Rane Johnson-Stempson, an active Bend startup/ tech advocate as well as principal research director at Microsoft Research, has put a lot of thought and effort into helping grow the ranks of women programmers. Last May Johnson-Stempson helped organize the Microsoft Women’s Hackathon, which drew more than 2,000 participants from around the globe.
In a recent interview with EdTech, Johnson-Stempson said that while a longstanding gender bias has deprived girls the opportunity to learn about technology, there’s change in the air.
“We need to show the impact computer science has in changing the world and solving its greatest challenges — HIV, cancer, global warming, etc. — and we need to discuss how it is creative, collaborative, and each day is different,” Johnson-Stempson says. “Computer science is no longer one person sitting behind a computer programming by themselves. It requires teams with different skill sets asking questions differently to solve a problem. This is what excites girls.”
She then provided eight tips aimed at piquing the interest of girls in computer programming:
- Give girls more opportunities to build — not just consume — digital resources such as blogs, websites, apps, comics, podcasts and videos.
- Encourage girls to try programming with tools like Microsoft’sTouchDevelop, Kodu, Scratch, App Maker and others: http://research.microsoft.com/diversity and http://code.org
- When you have a technical issue, ask your daughter or student if she knows how to fix it; if she doesn’t,figure it out together.
- Play games.
- Share the story of history’s first programmer, Ada Lovelace.
- Arrange for your daughter or student to shadow women working in technology.
- Have her watch these videos on women researchers who are making a difference: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/collaboration/focus/womenincomputing.
- Send her to a computer programming camp. Go to the National Girls Collaborative Project to find opportunities near you:http://ngcproject.org/get-involved.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
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