Girls think tech jobs boring, study says

April 24, 2000|By Andrew Mollison | Andrew Mollison,Cox News Service

Girls are avoiding high-tech careers not because they fear failing, but because they believe computer jobs are boring and lonely, according to a study released last week.

"Certainly, they use e-mail and the Internet and word processing, but when it comes to computer fluency -- finding innovative ways to use information technology or to adapt new technologies as they emerge -- girls and women just aren't in the forefront," said Pamela Haag, director of research for the AAUW Educational Foundation.

"We're used to hearing a lot about math and science phobia among older girls," Haag said. But, she said, when the researchers talked to girls in middle school and high school, "it wasn't that they were anxious about technology, they were estranged from it and opting out from acquiring skills that are key to our economy and will be key to our culture."

Her foundation, an affiliate of the American Association of University Women, paid for the two-year study, which was directed by a predominantly female commission of 15 prominent researchers, teachers, journalists and entrepreneurs.

Only one-fifth of high-tech jobs are held by women, the commission said. Moreover, on-the-job use of technology lags among teachers, about three-fourths of whom are women.

The commission predicted that women will continue to trail men in computer-related activities until:

* There are changes in "tedious and dull" computer science courses that weed out most students, rather than arouse interest in the field.

* There is more use of classroom technology to study nontechnical subjects.

* New high-skill computer games are created that appeal to boys and girls, as an alternative to today's action games for boys and passive games for girls.

* Marketing campaigns smash the stereotype of the high-tech workplace as a sterile set of cubicles full of boring men who are better at relating to machines than to people.

When asked, girls and women describe a prevailing concern that computer science will stunt their diverse range of intellectual pursuits and interests, the commission said.

Its recommendation: Educators, parents, employers and guidance counselors need to impart a more complex, realistic view of jobs that rely heavily or centrally on computer technology. Many of these jobs emphasize communication, collaboration and creativity.

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