Girls, Minorities Have Limited Opportunities to Study Computer Science

Girls, Minorities Have Limited Opportunities to Study Computer Science

Girls and underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities often have limited opportunities to study computer science and face media stereotypes that discourage them from doing so, a report from Google and Gallup finds.

Based on a survey of high school students, parents, and teachers, the report, Images of Computer Science: Perceptions Among Students, Parents and Educators in the U.S. (32 pages, PDF), found that while 53 percent of students reported learning some computer science in school, girls, Latinos, and low-income students were less likely than other groups to have done so. The report also found that African-American students were less likely to have access to clubs or other groups outside school that teach computer science; that Latino students had less exposure to computer technology and were less confident in their ability to learn computer science; and that while higher-poverty schools were much less likely to have computer science courses and less likely to say their school boards think it important to offer them, teachers at those schools were more likely than teachers at lower-poverty schools to value computer science learning opportunities for their students.

In addition, the survey found that boys were more likely than girls to say they were "very confident" they could learn computer science if they wanted to (62 percent vs. 46 percent), "very likely" to learn more computer science in the future (35 percent vs. 18 percent), and "very likely" to have a job requiring knowledge of some computer science (42 percent vs. 33 percent). Moreover, male and female students, parents, and teachers were more likely to say boys are more interested in, and are more likely to succeed in, learning computer science — although Latino parents were more likely to see girls as more likely to succeed than boys. Students and parents also said they saw few portrayals of women, Latino, or African-American computer scientists, which, according to the report, could be keeping girls and underrepresented minorities from studying computer science or pursuing a career in the field.

Given that at least eight in ten students, parents, teachers, and administrators view computer science careers positively, the report notes that "fostering diverse computer science role models in real life and the media, as well as creating accessible learning opportunities that appeal to all youth, may help increase participation....Equally important is ensuring that all stakeholder groups have a better understanding of what constitutes computer science so that learning opportunities include key skills, such as programming/coding and computational thinking."