In a world where technology is rapidly advancing, it’s crucial that we ensure that everyone has access to opportunities in computer science. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are significant disparities in tech diversity in the U.S. Only four out of twenty students enrolled in high school computer science courses are girls. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, less than 10% of students enrolled in advanced computer science courses are Latino/Hispanic or Black, despite these groups being the majority in my school district(data from 2017).
For me, these disparities became personal when I realized that my daughters and students were affected. As a member of the Maywood Center for Enriched Studies family, a new school in the East side of Los Angeles, I was given the opportunity to teach computer science despite knowing very little about the subject. With the support of my principal and school community, I helped to set a roadmap for offering computer science in our school. Now, Maywood Center for Enriched Studies offers computer science to all 7th graders and eight sections of computer science at the high school level.
However, offering computer science courses is only the first step. We need to create support systems that allow young girls to flourish in the field. This is where organizations like Girls Who Code and the Nuevo Foundation have been invaluable. With their help, I’ve been able to provide a safe space for young girls to explore their curiosity and resilience in computer science. Our Girls Who Code club has been a source of inspiration and pride, with the girls creating games, websites, and chatbots to promote animal adoption, educate people about the effects of deforestation, and assist people with anxiety.
As someone who is passionate about bringing computer science to all, I believe that it’s important to recognize that you don’t need to be an expert to make a difference in your community. That’s why I’m inviting you to consider the young girls in your life and join me in bringing computer science to your community.
One effective strategy is to have conversations with individual students to help them connect their passion with potential careers in computer science. By offering guidance and support, you can help them understand the opportunities available to them and the skills they need to develop to pursue their dreams.
We can also create spaces during lunch where students can learn about computer science or open our classrooms once a week for girls to come together and learn programming languages. By creating a safe and supportive environment, we can encourage young girls to explore their curiosity and develop their skills in computer science.
Don’t worry if you’re not an expert – there are many organizations and programs like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and NCWIT that can guide you every step of the way. These organizations provide resources, training, and support for educators and students alike, making it easier than ever to bring computer science to your community.
And if you’re feeling daring, you can even incorporate computer science into your instruction. By infusing computer science into other subjects, such as math or science, you can help students see the connections between different fields and develop a deeper understanding of how computer science can be applied in real-world situations.
All you need is an open heart and a willingness to take action. Together, we can ensure that young girls have access to the opportunities in computer science.
About the Author
Maria Camarena is a computer science teacher at Maywood Center for Enriched Studies. Her mission is to advocate for computer science opportunities in her community. In five years, she has established a computer science pathway offering CS to all 7th graders and multiple high school CS classes, including APCSP, APCSA and Data Science. Maria is a strong advocate for girls in STEM. She significantly increased the enrollment of girls in CS courses through the founding of the MaCES Girls Who Code Club and the Computer Science Honor Society, the only one in her local district. Maria also believes in connecting students with professionals of Hispanic/Latinx descent through her partnership with Nuevo Foundation because she understands that “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Her accolades include the 2020 CSTA/Infosys Teaching Excellence award and the 2022 NCWIT National Educator award. You can see a glimpse of her students’ awesomeness and the pursuit to bring computer science to her community on Twitter @csiseverywhere and Instagram @maces.cs, @maces.gwc and @maces_cshs.