I'll admit, it's probably my own fault for having boys. If I had just given birth to girls like I had originally intended then I most likely wouldn't feel this supremely encompassing guilt over contributing to the disproportionate number of men to women in computer science. At age six, my oldest son was already dabbling in game creation using Scratch and my five year-old could navigate pbskids.org better than many adults that I know. My goal of equalizing the gender gap in technology has been set back by two.
According to NCWIT, in America, fewer than 18% of all people who earn degrees in computer science are women. Women hold only about one quarter of all American IT positions. This disparity is gigantic and it's starting to affect the economy as jobless rates increase, even while nearly 3.2 million jobs sit unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants. Computer and IT jobs are on the rise, with the number of Computer and Information Systems Managers expected to jump by more than 85% by 2018.
Before I left for college, I had no idea that computing was perceived as a men's club. Computers have been my passion since I was very young. My father had three girls and he taught us from the beginning that we could be anything if we worked hard enough. I sometimes joke that my dad raised me believing that women belong in the kitchen, but only because that's where we kept our computer at the time. He frequently warned me not to set my sights too low, because the career that I was destined for probably hadn't been invented yet. As it turns out, he was right.
Having been one of only two women in my undergrad CS classes and one of four in my Master's program, it became painfully obvious that something needed to be done. It's my personal belief that the best chance that we will get to imprint a love for computers onto a young girl's soul will be while she's still learning the fundamental workings of the world. My target? Third grade, an age when princesses are still real and Barbie(TM) is still one of her best friends.
I propose that the third grade is the perfect time to introduce computers as an additional tool to provide both fantasy play and educational structure. If we incorporate this skill when girls are young enough, they will never know a time when they are "no good" at computers, so they won't develop that negative stereotype which will have to be overcome later.
This is where "Picture Me in Computing" comes in. We at Picmecomp have instigated a world wide *digital* flash mob to bring our cause to the public eye. Together with Google, Mattel, NCWIT and the National Girls Collaborative Project, we're targeting parents, educators and children using social media. Our goal is to take over the most popular social media sites for one day, November 10, 2010 (111010) by tagging all of our uploads and status updates with #picmecomp. We encourage the full participation of anybody online, so that we can eventually reach everybody with our message: "We happily support women in computer science. Come join us!"
For more information about participating in Picture Me in Computing day, please visit www.picturemeincomputing.org.