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The Way Colleges Teach Computer Science Hurts Women

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

High School girls participate in Chick Tech, one of a growing handful of program designed to get more women interested in studying and creating technology. (ChickTech/flickr)

Only 12 percent of computer science majors are women. That's appalling. It's a shame, a waste and many other nasty words. But it is not hopeless. 

Harvey Mudd College turned around its computer science gender problem with a concerted effort to quash what they call "the macho effect." A few vocal students who learned programming in high school can dominate and derail a class for everyone else. Those students tend to be male. 

But as the college found out, it is not a zero sum game to serve those coding naturals and also lure in newbies, who tend to be female as often as male. There's more to it, of course, and it's a nuanced game to cut down on the macho without cutting out the well-meaning enthusiasm that causes it.

This episode is about how they did it, and what it teaches us about gender and learning. One sample lesson: when computational thinking is framed broadly, about solving problems, about helping society, then just as many women enroll as men. 

This is a re-broadcast of an earlier episode that also covered the long history of women in computer programming. If you like these stories, subscribe to our podcast for more. (iTunes / RSS)

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Comments [1]

Nat Singleton

It's nice to see that all this effort is being made to improve the educational outcomes of one sex, girls, but what is being done for boys who are falling further and further behind at all levels of education or does anyone care? Do we have to accept them as collateral damage on our way to this 'Brave New World'?

Sep. 08 2014 02:24 PM

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