Supporting Female Students

There has been an underrepresentation of females students* in CS courses. While active recruitment is often the most talked about strategy for getting female students to enroll in CS courses, it also matters what we as educators do in the classroom to engage and support female students so that they want to stay enrolled and can excel in CS courses.

*The term female students is used throughout this page to refer to any student that identifies as female.

The Diversity Challenge In CS

For those who have been in the CS Education world, it is clear that there is a gender gap in CS. AP CSA is the 2nd most male-skewed AP exam after Physics! In 2021, for example, over 67,000 students took the AP CSA Exam and only 25% (17,000) were female. Figure 1 on the right shows that a little over 60% of female students who took to the AP CSA exam in 2021 passed with a score of 3 or better. While this is about the same as their male counterparts passing rate, females only represent 20% of today's software workforce (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2020). More data and statistics around the AP CS exams can be found on https://cs4all.home.blog/.


Figure 1: 2021 AP CSA Exam Passing Data

Barriers for Female Students

  • Stereotypes

  • Math anxiety/graded harder

  • Male-dominated cultures

  • Fewer role models and a lack of representation




Strategies and Practices to Implement


Try focusing on:

Equitable Grading

&

Building Relationships

Opportunities to Share with Your Students

ITGirl 2017 - NCWIT Aspire IT

Reflection Activity

Pick one of the following scenarios to consider -- what advice you would give to the teacher in the scenario to help them in supporting female students in CS:

a. Female teacher of an all-male class

b. White male teacher of an all-male class

c. Any teacher in a class of all boys and one female