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 Tuesday.
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 typing."
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 computers.
"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.
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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 district.
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.