Girls and Computing: Female participation in computing in Schools

Jason Zagami, Marie Boden, Therese Keane, Bronwyn Moreton, Karsten Schulz

Abstract


Computer education, with a focus on computer science, has become a core subject in the Australian Curriculum and the focus of national innovation initiatives. Equal participation by girls, however, remains unlikely based on their engagement with computing in recent decades. In seeking to understand why this may be the case, a Delphi consensus process was conducted using a wide range of experts from industry and academia to explore existing research and interventions, recommending four key approaches: engaging girls in the Digital Technologies curriculum; addressing parental preconceptions and influences; providing positive role models and mentors; and supporting code clubs for girls. Unfortunately, all of these approaches have been widely implemented, and while individually successful at the scale of their implementation, have failed to systemically improve female participation in computing. The only discernable difference between initiatives to improve female participation in computing and the successful approaches in other fields such as science, has been the availability of a compulsory developmental curriculum beginning from the start of school, that may provide a scaffold that sustain female engagement over critical periods such as adolescence, when participation in computing begins to dramatically decline.

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