Saturday, March 8, 2008

Go For It! Attracting Girls to Technology

This was a great panel, got me rethinking something that came to me during my first SXSW experience in 2005. The panelists included people from Girlstart, MentorNet, and UT Computer Science. They discussed the long-standing problem of attracting women to math and science careers. But, as a teacher of technology in a Communications discipline, I see women engaging with technology every day. Yes, they come to the lab with a lack of confidence in their abilities, but over the course of a semester, I get the privilege of seeing them transform into confident and highly skilled individuals. There are men in my classes, too, but since women dominate in the communications departments at campuses across the US, it is not unusual for my classes to consist of 80-90% women. I say let's bring the technology to where the girls are, communications, education, and humanities. Females tend to engage with technology best when they feel what they are doing is important and that it is related to something they enjoy. Given that the Web has developed into a social and communication tool, we should increase technology literacy and competency in departments that deal with these phenomena. I'd love to hear anyone else on this.

I love what places like Girlstart and MentorNet are doing, would love to have someone from each of these organizations as a guest speaker in my classes (had a great one from Girlstart several years ago at UT). And, I love what UT and other computer science departments are doing to attract women to their majors. But, I think a parallel strategy could be in order, across other university departments like Comm, Ed, and Humanities.

I wrote a piece for Online Journalism Review about this a while back, but I think it is worth brushing off and revisiting.

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