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

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