Fairport battles gender gap with all-girls tech program

While more girls are enrolled in college now than boys– 44% of boys and 57% of girls, according to the American Council on Education’s Center for Policy Analysis–women aren’t entering technology fields at the same rate as men. In an attempt to close the gender gap in technology classes, Fairport Central School District in upstate New York will begin a two-year pilot program starting the fall of 2010 by offering four all-girl technology courses at two middle schools, a ninth grade school and Fairport High School. According to the article below, computer support specialist, systems administrator and engineering positions are expected to grow significantly by 2010, yet the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that although women make up more than half of the work force, they hold only 28% of positions in technology. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up a small proportion of professionals in key technology fields:

Physics: 21 percent
Computer science: 18.6 percent
Aerospace engineering: 11.5 percent
Electrical engineering: 10.1 percent
Civil engineering: 9.5 percent
Mechanical engineering: 7.1 percent

Data on gender differences shows there are immutable differences between boys and girls- that there are genetic differences between the sexes. Girls prefer collaborating and working in quieter environments to understand a concept or process completely. They focus on doing quality work and helping others. Boys, on the other hand, tend to complete tasks quickly and they also are more motivated by competitive environments with clearly defined winners and losers than girls. The idea of all-girl technology courses is to draw on this knowledge of different learning styles and make technology classes more inviting for girls.

Regardless of the student’s gender, here are questions to consider:

How can schools and parents best apply the data on gender differences to promote cognitive and emotional development in both boys and girls?

What competencies will students need in the future to thrive?

Other than reverting to single sex schools, which is one option, what can schools do to transform themselves into ‘learning communities’ dedicated to creating the conditions to develop the gifts, talents and passions of all learners?

Democrat and Chronicle via ASCD feed
by Ernst Lamothe, Jr.
November 16, 2009

The Fairport Central School District has approved an aggressive approach to counteract the gender gap in technology classes. The district will begin a two-year pilot program starting next fall to create four all-girl technology courses — one each at Fairport High School, Minerva DeLand School (ninth grade), and Martha Brown and Johanna Perrin middle schools. Enrollment will be voluntary in compliance with Title IX.

“Girls sometimes won’t take technology classes because they don’t want to be the only girl in a class or in a technology club,” said Dave Allyn, a special assignment administrator for the Fairport school district. “Job growth is happening in engineering and some of the sciences where old stereotypes persist about those male-dominated fields, and we need to make our young women aware that there is an opportunity for them.”

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