4:1 in computer science exams. In Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming, not a single girl took the AP Computer Science examination in 2014.”
Now, thirty years after I started in programming, I’m able to help these statistics change. Through the #CSforAll initiative and the non-profit CSforAll Consortium I’m privileged to work with a dedicated group of people and organizations who are helping ensure all students regardless of their geography, gender, or economic circumstance, have access to Computer Science education. My early days as a programmer helped me learn to problem solve and think critically. The skills I learned then, in large part help me in my position as President & CEO of The Virtual High School today. Our non-profit organization helps students at schools nationwide develop the skills they need to be successful in careers and life. I want all students, especially the girls out there, to know they have options. Many women have paved the way, from Linda Roberts, founding Director of the U.S. Department of Educational Technology who developed our nation’s first National Technology Plan, to Karen Billings, Ed Tech Digest Visionary (both members of The Virtual High School’s Board of Directors), to Megan Smith the 3rd Chief Technology Officer of the United States. There are many, many others, too numerous to mention. You can succeed, and we can help you. Let us show you that wonderful, exciting, career options are available to you with the push of a button – or maybe just a few keystrokes.