We have all heard of the effort to excite students about STEM Careers and graduate more STEM Professionals from colleges nationwide; however, have you heard about the growing challenge surrounding efforts of closing the gender gap In STEM courses at the high school level? Nationwide, female students are significantly underrepresented in STEM courses at the high school level.
Education experts offer a number of explanations for why this phenomenon is occurring but cite cultural notions that boys are best suited for high-tech courses and jobs. Unfortunately, the statistical disparities don’t end in junior high and high school; female professionals are vastly underrepresented in the tech employment sector as well.
Only about one in four students in many of the public schools’ top tech programs is a girl, a statistic that mirrors women’s participation in tech jobs nationwide.
“The gender gap is becoming an economic crisis, but its cause is cultural,” said Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, a city nonprofit that uses internships to introduce girls to computer science.
Saujani, who is also a candidate for public advocate, said many girls still believe that high-tech classes are just for boys, despite growing use of technology by women in their daily lives.
The statistics confirm Saujani’s beliefs. Fewer than 15% of female high school seniors nationwide reported an interest in working in technology in a recent survey by education advocacy group STEM Connector.
And despite the fact that tech jobs pay more and are more plentiful, fewer girls in city schools and in universities around the county are taking classes to prepare for them.
More than twice as many high school boys took advanced-placement tests in computer science this year, compared with girls, education officials said.
And in technology-themed city schools such as the Academy for Software Engineering and Pathways in Technology Early College High School, boys outnumber girls by three to one.
City educators are tackling the problem by opening more elective programs in technology, chief academic officer Josh Thomases said.
“While we have more work to do, STEM needs to be in vogue, appealing and accessible to everyone,” said Thomases. “That’s just what we’re working to do across the five boroughs.”
CONTINUE READING – Girls are being left out of New York City schools’ high-tech revolution
Ben Chapman is a freelance reporter for the NY Daily News and the Washington Post.