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This is the second of two IAE
Newsletters focusing on women in the STEM
Women and Information Computer Technology
Emeritus Professor of Education
University of Oregon
"If women are to do the same work as
men, we must teach them the same things." (Plato; Classical Greek
philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and
founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher
learning in the western world; 428/427 BC–348/347 BC.)
The previous IAE Newsletter
focused on women and the STEM disciplines of study and work. This
newsletter focuses specifically on women and the field of Information
and Computer Technology (ICT). ICT is, of course, part of the Technology component of STEM.
Quoting from an American Association for University Women report (Hill
& Corbett, 2015):
More than ever before, girls are
studying and excelling in science and mathematics. Yet the dramatic
increase in girls’ educational achievements in scientific and
mathematical subjects has not been matched by similar increases in the
representation of women working as engineers and computing
professionals. Just 12 percent of engineers are women, and the number
of women in computing has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to just 26
The numbers are especially low for Hispanic, African American, and
American Indian women. Black women make up 1 percent of the engineering
workforce and 3 percent of the computing workforce, while Hispanic
women hold just 1 percent of jobs in each field.
In the United States, our elementary schools place considerable
emphasis on math and the natural sciences. However, at the current time
few elementary schools offer specific instruction in ICT. For years, I
have argued that this is a major flaw in our educational system. In
brief summary, our educational system has not done a good job of
preparing all students in ICT.
Here is a slightly different way of looking at this situation. Like
reading, writing, and arithmetic, ICT is now a fundamental aid to
communication, and to representing and solving problems in all
disciplines. It took thousands of years for reading, writing, and
arithmetic to move from being part of the education of a few relatively
wealthy elite to becoming part of the school curriculum being made
available to most children throughout the world.
We are now in the process of trying to accomplish ICT integration into
schools in just a few decades. Since ICT is a powerful aid to teaching,
learning, and “doing” in all disciplines, ultimate success in this
endeavor requires that all teachers become computer competent at a
level consistent with being a professional in their specific areas of
teaching. As students gain in ICT competence, their teachers also need
to grow. Since women make up about three-fourth of the public school
teachers in the U.S., we need to pay special attention to helping women
become ICT competent.
At the college level, courses focusing on computational thinking
have proven to provide a good vehicle to get more women interested in
the computer field and to become computer science majors.
thinking builds on the power and limits of computing processes, whether
they are executed by a human or by a machine. Computational methods and
models give us the courage to solve problems and design systems that no
one of us would be capable of tackling alone. Computational thinking
confronts the riddle of machine intelligence: What can humans do better
than computers, and what can computers do better than humans? Most
fundamentally it addresses the question: What is computable? Today, we
know only parts of the answer to such questions (Wing, 2006).
Christie Lee Lili Prottsman’s master’s thesis, Computational Thinking and Women in
Computer Science, provides substantial background information
about women in computing and recommends the introduction of ICT into
the elementary grades (Prottsman, 2011). Quoting from the thesis:
shown that women who succeed in computer science are likely to have
been introduced to the field early in life (Camp and Gürer 1997). By
familiarizing girls with advanced concepts prior to middle school,
advocates hope that their interest in technology will continue to grow
during grades six through twelve — instead of showing a significant
decrease during those years, as is currently the case (Margolis and
Fisher 2002). … Previously, educational support in the area of
computational thinking has been aimed at advanced grade levels, namely
college undergraduates and above. Few methods have reached the K-12 age
Women in ICT –
Ada Lovelace and Grace Hooper were early computer pioneers.
King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815, London – 27 November
1852, Marylebone, London), born Augusta Ada Byron, was the only
legitimate child of poet Lord Byron. She is widely known in modern
times simply as Ada Lovelace.
She is mainly known for having written a
description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose
computer, the analytical engine. She
is today appreciated as the "first programmer" since she was writing
programs—that is, manipulating symbols according to rules—for a machine
that Babbage had not yet built. [Bold added for emphasis.]
Grace Murray Hopper (1906–1992) was a Ph.D. mathematician, a computer
scientist, an educator, and a very successful spokesperson for the
field of computer science and for women in computing.
Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a remarkable woman who grandly rose to the
challenges of programming the first computers. During her lifetime as a
leader in the field of software development concepts, she contributed
to the transition from primitive programming techniques to the use of
sophisticated compilers. She believed that "we've always done it that
way" was not necessarily a good reason to continue to do so.
In more recent times, a number of women have emerged as national and
international leaders in uses of computers in education. When I
established Information Age Education (IAE) and its website in 2007,
one of my first writing projects was to identify a list of “pioneers”
currently in the field of computers in education. I was particularly
interested in identifying pioneers in the use of computers in
precollege education. Drawing on multiple sources, I ended up with 77
names, and 20 of them were women (Moursund, 2015). There was nothing
particularly scientific or exhaustive about this selection process, but
the list suggests to me that at least of a quarter of the movers and
shakers in the early years of moving instructional use of computers
into the U.S. K-12 curriculum were women.
