The 2016-17 school season marks another opportunity to create change in computing education. Currently, not all K-12 students have access to formal computing classes in schools, and not all states allow computer science to count as a math or science graduation requirement. Yet, the U.S. Department of Labor expects 1.1 million computing-related job openings by 2024, and at the current rate, only 41 percent of these jobs could be filled by U.S. computing bachelor’s degree recipients. In order to meet the industry’s demands for technical talent, #CSforAll is necessary.
#CSforAll Takes All of Us
Eight months ago in his final State of the Union, President Obama announced the historic Computer Science for All initiative. Today, the White House hosts a #CSforAll Summit to mark progress and celebrate ongoing commitments in support. Tune in to the event webcast today, September 14, at 1:00 p.m. EDT at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
While universal access for students is critical for improving diversity in computing, there is no single, easy answer to increasing women’s participation in computing. The gender imbalance results from a complex process of factors in which our normal educational system intersects with socialization and stereotypes. All of us need to be involved in order for effective, systemic change to occur.
“What can I do?”
NCWIT’s “Girls in IT: The Facts” report identifies family members, educators, administrators, policymakers, professionals, researchers, and others as key change agents. No matter which category you fall into, section three of the report offers practical recommendations for implementing change:
Make the case for improving computing education to educators and to local, state, and national policymakers and curriculum decision-makers. In making this case, be sure to distinguish between computer literacy and computer science. NCWIT’s “Moving Beyond Computer Literacy: Why schools should teach computer science” has the talking points that you need: ncwit.org/schools.
Make others aware of the phenomenon of unconscious bias and common misunderstandings that surface in conversation about women in tech. Recognizing and disrupting what you see and hear are the first steps to overcoming these issues. NCWIT’s interactive video “Unconscious Bias and Why It Matters For Women and Tech” walks you through a series of experiments to help you understand the concept of unconscious bias and more: ncwit.org/biasvideo. NCWIT’s “Critical Listening Guide” helps you spot ‘red flags’ that a discussion is headed in a direction that may not be research-based or effective: ncwit.org/criticallistening.
Provide ongoing encouragement. Never underestimate the power of this simple effort. NCWIT Aspirations in Computing provides a long-term community for female technologists, from K-12 through higher education and beyond, encouraging persistence in computing through continuous engagement and ongoing encouragement at each pivotal stage of their educational and professional development. Tell a young woman you know all about it: aspirations.org.
Hundreds of additional free NCWIT resources are available online and loaded with more recommendations and tips. We look forward to watching you get to the head of the class as a change leader for underrepresented groups in technology.