Tag Archives: Retention

Question/Answer: How Do We Improve Computer Science’s Image?

question markSee Wechie’s Comment of 8/21: There seems to be hundreds of separate initiatives to encourage girls to study computer science but there remains an image problem. How can we get an industry wide campaign going to improve the image of computing?

Yes, Wechie you are correct, there is a huge image problem. American Association of University Women’s Study, Tech Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age (2000) which you can download for free, documents the image problem among girls and many other studies have gone on to replicate these findings.

I would like to see one of the major computer giants – such as Apple or Electronic Arts – use their marketing savvy and department to team with a nonprofit (such as us) to develop a multi-media marketing campaign (YouTube, facebook, TV commercials, Posters) that could create a more positive image of computer science for women and girls (and men!).

Of course, we also advocate that schools help to change the image by showing female role models in posters and career videos — our womentechstore has many resources to help with this. I’ve personally previewed the videos we have and they are extremely well done. (Shameless plug). Now if we could combine this with a national campaign by industry leaders this could be the push that’s needed.

A Tale of “O” Diversity Training Video

A number of you asked me for more information about the training video that I mentioned in my Julie/Julia post. Here’s a description:

A Tale of O, the most popular video about diversity worldwide, is unique both in style and content. It shows the striking consequences of being “different” from the others around you – being an O among Xs. The videotape illustrates dramatically how this alone powerfully affects both the Xs treatment of an O and the O’s view of itself, regardless of the nature of the difference. Whether the O differs from the Xs by gender, race, age, language, age or other factors, the effects are similar.

This differential treatment of Os, especially when the difference is highly visible or socially important, is often taken as a sign of bias or deliberate discrimination. A Tale of “O” shows to the contrary that much of this different treatment is largely a consequence of the situation. It is not necessary to blame anyone, unlike many other approaches, which may punish and blame people quite unfairly. A Tale of “O” helps everyone identify with Os since everyone has been an O at one time or another. Moreover, the video suggests whole new avenues to systemic solutions. A Tale of “O” is narrated by its originator, Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School.

Here’s a link to a vendor that sells the video (in a DVD format). If you sign up for a username and password you can preview the video online in both the 18 and 27 minute format.

I used this video to do training for supervisors on how to integrate women into male-dominated occupations such as law enforcement and cable installation. I prefaced showing it by mentioning that the narrator has a high sing-song voice, which can be distracting. I’d recommend others do that as well if they are showing it in a predominantly male setting.

Will teaching spatial reasoning eliminate the need for support strategies for women?

Math Linking Blocks
What if I told you that you could potentially improve the retention of your female students in engineering by almost 30% just by providing them with 12 contact hours of spatial reasoning education?

That’s what Dr. Sheryl Sorby of Michigan Technological University did.  Seventy-seven percent of women who took an introductory spatial skills course she developed under an NSF grant were retained in Engineering Design, compared to 48% of the women who didn’t take the course (Female n=251).  That’s a 29% difference!

There is a great deal of evidence showing that overall women and girls as a group have significantly less ability in spatial reasoning, a skill that is critical to engineering and other science disciplines.  There is also evidence that spatial reasoning skills and test scores can be easily upgraded in a short period of time.  You can read nine articles in our Proven Practices Library on this topic!

Hear from Dr. Sorby herself – the leading researcher on gender and spatial reasoning – in these U.S. Department of Education video interviews.

Sheryl Sorby

Sheryl Sorby

Want a tested spatial reasoning course and teacher’s guide so you can implement a course in your school?  This link takes you to the CD and workbook for students and this one takes you to the teacher’s guide.

Have you noticed a gender difference in spatial reasoning skills between your female and male students? Or have you experienced difficulty in this area yourself? Dr. Sorby, an engineer, tells how it was her own difficulty with spatial reasoning, despite being an A student, that led to her interest in this topic.  She wanted to make the path easier for the women (and men) coming behind her.