In a recent Gallup pool seventy-three percent of boys told researchers they were confident about learning computer science, compared with 60% of girls. (the full report.) Behind these statistics are real students who are missing opportunities for acquiring critical skills, knowledge, and opportunities. When girls miss out on opportunities to learn computer science, the tech industry misses out on their perspectives and potential innovations.
Companies like Google are introducing new resources on bridging the gender gap in computer science. There is still a lot of work to do to address the issue. This is evident in the latest report with Gallup, Current Perspectives and Continuing Challenges in Computer Science Education in US K-12 Schools. The report is the most recent in a multiple-year series of Diversity in K12 CS education reports with Gallup in an effort to share new research with advocates, administrators, nonprofit partners and the tech industry to continue addressing gaps in computer science education.
While the report sheds light on many gaps related to race, gender and community size, Google wanted to increase awareness of the gender gap, specifically, since the gender gap for girls and young women is still as stark as it was when we first released the report back in 2015.
To help bring attention to the challenges, beliefs and stereotypes with which girls grapple, they partnered with London-based designer Sahara Jones to highlight the young girls’ voices behind these statistics:
Demand for computer scientists is high and continues to grow in the U.S. and globally. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected that by 2026, computer science jobs will have grown by 19%. Although many colleges are working hard to produce computer science graduates who can fill those jobs, relatively few of these graduates — 18% — are women, resulting in a workforce that lacks the benefits from gender diversity — critical innovation and growth.
Many colleges are attempting to address this gender inequity through scholarships and programming designed to encourage women to pursue a degree in computer science (CS). Although these programs are critical to women’s entry into the field, postsecondary institutions can only do so much. The promise of a more equitable workforce can only be realized if students are given exposure and access to high-quality CS education at the K-12 level. Here are the five most important things educators and policymakers need to know about increasing girls’ interest and engagement in CS education:
- Just 15% of girls are enrolled in classes where only CS is taught, compared with 27% of boys.
- Adults encourage young boys more often than they encourage girls to pursue a career in CS. About half of boys report that an adult in their life has encouraged them to pursue a career in CS, compared with just 37% of girls.
- Young girls are less confident in their ability to learn computer science than boys. Although ability is equal across genders, young women are less confident they can learn computer science, which undoubtedly impacts their willingness to explore CS and enroll in CS courses. Thirty percent of girls feel very confident they could be successful in learning computer science if they wanted to, compared with 41% of boys.
- Girls are less likely to think CS is important for them to learn. About a third (31%) of girls in grades 7-12, compared with 49% of boys in these grades, say it is important for them to learn computer science.
- Parents of boys are slightly more likely than parents of girls to report it will be important for their children to know computer science for their career someday. Twenty-nine percent of parents of girls report it is very likely their children will need to learn computer science for their career, compared with 36% of parents of boys.
These results are based on the most recent Google-Gallup study of students, parents, teachers, principals and administrators conducted in January and February 2020.