Parents and teachers like to tell children they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. But are there inaccurate stereotypes in the media that nudge them away from certain careers?
Understanding what prevents girls from entering computer science is key to achieving gender balance in this field. Many girls think of computer science as ‘nerdy’ and this comes down to society and the media. There are a number of television programs – such as ‘The Big Bang Theory’ that portray this stereotype and drive girls away from a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). While this stereotype is completely inaccurate, it still has a surprisingly chilling effect on girls today. If society and the media say that girls are inherently better at the arts and humanities and worse at science and engineering then they start believing it.
Many academics spend a lot of time trying to get young girls to choose a career in computer science when they’re really too young to make those kinds of decisions. What if children were taught about what computers can do, and worked toward a healthy appreciation for how vital computer science is to society and to a successful career, and then left them to decide on their own careers?
If we start young, really young, and simply presented all careers as gender-neutral, and didn’t spend any energy defining special groups, what would happen?