The NCWIT national award for Aspirations In Computing was given out recently. Out of the 35 awards given throughout the US, Oregon had 2 national winners and 9 runners-up. (6 of those girls have participated in Oregon’s LEGO Robotics programs.) Pretty good track record.
And yet somehow, girls only constitute something like 20% of OSU’s engineering program, just for an example. And of that 20%, even fewer are part of the CS college. What’s going on? It’s typically believed that girls gravitate towards liberal arts, and men are scientifically minded, or something to that effect. But we at GetReal don’t think that’s true.
However, it’s impossible to ignore that the social structure in place may quietly discourage girls from doing sciencey things. It’s kind of hard to want to do something that few people expect you to do, and it’s hard to feel accepted when people think you need special treatment. Right?
The reason for girls having lower participation in CS and engineering is debatable. What’s not debatable is whether girls can actually do things like CS and engineering; obviously, any human being can do anything they put their mind to, male or female. Girls are, in fact, human beings, and can therefore do anything they put their mind to. In fact, an OSU student was recently named one of the 15 most promising engineering students in the world. And she’s not an anomaly. She is exceptional, but not an exception.
There’s a whole ecosystem change taking place that makes CS and engineering more accessible to girls. Student-run-all-girl events that focus on showing girls what CS and engineering can do for you are popping up everywhere these days. Girls are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to CS and engineering.
In fact, one of the first, and arguably the most famous computer scientist was female: Grace Hopper.
It seems clear to us where girls belong. Wherever they want.
- OSU’s Powered By Orange blog: “Finding their Place.”
- Complete list of NCWIT’s AIC award winners. Check out the winner bios; they’re a diverse bunch with one thing in common: skills in computing. Look at how the winners map out across the US. Tons of them are crammed in Oregon!
- Read some research and data on girls in IT.