My presentations always begin with data. In 1987, only 34% of students in the United States who took the AP Exam in Computer Science were girls. Over the next 25 years, girls did not make advances on that parameter; on the contrary, they actually lost ground. By 2012, only 19% of students in the United States who took the AP Exam in Computer Science were girls. Likewise, girls and young women remain severely under-represented in subjects such as physics and electrical engineering. This gap is not based on any innate differences between girls and boys. In countries as diverse as the Republic of Ireland, Turkey, and South Korea, this gap is smaller or non-existent. Girls are at least as capable of writing good code as boys are. The big differences between girls and boys are not in ability, but in motivation. In other words: the big differences between girls and boys are not in what they can do, but in what they want to do.
In this presentation, I share classroom strategies which I have learned from my visits to more than 380 schools worldwide (mostly in the United States and Canada). These strategies cost nothing to implement. They have been proven dramatically effective in boosting girls’ engagement in subjects such as physics and computer science. For example: one gender-specific instructional strategy for teaching girls to code resulted in more than a three-fold increase – from 18% to 51% – in the proportion of 6th grade girls who spent their free time writing code. I learned some of these strategies at girls’ schools. But most of these strategies can be, and have been, deployed successfully at coed schools. You can get a taste of these strategies in chapter 5 of my book Girls on the Edge.