Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Where are the Girls? Not so easy to count

Cross posted on TechSavvy Girls blog

Yesterday,  I  posted some data that once again demonstrated that our AP computer science classes
Photo Credit.  Public Domain
are not the places where you will find many girls in most high schools.   One of the reasons we are aware of these numbers is that there is accessible data that can be quantified.

However it is not the only place we should look when measuring success. Girls are involved in many areas that give them a chance to grow and use their tech skills, and often these areas are not counted as 'measures' of success when we look at the outcome of girls programming that provides girls with technology skills and confidence in using technology.

Many years ago I was involved in an IT related economic development committee  that was looking for 'stories' to make their data come alive in a report they were writing.   I shared with them a story of a young lady who I saw as a shining star.  When I shared her story, they decided not to use it because she went into 'civil engineering'  not IT.

Vicky* had been involved in Tech Savvy Girls for 4 years.  After a field trip we took to Vermont Technical College to participate in Vermont Works for Women's Annual "Women Can Do" event, she visited the school guidance department to change her math class from business math to Algebra 2  so she could apply to Vermont Technical College's civil engineering program.

Vicky also convinced her best friend, Debbie*  to join her in taking Algebra 2.    Debbie  applied to VTC also, but in the end chose to go to Community College so that she could continue the job she had landed right out of college because she had great business and tech skills.

During a week  Tech Savvy Girls Summer Leadership Camp for High School Girls, Carole fell in love with the campus at UVM and applied to  University of Vermont to major in Biology.  She was the only girl in her computer programming class in high school.  She had dismissed her guidance counselors suggestion that she fill up the open slot in her schedule with an art class because she saw "programming" was offered in the same time slot.  She didn't have the background  for "AP programming"  but remembered that Ms. deLaBruere had said that programming was a gateway to many many careers.  She didn't want to become a computer scientist, but thought this would be a good choice.

NONE of these three girls counted in the the quantifiable data that the IT economic development committee was looking. Nor did their story qualify for the  'case study' they wanted in their report.

NONE of these girls would have counted in the numbers currently being shared about the number of girls enrolled in AP Computer Science.

I surely count them in my measures of success when I think of Tech Savvy Girls.  How do we count the data that is not easy to capture?   Let's not forget that the numbers are only part of the picture, and lets keep sharing the stories of success and also look to add a variety of indicators and measures when we evaluate the successes of our programs.

*Names have been changed to protect individual privacy

Monday, January 05, 2015

Where are the Girls? Not in Computer Science Class

Cross posted on TechSavvy Girls blog Day 5 (a commitment to blog about girls and technology in 2015)

Did you know that NOT a single girl took the AP Computer Science exam in Mississippi,  Montana, and Wyoming last year?    And in the states where girls did take the AP computer science exam, the number of females averaged to 18.5%.  In my state, Vermont,  only 6.3 % of the students taking the computer science exam were female.  Of the states that did have girls take the exam, only Utah and Nevada had fewer girls than Vermont take the exam (percentage-wise).
To see a summary of recent and  historical trends, check out the work of Barbara Ericson. 

This makes me so sad!

What makes me even sadder than the low numbers is that the number of females engaged in computer science has actually DECREASED during the last 3 decades.

In a recent article, "When Women Stopped Coding" NPR made an interesting observation, which has me pondering.

"The share of women in computer science started falling at roughly the same moment when personal computers started showing up in U.S. homes in significant numbers."

NPR reporter, Steve Henn's observation that from the beginning,  personal computers  "were marketed almost entirely to men and boys. This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative. It became the story we told ourselves about the computing revolution" is certainly not the only whole story, but it is part of the story.

Looking at the narrative is important!  Looking at historical data is important!  But moving forward takes action, and thankfully this issue has caught the attention of organizations and corporations that are willing to be part of change we need to make to change the numbers, which will change the narrative.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Inspired by Chelsea Clinton at SxSw 2014

In the past few years, I've had the opportunity to quote Chelsea Clinton (or at least what I remember) from her 2014 SxSw presentation and Q & A. Today I discovered a You Tube video of her presentation: Harnessing the Power of Data in Development. This was a great opportunity to listen again to the words that inspired me almost a year ago and to jot down more accurate "quotes".

Chelsea's speech helped me think through the question "Should I move Tech Savvy Girls towards becoming an "organization" or should I keep working as an INDIVIDUAL who COLLABORATES with OTHERS  in a freelance capacity towards this cause which I believe in - "empowering girls with technology skills."

From Chelsea's keynote:

Technology today allows individuals greater opportunity for Giving, Volunteering, and Contributing than ever before. The ability to participate in a cause have truly been democratized by technology...

Greater connectivity, Greater knowledge, Greater awareness, provide us with more outlets to engage and influence government, nonprofits and for profits organizations.
Through social media we can do something immediately such as change Facebook page, tweet, contact government officials more easily. 
Through technology we can find "Where we are positioned to uniquely make a positive difference",  Technology helps WE engage in the world around us

Chelsea describes how in the days of her grandmother, individuals could NOT send their own CARE package

CARE was a collaboration between 22 smaller organizations that TOGETHER could SCALE their efforts and they did wonderful things, but individuals had littler opportunity to contribute in the ways we can today. But technology has changed this by giving individuals a way to contribute to causes they believe in.

