Top 10 Ways Families Can Encourage Girls' Interest in Computing



Technology is a fast-growing, high-paying, creative field. Here are 10 ways that you, as a family member, can encourage the girls in your life to study, and have a career in, computer science and related technology fields.

 

Spark her interest in computing.

Read books about science and engineering to girls (e.g., Rosie Revere Engineer or Cool Engineering Activities for Girls). Encourage play with puzzles and building toys (e.g., Legos, SNAP Circuits). You can find these in many places (toy stores, yard sales, thrift stores, and online sites like eBay). There are also many free how-to videos online that teach children about computer science and engineering (e.g., Khan Academy, YouTube, code.org).

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Have girls learn together.

Girls like to be with their friends and enjoy doing what their friends are doing. Share this Top 10 Ways with other families. Choose activities that girls can do together (e.g., visit a science museum, build a robot out of recycled materials, go to a programming camp, join a robotics team). This will help them feel they belong in computing.

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Encourage and expect her to succeed.

Expect girls to do well in math and technology, and communicate your expectations clearly. Celebrate all attempts at trying new things. Recognize effort, strategies, and behaviors: “It’s obvious you put a lot of work into this project.” “Great idea to brainstorm and plan before jumping in!” Even if you aren’t comfortable with math, science or technology, be positive. They take their cues from you, and encouragement is a major factor in girls’ decisions to pursue technology.

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Explore technology with her.

When you explore with her, you show her that these topics are interesting and that it’s important to continue learning as an adult, whether you are male or female. Together, look through instructional websites and videos, and see how technology is part of nearly everything. Investigate with her: “I wonder how they did that?” Connect technology with her other interests, such as pets, art, music, science, health, or sports.

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Focus on learning using a growth mindset.

Having a “growth mindset” means understanding that we are not born knowing how to do things, but instead learn how to do new things and improve our skills. Rather than saying, “You’re smart,” celebrate persistence by saying, “What did you learn from that project?” Learning from mistakes is an important step in gaining new skills.

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Find science, math, and computing events to attend together.

Visit science museums, engineering exhibits, and “tinkering” or “maker” events. Invite her to bring a friend. Most museums have one free day a month, and many science fairs are open to the public. Encourage girls to join school clubs — robotics, graphics, photography. Encourage her and her friends to participate in computing contests. To find a program near you, visit: www.bigdreammovement.com/resources/.

Additional kid-friendly resources offered by:


Help her create new technology and solve problems.

Tell her that computer scientists use technology to solve real-world problems. Move from playing with technology toys and gadgets to creating mobile phone apps or software programs. Explore interactive online programs (e.g., Scratch) or maker.com for interesting project ideas. Find hands-on programming instruction at madewithcode.com, code.org, scratch.mit.edu, or Alice.org.

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Suggest she take computer science and technology classes.

Computing is becoming increasingly important, so every student should take a computer science class in high school, online, at a community college, or at university (Example course titles: Introduction to Programming, Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science, Web Development). Encourage girls to take as many math, science, and computer science classes as she can in high school. Families can influence school priorities; let schools know you want more computing activities.

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Identify role models or mentors.

Children benefit from having role models and mentors. They may identify better with computing when they see people they admire in the field. Technology professionals, family members, and teachers are often good candidates. Girls themselves can become mentors for younger girls or for girls less experienced in technology. If you don’t know anyone in technology, find a role model here.

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Offer ways to use tools and be creative.

Give girls chances to use tools, build, and explore hands-on projects. Take apart household items and (unplugged) electronics to see how things work. Ask girls to help fix the computer. Hands-on activities help girls develop confidence and strengthen their spatial skills.

Learn more about the importance of developing these skills:


 

Check out our companion pieces:

Why should young women consider a career in information technology? www.ncwit.org/lasjovenes (Español); www.ncwit.org/youngwomen (English)

Moving Beyond Computer Literacy: Why schools should teach computer science www.ncwit.org/schools