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Expanding Computer Technology to Address Girls’ Needs

The American Association of University Women’s new report, Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age, indicates that computer technology is failing to engage women and girls. “Girls are disenchanted with computing,” it suggests. The report is a culmination of 2 years of research by the AAUW Education Foundation Commission on Technology, Gender, and Teacher Education that included an online survey of teachers, focus group studies with middle- and high-school girls, and analysis of existing research on technology and gender. The study shows a decrease in the percentage of undergraduate degrees in computer science awarded to women since the 1980s, and shows that women make up only 20% of internet-technology professionals.

The report demonstrates that, while exhibiting some mastery of simple internet skills, girls are dissatisfied with computer culture as presented to them in schools. They complain about the passivity of their computer interactions, and “they reject the violence, redundancy, and tedium of computer games.” The AAUW Commission argues, then, for more challenging software-not for software segregated for boys and girls.

Other recommendations of the report include a call for more innovative ways of inviting girls to explore computers, less gender bias in computer software, summer-school computer courses for girls, better technology education for teachers, and an attention to instructing students about the importance of technology in the future work force.

Sources:

: The New York Times - 12 April 10, 2000 and The American Association of University Women - 11 April, 2000. More information available from AAUW.]

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