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Topic: Girls - Face Technology Gap?
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Girls - Face Technology Gap?
Posted: Oct 19, 1998 10:45 PM
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USA Today, Arlington, October 14, 1998, Front page.

Girls face technology gap

By Tamara Henry

Technology has become the new "boys club" in public high schools even as
the gap narrows between boys and girls in math and science, a report said

Experts say the report by the American Association of University Women
(AAUW), is the first to document the enrollment of girls in high school
computer sciences and the types of such courses they choose.

During the past six years, more girls have enrolled in algebra, geometry,
precalculus, trigonometry and calculus, the report says. But girls make up
a significantly smaller percentage of students in computer science classes.

The finding surprises researcher Cheryl Sattler of American Institutes for
Research, which analyzed 1,000 studies for the report titled Gender Gaps:
Where Schools Still Fail Our Children.

"You would think that technology would get rolled into math and science,"
she says.

"Technology is now the new `boys' club' in our nation's public schools,"
the AAUW's Janice Weinman says. "While boys program and problem-solve with
computers, girls use computers for word processing, the 1990s version of

Linda Roberts, technology expert at the U.S. Department of Education,
acknowledges the problem but predicts that the gap will be temporary,
judging by the number of elementary school girls becoming proficient with

"I would expect that over the course of the next five years we should start
to see changes (in high school)," she says.

The AAUW Educational Foundation is the same group that put gender
inequities in education on the front burner with its 1992 report on how
schools shortchange girls.

The new report warns that the technology gap threatens to put girls at a
disadvantage as they prepare for the 21st century.

[Related story]

USA Today, Arlington, Oct0ber 14, 1998, p. D4

Girls lagging as gender gap widens in tech education

By Tamara Henry

Frustrations with her computer literally drove Anne Cortina underneath her
desk at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J.

"The computer wasn't working the way I wanted it to," explains the
17-year-old senior, who last year joined an after-school pilot technology
program that produces the on-line magazine Electric Soup. She was tackling
her first issue as editor.

"I just hid under the desk and called a friend over and said 'please do
this for me."'

Now laughing at the memory, Cortina says the friend, a boy, worked out the
problems. "It was just a little glitch, but it was very frustrating when I
had no idea why it was doing that."

Cortina's experiences underscore findings in a report released Tuesday by
the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation
that points to a major new gender gap in technology. Boys clearly outnumber
girls in higher-skill computer courses, says the report. But it also notes
a puzzling drop in enrollment by both sexes. Of those who do take such
courses, girls tend to cluster in lower-end data entry and word processing
classes -- the 1990s version of typing.

"A competitive nation cannot allow girls to write off technology as an
exclusively male domain. Teachers will need to be prepared to deal with
this issue," says the report, researched by the Washington-based American
Institutes for Research.

Cortina believes a lot of girls suffer similar anxieties when first
confronted with the complexities of computers and other technology. "It's
been touted primarily as a man's field. It's the whole math, science,
technology thing goes together with the left brain, and that's for men.
Women can sit and write the poetry and men can put it on the computer. I
think that's the general stereotype."

AAUW director Janice Weinman says there are subtle messages for girls
interested in computers, such as video games with violent and sports themes
aimed at boys. The study said boys tend to take more challenging roles,
such as computer programming and problem solving.

Other studies confirm the technology gap. For example, a 1997 study by the
New York City consulting firm Find/SVP says girls spend more time on the
home computer than boys until age 11, but by age 13, the trend is reversed.
The National Center for Education Statistics says 28% of college graduates
in computer science were women in 1994-95. While women accounted for 14% of
graduates with computer science degrees from 1970s to the '80s, the
percentage has dropped from the early '80s, when the level reached 37%.

In the MathCounts National Competition, which pits teams and individual
students against each other to answer difficult mathematical questions
quickly, only 27 of 228 seventh- and eighth-grade math students were girls.

But Rosanne T. White, national director of the Technology Student
Association, boasts that 40% of that group's 100,000 K-12 members are
female. Since the association began in 1978, more than
2,500 chapters have been established in 45 states.

New Jersey's Hunterdon Central has been an active association member, and
Cortina has blossomed there. She works now as a directing editor of an
Electric Soup feature and has her own special writing project with a nearby

Florence McGinn, program developer at Hunterdon, says some of the girls
react more emotionally to some of the initial frustrations of technology.
"Some of the boys may know more at first, but when the girls have the
opportunity to be exposed to it, they all love it," McGinn says.

[Illustration] PHOTO, B/W, Jeff Zelevansky, AP; Caption: Clearing hurdles:
High school senior Anne Cortina got past early technology frustrations to
direct a feature for an on-line magazine.


Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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