November 01, 2014
Dear Ms. Tessitore,
Your presentation “Girls Gone Wired: Encouraging Computer Programming Exploration in Young Women,” was one of the most motivating and interesting professional development presentations I’ve ever attended. You really shed light on an incredibly important topic in our tech-centered society. I never realized the extent to which girls and women are underrepresented in the fields of computer programming and web design. Furthermore, I never realized how systemic this problem is. Although I’ve learned about the problems associated with gender specific toys such as dolls and baking kits, I never considered the lack of STEM specific toys meant for girls. Perhaps even more disheartening than the lack of educational toys meant for girls was your presentation and scrutiny of the few toys that do exist (such as girls’ Legos). I never realized the discrepancies within toys that are meant to provide gender equality. Your presentation made me realize that what we think of as “equalizing” toys do nothing to even the playing field, despite being marketed this way. There is a hidden curriculum within the marketing of toys for boys and girls, even toys that we may think of as “progressive.”
It is clear that progress is the key word here. How do we make progress when it comes to girls in the math, science and technology fields? How do we dismantle the myths that keep girls out in the margins of engineering? Do we overcompensate by advertising for “Code and Pinot” nights? Should programming websites be developed to specifically entice young girls? Is it too late for girls to get involved? These are all excellent questions posed in today’s seminar, and I liked that you stood up and said “no” to each of them. The answer is not in the feminization of coding and computer science. The answer is in the humanization and equalization of these fields. This means that the field itself needs to change in the way of becoming more gender neutral. I am confident that over time we will see significant changes occur and barriers broken down, especially as more parents, educators and community members (like you!) encourage girls to question the status quo.
I appreciate your advice for some practical applications of your presentation. I plan on bringing this information to the after school program director where I work and asking to start a programming club with the user friendly websites you provided. Despite knowing nothing about programming myself, I think it is incredibly valuable and important for the girls of this nation to have fair and equal access to these opportunities. Your message was refreshing. You made me feel empowered and capable of sharing the very little bit I know about programming with my students and seeing the path that it will lead them down. Just a small spark of knowledge can lead to a lifetime of interest and career options. Thank you for your inspirational presentation.