Following the latest OECD report about the gender divide in STEM education and to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, OCR spoke to Computing teacher Christine Swan, about her experiences of encouraging young women to study Computing and closing the computer science gender gap. Christine, who teaches OCR’s GCSE in Computing, is a CAS (Computing at School) Master Teacher and Specialist Leader in Education at The Stourport High School & VIth Form College.
Of the c.17000 students who got a GCSE in Computing last summer, only 15% were girls. However, evidence shows that girls outperform boys in achieving the highest grades. In 2014 the number of young women achieving an A Level in Computing was only 7% of the total cohort. So how can teachers encourage more young women to study Computing at GCSE and A Level?
In her interview, Christine said: “A key motivator for young women is the knowledge that studying Computing will assist them in pursuing their career. They understand that Computing can give them a competitive edge and that success in it demonstrates highly developed technical and problem-solving skills.”
Christine also believes that the school environment plays an important role in creating a culture in which girls feel confident to consider Computing:
“Teachers must also work hard to ensure that the social culture of their school, and their teaching, seeks to undo the influence of stereotypes that divide the curriculum into “boys' subjects” and “girls' subjects”. Much of this pressure comes from within the student population itself but we need to challenge preconceptions and reinforce positive stereotypes.”
She continued: “Creative thinking appeals to both girls and boys. This can be a great motivator in learning to code. We must be mindful to not perpetuate stereotypes by adopting a “pink it and shrink it” approach. In my experience, some approaches that were successful in the past now appear patronising.”
You can read the full interview with Christine here:
Comment - young women and Computing - Christine Swan
Do you have ideas on how to encourage more girls into Computing at your school? Join the conversation at @ocr_ict #girlsinstem