How To Fix the “Tech Gap”? Curiosity
From a great article about women and technology, by Dana Goldstein writing in Slate:
“Women continue to lag behind men in computer science, where their share of the workforce has actually declined over the past 25 years. Today, women hold 27 percent of all CS jobs, down from 30 percent a decade ago, and account for just 20 percent of undergraduate CS majors, down from 36 percent in 1986.
The tech gap begins at home, where boys get their first computers and video game consoles at a younger age than girls and are more likely to play with toys that build spatial reasoning skills, like Lego. It continues in schools, where female students voice less confidence in math, science, and computing, and it persists in the corporate world. Even among the younger generation of tech companies, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, fewer than 10 percent of all computer programmers—the field’s core job—are women, according to industry insiders. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, calls the fight to attract girls and young women to high-tech careers ‘our generation’s major frontier for equal outcomes for women.’
And Sandberg has a counterintuitive suggestion for how to close that gap: ‘Let your daughters play video games. Encourage your daughters to play video games!’ she told me in an interview last fall. Although most parents would do anything to prevent their children from spending all day in front of a screen playing games, childhood gaming and hacking experience has motivated many computer programmers to enter the field, including Sandberg’s boss, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The leap toward more advanced computing comes not only from playing games—today, 94 percent of girls are gaming, compared with 99 percent of boys—but in becoming curious about how they work and then beginning to tinker with code in order to modify game results. Boys are still much more likely than girls to explore this type of simple computer programming.” Read more here.
I love Dana’s last point especially—the idea that a lifelong passion for, and possibly career in, computer science starts not in passively consuming digital products “but in becoming curious about how they work.” Parents and teachers can do a lot to encourage that curiosity, in girls as well as boys.