One of the common explanations for the falling enrollment in CS, among women in particular, is "programming." The frequently repeated story is that students think that computer science is only about programming, and they don't like programming, so they don't enroll in computer science. I've had a couple of experiences over the last few months that demonstrated to me just how much students dislike programming, at a deeper level than I had expected.
A couple weeks ago, I saw Paris Hilton on the "Today" show saying that she thought she was a good role model for girls: "I think I am a good role model, and a lot of mothers come up to me and they're really happy ..."
I'm sure most mothers want their daughters to idolize Paris Hilton, someone whose sole occupation is to draw attention to herself. Someone who signifies nothing but her own fame.
Whether you are a man or a woman, networking is hard. Who enjoys walking into a room full of strangers? What does one possibly talk about to someone who seems just as absorbed with the vegetable platter? If you are a woman, why does it seem easier to approach another woman than a man?
Raised by an overly protective father meant that I was not allowed to speak until spoken to, and certainly, my sisters and I were never allowed to speak to strangers. Now as a sole proprietor and executive recruiter, my livelihood depends on cold calling prospective candidates and clients.
Recently I met with the director of youth activities at a local community center in Seattle. We were sitting together in the center's new computer facility, home to twelve work-stations, discussing ideas for a future program to teach computing skills to high-risk girls. I had been working at the center for one afternoon a week since the beginning of the summer, holding basketball clinics for the girls.