Interesting article today in the University of Texas’ The Daily Texan about efforts at the school to encourage the participation of women in computer science. The school runs a one-week summer camp for junior and senior high school girls to expose them to the world of computer science, which, as the article points out, is heavily dominated by men. From the article:
First Bytes is not a “fat camp,” as some boys who saw the welcome signs in Jester had originally thought of the one-week UT summer camp for junior and senior high school girls that focuses on getting its attendees interested in computer science, a field heavily dominated by men.
The girls spent their week listening to math- and science-themed technical lectures and participating in interactive events. Non-computer-science fun was also added to the mix, including yoga classes, bowling and watching movies. “It’s not just about studying and being in school, but about being well-rounded,” said program coordinator, Mary Esthel Middleton.
There are 1,175 computer science students at UT, only 147 of whom are women, according to statistics cited by the department.
The First Bytes program, currently in its third year, aims to help correct that problem, Middleton said. The purpose of First Bytes, she said, was to “dispel the myth that computer science is only for guys,” and to ensure the girls understand that math and science careers are beneficial, that they can and do apply to a wide range of fields, including medicine and business.
Kudos to corporate sponsors IBM and Microsoft for supporting efforts like this and the goal of increasing participation of women and minorities in computer science (including the efforts of groups like CRA’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W)). The most recent data suggests that the popularity of computer science as a major among freshmen women is at an all-time low, so there is obviously much work to be done.