by Shreya Shankar
Global Tech Leader and High school junior, College Station, TX USA
I walked into my AP Compsci classroom on the first day of my sophomore year. I was the first girl there.
I was also the last girl there.
Every day, I sat in a classroom full of Asian and white males who basically did math and science for a living. I won't lie -- I was very intimidated for the first few weeks, being an underclassman female and all. Surprisingly, the boys treated me like any other kid in the class. I looked up to the boys as older brothers who could teach me programming, and I came to love computer science to the point where I took up a computer science/engineering internship at Texas A&M.
Things have changed quite dramatically at my high school. As I enthusiastically recommended girls to sign up for AP Compsci, more girls took the course. I never actively advocated for women in STEM classes; I just nonchalantly recommended the courses to kids who didn't know what to take. And that nonchalant recommendation was enough for girls to decide that they wanted to give computer classes a shot.
Recently, I've been involved in many efforts to boost female involvement in computer science. As a National Center of Women in Technology high school representative, I've been inspired to initiate a coding club for girls at my local middle school. However, after really talking to and working with other girls, I've come to realize what exactly pulls girls away from technology classes. It's not because high schools don't make an effort to draw kids into computer courses.
It's all about stereotypes.
When asked why she doesn't take computer classes in high school, the average girl responds with something similar to "It's only for those geeky boys." These girls think that they would do just fine in the class if they took it. They aren't scared of the boys. They know they're good enough to take any computer class they want to. However, girls don't want to do something that's "meant for boys," just like boys don't want to take dance classes that are "meant for girls."
So how do we fix this? How do we get more girls involved in computer classes?
Judging from my school, I think more and more girls are starting to take computer classes because they know of girls who have taken and enjoyed computer classes. All it takes is for one girl to show the other girls that girls can code, too. Coding isn't as hard as everyone thinks it is (well....unless you're a CS major or competitively code...maybe I should talk about competition experiences later...).
All in all, here's a message for all the high school girls out there -- just try compsci out. You'll like it. And, your friends will too.
GTW: To find out more about Global Tech Leaders, read about its members and learn how you can join and represent your region of the world, visit the Global Tech Leaders page.