Are you a girl who loves computers? You’re not alone! Especially if you look back to the beginnings of computers and computer programming. According to a podcast by NPR, many women were leaders in computer science in the early days, between 1970 and 1984. But something changed in the mid 80’s and their representation in the field of programming dropped dramatically. But a similar drop wasn’t seen in any other scientific or technical field. What happened?
Well, in a word—advertising. In the 1980’s personal computers were starting to become a “thing” (and not the computers like we have today! These were much bigger and bulkier and couldn’t do half the things computers today do). And they were marketed towards boys and men. Movies, TV shows, and video games along with the computer geek culture, followed along with the advertisers and showed mostly boys and men with computers.
By 1984 the first generation of students with access to a home computer were freshmen in college. But, according to research from the 80’s, parents were much more likely to buy their sons—and not their daughters—a personal computer. So many boys already had experience coding by the time they entered college. This meant the girls were already quite far behind their male peers and, feeling discouraged, women started dropping out of computer science programs in droves. Prior to 1984, 37% of computer science degrees were earned by women but, in 2011, that number was on 12%.
We need to encourage girls who love computers to pursue programming. Computers aren’t just for boys—they’re for anyone who loves computer science! At Ci we find girls love programming robots just as much as the boys do and we love seeing their enthusiasm as they work at coding. Let’s help more girls pursue coding jobs by encouraging them in that field and rejecting the advertising narrative that says computers are for boys.
You can listen to the full podcast here.