What Can Family Members Do to Encourage Young Women’s Interest in Computing?

Get off to an empowering start this back-to-school season! Whether you’re a parent, an educator, or a professional, we are highlighting doable, research-backed steps that you can take to make computing education more accessible and inclusive.

View the other blogs from this three-part series: What Can Educators Do? || What Can YOU Do?

Computing jobs are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying, but as of 2017, women held only 26 percent of computing jobs in the U.S., and thus, have much less access than men to the benefits that these occupations can provide. Over time, this disparity can heighten economic inequalities and impose barriers to girls’ future life opportunities. Increasing young women’s participation in computing is important for promoting equity and ensuring that girls and women are able to take advantage of technical career opportunities.

The good news is, everyone can play a role when it comes to creating change! Straight from the NCWIT Girls in IT: The Facts report, read on for some specific ways that family members can support young women in finding and fostering their interest in computing. And, if you’d like more information about the state of affairs for young women in tech, download the full NCWIT resource at www.ncwit.org/thefactsgirls.

  • Provide girls with early technology and computing experiences. Quite a bit of research shows the importance of early exposure to technology and computing, and familial encouragement to pursue these interests. Encourage your daughters or the young women in your lives to take computing classes and join computing clubs; also, look for extracurricular computing opportunities in your community or beyond (www.ncwit.org/top10families). Be sure to talk about how computing is relevant in a number of different areas, particularly as it relates to things the young people you know may be interested in (www.ncwit.org/pace)
  • Provide role models. Look for opportunities where your children can see many different types of people participating and successful in technology. See www.technolochicas.org and www.ncwit.org/heroes for inspiring stories about what women have accomplished with technology. Also, consider innovative ways you might function as a role model, even if you don’t currently consider yourself “technical.” For example, one program offered a mother-daughter elementary school club to help build girls’ and mothers’ computing expertise. The club increased competency and self-esteem for both mothers and daughters.
  • Have discussions about media representations and unconscious biases with your children or children you know. When watching television shows, reading magazines, or coming across advertisements related to technology, strike up informal conversations with children about the kinds of representations they are seeing. Ask for their opinions about these representations and offer your own. Even small comments when running across these representations can “interrupt” the moment and help kids to develop a critical lens.
  • Talk with your children or children you know, particularly girls, about why they should consider computing careers. Remember that kids often know very little about or have significant misconceptions about technical careers. Make them aware of the benefits of these careers. Talking points for having these conversations with young women are available at www.ncwit.org/youngwomen.
  • Talk with teachers, counselors, and school personnel about the need for computing education, especially early education. In making this case, be sure to distinguish between computer literacy and computer science. Talking points for making this argument are available at www.ncwit.org/schools.

See Girls in IT: The Facts for complete documentation of the research cited here, plus more ways to get involved!

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