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We've been talking about women and computers lately, and today there was
an interesting article in the newspaper. Here is a summary.
"High Tech: Where the Girls *Aren't*" by Gina Boubion, staff writer. A
front page feature article in the San Jose Mercury News newspaper. Sunday,
April 10th, 1994.
The article is about a phenomena called the "technology gender gap"; boys
like computers and girls don't. "Girls start losing interest in computers
around seventh grade and become more intimidated by technology as they
grow older." ..."Less than 1/3 of multimedia lab classrooms students are
Sharlene Hesse-Biber, associate professor of sociology at Boston College,
has studied computer anxiety among college women. Junior high school seems
to be the critical age when the gap appears. Girls perceive computer as a
male thing. This persists through college. In 1993, women were only 30% of
computer science graduates and only 16% of engineering graduates.
Courses have been developed which are targeted towards girls. Girls do
better in all-girl classes in physics, math, science, and computing.
The Women's Action Alliance in New York created a Computer Equity Project
which made teachers aware of gender bias. This improved female attendance
in computer labs from 0% to 50%. (Order a pamphlet on this project at tel.
212-532-8330 or fax 212-779-2846.)
There are recognizable differences in the way boys and girls work with
computers. "Girls like to do a draft first. The boys run to the computer
and start hitting keys until they figure it out." Boys hog the mouse. Boys
work alone for hours. Boys love to explore the computer for the fun of it.
Girls share the computer and the task with a friend. Girls use the
computer as a tool to take care of business.
With special attention, girls will join computer labs. They can perform as
well as boys. But their interest doesn't carry over to work outside of the
Here are recommended strategies:
+ Target girls. Reserve half of the machines to girls.
+ Devote days to girls-only use.
+ Set up an girls-only computer club.
+ Pick popular girls to use the computers.
+ Entice groups of friends to use the computer together.
+ Girls prefer interactive, challenging programs.
+ Girls hate violent computer games.
+ Encourage collaboration. Girls prefer to work in teams.
+ Pick girls as computer lab assistants.
+ Emphasize the usefulness of the computer. Girls take their homework
seriously. The computer can make it faster, cleaner, and better-written.
Girls enjoy useful projects, such as tallying a survey, creating artwork,
and making school decorations.
(I summarized the article. If you want a full copy (2 pages), e-mail me
your fax number. andreas)
Andreas Ramos, M.A. Heidelberg Sacramento, California