Surprisingly Persistent Gender Gap in Computer Technology Short Circuits Our Future
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A new report tells of old news - that there's a gender gap in interest in computers and careers in technology. While that's no breaking news, what is surprising is the sheer size of the gap during a time when we think we're becoming quite progressive. And when we think of the vital role computer technology plays in our route out of the climate crisis, these rather shocking numbers give us a worrisome pause about the potential brain power we're missing out on.The Gap Between Boys and Girls in Computer Technology Interest
Chris O'Brien of the San Jose Mercury News writes on a study conducted by the Association for Computing Machinery, a respected science and education nonprofit. During a nationwide survey of college-bound teens aged 13-17, the group found that 45% of boys thought majoring in computer science would be "very good," compared with 10% of girls. The gap is expected, but the size of that gap is disheartening. It doesn't end there:
When asked about a possible career in computer science or software design, the study found a similar gap, with 38 percent of boys rating it "very good" compared with 9 percent of girls. There were also big disparities when asking about various technical tasks, with boys consistently saying they were more comfortable than girls doing things like learning a new software program, setting up a wireless network or even editing music or video on a computer.
When Technology is Everywhere, Why the Disinterest in Creating It?
The numbers are daunting. In a time when we all act like our social networking tools are as vital to our daily lives as air or, even more to the point, caffeine; when not having a cell phone is more noteworthy than having the latest model; when the average American household spends $1200 a year on gadgets and electrical devices; and when groups like Greenpeace come down hard on the IT industry only because of the sheer hope we place on its ability to pull us from this mess, or at least help us wade our way to the far shore, it seems surprising that so very few girls want to be part of the creation of all that technology.
While there is no "should" in getting more girls interested in taking part in advancing green technology, it seems clear that we're missing out on some major brain power in industries that play vital roles in our survival on this globe. Sounds dire, but, well, it is.
Why More Girls in Computer Technology Could Help, and How to Get Them Interested
We need more people in general helping to create cradle-to-cradle electronics; design software that tracks the carbon footprint, water footprint, to-be-determined footprint of companies and products; be brilliant in devising and modeling for battery capacities, charging efficiencies and renewable energy sources; figure out how to make data centers, utilities, and resource supplies sustainable...in other words, we need more people helping create our future technology that saves us from our technophile selves. Encouraging interest in computer technology among girls can help, including everything from designing software platforms for environmental efforts to breakthroughs in computer hardware technologies.
And here's a key point that can get us there:
"As long as teenagers believe that computer science is boring, difficult, anti-social, or doesn't have much impact on solving the world's problems, they're unlikely to choose it for their future," the study says.
Perhaps if we can find a way to underscore this point among teens - that computers, software, and Internet technology are core tools in saving the world, and that there are myriad ways of being involved in green efforts through computer technology - we just might see not only a closure of that gender gap, but a surge in the number of bright people working on technology that helps the planet.
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