Gender Gap: Some
of the Literature
My 10/4/2015 Google search of the term women and computer technology
produced about 284 million results. Here are a few of the articles that
caught my attention.
Q. What would
get more women to choose careers in technology?
Ms. MacLean: We need to get girls interested in
computing by first grade. By fifth grade, it’s game over. Computing has
an image crisis. A boy geek subculture has grown up around gaming that
involves violence. It’s not something little girls aspire to. It’s not
about lack of educational opportunities for women. Smart girls graduate from high school with
straight A’s, go to college, and find themselves surrounded by guys
who’ve been hacking for 10 years. So they’re way behind. They get
discouraged, and go into law or medicine. [Bold added for
Women have been
locked out, or at least badly underrepresented, in IT for years. And
not just from the corner office, but in every job from janitor to the
science- and engineering-related positions that make up the vast bulk
of good-paying jobs in the technology industry.
That's finally changing—in a significant way.
For the first time in at least a decade, a majority of the jobs created
in technology so far this year have been filled by women, according to
data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
During the first nine months of 2013, a total
of 39,000 jobs were created in what the government calls "computer
systems design and related services." Of those a bit more than 60
percent went to women, compared to just 34 percent for all of 2012.
Over the last 10 years, the average proportion of women hired to fill
new jobs in the sector—there were about 534,000—was just 30.8 percent.
According to a
Census report out this week, women today still make up a frustratingly
small 26 percent of workers in science, technology, engineering, and
math (STEM) jobs. But whereas their presence has at least grown or held
steady in most of these fields, it's been on a 20-plus-year decline in
computer workers, such as developers, programmers, and security
In 1990, a third of computer workers were
women. Now: 27 percent.
Women in Computing
This section contains a list of nine organizations that work to
improve the educational and work opportunities for women in ICT.
ACM's Women in Computing (ACM-W)
Quoting from the ACM-W website:
ACM-W's mission is to
celebrate, inform and support women in computing, and work with the
ACM-W community of computer scientists, educators, employers and policy
makers to improve working and learning environments for women. This
includes promoting activities that result in more equal representation
of women in CS such as mentoring or role modeling; monitoring the
status of women in industrial and academic computing through the
gathering of statistics; providing historical information about women's
accomplishments and roles in CS; and serving as a repository of
information about programs, documents and policies of concern to women
Anita Borg Institute (ABI)
In 1987, computer scientist Anita Borg started a digital community, now
Borg Institute, for women in computing. Quoting from the website:
works with women technologists in over 50 countries, and partners with
leading academic institutions and Fortune 500 companies. ABI is a
social enterprise founded on the belief that women are vital to
building technology that the world needs.
Our Vision: To
increase the number of women of color in the digital space by
empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM
fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures
through exposure to computer science and technology.
Computer Research Association’s Committee
on the Status of Women
in Computing Research
The goal of the
CRA Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) is
to take positive action to increase the number of women participating
in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) research and education at all
Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility: Women in Computing
The Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility: Women in
Computing addresses these major topics:
Girls Who Code is “a national nonprofit organization working to
close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. With
support from public and private partners, Girls Who Code works to
educate, inspire, and equip high school girls with the skills and
resources to pursue opportunities in computing fields.”
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in
The Grace Hopper
Celebration of Women in Computing is the world's largest gathering
of women technologists. It is produced by the Anita Borg Institute and
presented in partnership with ACM. An annual conference is held to
celebrate the work of Grace Hopper and other women in computing”.
National Center for Women and Information
Our educational system has yet to internalize the fact that ICT is a
“basic” of education. It needs to be integrated into the
curriculum starting at the lowest grade levels, much as we do
with the basics reading, writing, and arithmetic (math).
The three R’s are now routinely used in a computer environment and have
been changed by computer technology. For example, writing in a word
processing environment, with handy dandy spellchecker, grammar checker,
dictionary, and online references, is quite different from writing with
pencil and paper. Thus, writing is changed by a computer system serving
both as a typewriter and as a major aid to editing. Writing is also
changed by instant messaging, email, texting, and social networking, as
well as by the ease in which one can insert photographs and other
graphics into one’s messages.
This newsletter focuses mainly on the education and employment of women
in computer-related fields. But, in my opinion, we have an equally
important issue of whether girls and boys are all getting a good
education in the basics of using ICT in the subject areas they are
studying in school, and in their use of ICT in their everyday (outside
of school, outside of work) lives. It appears to me that girls and boys
are both receiving an inadequate education in uses of ICT in the
various disciplines they are studying, but girls and boys are both
having considerable opportunity to learn about and make use of computer
technology outside of their school environments.
David Moursund is an
Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and
coeditor of the IAE Newsletter.
His professional career includes founding the International Society for
Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive
officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology.
He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral
students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and
workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books
and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free
online. See http://iaepedia.org/David_Moursund_Books. In 2007,
Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free
online educational materials via its IAE-pedia,
IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and books. See http://iaepedia.org/Main_Page#IAE_in_a_Nutshell.
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