Technology has allowed me  to find venues where I can make a difference as an individual, but technology has also allowed me to find and support organizations I believe in who are also working to make a difference in this area.

Through the years I've struggled with the question "Should I move Tech Savvy Girls towards becoming an "organization"? Currently I continue to chose NOT to use my energy towards creating an organization. And although there are organizations, I work with or volunteer for that are positioned to support the cause of bridging the gender gap, I've decided to, also, focus on what I as an individual can do.  I like the  freedom of being able to DO something that is within my reach "right here, right now" and to remain agile enough to move quickly when an opportunities to make a difference present themselves.

I did however want an umbrella name to use for my collective efforts, so in the early 1900's I selected the name TechSavvy Girls as the project name for my Master's Capstone and for my future efforts and those of others who joined me in my many projects over the years.  These have included a day long event such as "Power Lunch with Women and Technology at UVM's engineering day", month long events such as a girl-developed entry in CyberFair International called "Creative Sides Of  Engineering" to week long summer camps for Middle School girls or High School Girls Leadership Camps. By not becoming an organization yet and remaining agile, I can work with more powerful organizations positioned to make a difference~ organizations whose leadership and modes of operation I respect.  If those organizations can can use my skills, energy, talents, I jump at the chance to join their effort. But the one thing I ask of them is to to honor my desire to remain agile (which I believe comes from being a freelance educator) and to allow me to "count my contributions" under the umbrella of Lucie's TechSavvyGirls projects as well as under their own organization.

I feel that one of the reasons I liked Chelsea's talk so much is it validated my thoughts about operating this way and that individuals can make a difference.

Chelsea mentioned that one of the factors that drives innovation (but is also a barrier) to solving problem is that we are obsesses with being the "FIRST" to solve the problem. By letting go of our egos we can form partnerships where each of us can contribute what we are uniquely positioned to contribute.  Being a freelance educator does uniquely position me to act quickly, follow a gut instinct to do something today that seems like it can make a difference.   I continually look for organizations interested in collaborating as I move forward in a nimble and agile fashion.

I have talents, knowledge, skills, energy to contribute towards bridging the technology related gender and look forward to sharing the work organizations are doing towards this goal. This year I will use this blog to raise awareness and will look to partner with those who can use my talents, knowledge, skills and energy.

Friday, January 02, 2015

New Year's Resolution ~ Inspired by the Turtle Guy

Finding a Focus in 2015 ~ Inspired by the Turtle Guy

I love learning! I’m curious about almost everything! I’m forever in search of creativity and innovation in the world around us! I have so many passion-based interest! I can’t tell the difference between work and play!

I usually love this state of mind, but lately I keep asking myself if I could pick only one of my interest areas, what would it be? My friends say “why would you want to do that?” Well I don’t really, but if I could make myself pick one area for 2015 that would get my attention before I wander off exploring whichever of my passions catches my attentions that day, I might make more a a difference in the world.

And then on New Years Day I read this article from WCAX-TV about Vermont’s Turtle Guy, Steve Parren and started to wish I had the ‘focus” Steve has to focus on ONE thing he can do amongst his many talents. Having been to Steve and Lauren’s house and having seen first hand the space in his home he has carved out to “save the turtles”, I started to think that carving out a space in our life that was visibly committed to a cause might be part of the process needed to gain more focus and make a bigger difference. I also concluded that little focused steps can be just as important as bigger more organized initiatives. So following Steve’s lead, I’m going to pick bridging the technology-related gender gap as my 2015 daily focus.

For those of you who know me, you will know this is not a NEW area of interest. In the late 1990’s my work on getting girls interested in Technology was noticed by MSNBC in their article “Where are the Girls?”. Soon after, the Vermont Institute of Science Math and Technology (VISMT) noticed that I had 40% girls in my Computer Tech program and invited me to join their team of teacher leaders as a Technology and Equity specialist.

In August of 2001, I created a program called TechSavvyGirls as part of my capstone project in Masters of Science in Internet Engineering from Marlboro College. Each year during the past 15 years, I have continued to design a range of activities from a day long workshops to summer camps aimed at empowering girls with technology. TechSavvy Girls is not a specific organization, it is a project that has evolved as I have evolved. I've worked with a variety of different people or organizations over the years to design and implement activities and events that support bridging the technology related gender gap, none more loyal than Betsy Calhoun, who continues to host an annual TechSavvy Girls summer camp each year in the North East Kingdom.

Today I wonder how TechSavvy Girls could evolve if I gave the topic of empowering girls with technology a daily focus and some space in my life to document that focus for 365 days. So inspired by the fact that Steve gives attention to a cause that he has chosen to focus on each day, in 2015, I’m going to try to carve out some space in my life for a cause “empowering girls with technology” that has been important to me for many many years. Some days it might be just a little bit of reading and sharing on the topic; some days it might be planning an event; some days it might be taking on a new personal challenge as a model to girls that they “too” can do this. But surely 365 days of focus can’t help but contribute to bridging the gap that exist relating to gender in our high tech world.