In the U.S., less than 15 percent of Advanced Placement computer science qualification sitters are female students. The problem is worldwide, and the shortage affects countries that are rapidly developing innovative technology, including Israel.
There is still a gender divide in terms of girls choosing to pursue careers in computer science. Even though women make up over half of the world’s population, only a third of engineering jobs across the globe are held by women. It is thought that misconceptions concerning STEM subjects (science, math, technology and engineering) are to blame.
This is something Google is attempting to change, according to the Official Google blog.
According to Michal Segalov, Software Engineer at Google’s R&D Center in Israel, Google’s ‘Mind the Gap!‘ program, began in 2008, is aimed at encouraging girls to enter the engineering profession, and help equalize the ratio of men and women in scientific and technology-driven industries.
In collaboration with the Israeli National Center for Computer Science Teachers, the scheme includes monthly school visits for girls to the Google office and annual technology conferences at academic institutions. Google hopes that by actively promoting careers for women in the technology, science and information technology fields, girls will learn more about the opportunities available and pursue them, ignoring the stereotype of these fields as male-orientated.
At one of Google’s visits, a 10th grade student named Keren who enjoyed mathematics but had never considered computer science as a high school major was a participant. Recently, Keren informed the company that the visit made such an impact on her, she switched her major to computer science.
“Talking to women in the field helped me change my mind,” she told Google.
Since the project began, over 2,500 girls have been accommodated at the Google offices and at annual university conferences. Over 100 schools have been represented, and the students come from institutions including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Nazareth.
The scheme seems to be making an impact, with approximately 40 percent of participants reported to choose computer science as high school majors after attending. The company hopes that others may be encouraged to start similar programs, which might entice more would-be engineers to help fill the shortage gap.
Image credit: Steve Keys