Information Age Education
   Issue Number 172
October, 2015   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) publications.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, six free books based on the newsletters are available: Validity and Credibility of Information; Education for Students’ Futures; Understanding and Mastering Complexity; Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments; Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education; and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

This is the second of two IAE Newsletters focusing on women in the STEM areas.

Women and Information Computer Technology

David Moursund
Emeritus Professor of Education
University of Oregon

"If women are to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things." (Plato; Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the western world; 428/427 BC–348/347 BC.)

The previous IAE Newsletter focused on women and the STEM disciplines of study and work. This newsletter focuses specifically on women and the field of Information and Computer Technology (ICT). ICT is, of course, part of the Technology component of STEM.

Quoting from an American Association for University Women report (Hill & Corbett, 2015):

More than ever before, girls are studying and excelling in science and mathematics. Yet the dramatic increase in girls’ educational achievements in scientific and mathematical subjects has not been matched by similar increases in the representation of women working as engineers and computing professionals. Just 12 percent of engineers are women, and the number of women in computing has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to just 26 percent today.
The numbers are especially low for Hispanic, African American, and American Indian women. Black women make up 1 percent of the engineering workforce and 3 percent of the computing workforce, while Hispanic women hold just 1 percent of jobs in each field.

In the United States, our elementary schools place considerable emphasis on math and the natural sciences. However, at the current time few elementary schools offer specific instruction in ICT. For years, I have argued that this is a major flaw in our educational system. In brief summary, our educational system has not done a good job of preparing all students in ICT.

Here is a slightly different way of looking at this situation. Like reading, writing, and arithmetic, ICT is now a fundamental aid to communication, and to representing and solving problems in all disciplines. It took thousands of years for reading, writing, and arithmetic to move from being part of the education of a few relatively wealthy elite to becoming part of the school curriculum being made available to most children throughout the world.

We are now in the process of trying to accomplish ICT integration into schools in just a few decades. Since ICT is a powerful aid to teaching, learning, and “doing” in all disciplines, ultimate success in this endeavor requires that all teachers become computer competent at a level consistent with being a professional in their specific areas of teaching. As students gain in ICT competence, their teachers also need to grow. Since women make up about three-fourth of the public school teachers in the U.S., we need to pay special attention to helping women become ICT competent.

Computational Thinking

At the college level, courses focusing on computational thinking have proven to provide a good vehicle to get more women interested in the computer field and to become computer science majors.

Computational thinking builds on the power and limits of computing processes, whether they are executed by a human or by a machine. Computational methods and models give us the courage to solve problems and design systems that no one of us would be capable of tackling alone. Computational thinking confronts the riddle of machine intelligence: What can humans do better than computers, and what can computers do better than humans? Most fundamentally it addresses the question: What is computable? Today, we know only parts of the answer to such questions (Wing, 2006).

Christie Lee Lili Prottsman’s master’s thesis, Computational Thinking and Women in Computer Science, provides substantial background information about women in computing and recommends the introduction of ICT into the elementary grades (Prottsman, 2011). Quoting from the thesis:

Research has shown that women who succeed in computer science are likely to have been introduced to the field early in life (Camp and Gürer 1997). By familiarizing girls with advanced concepts prior to middle school, advocates hope that their interest in technology will continue to grow during grades six through twelve — instead of showing a significant decrease during those years, as is currently the case (Margolis and Fisher 2002).

Previously, educational support in the area of computational thinking has been aimed at advanced grade levels, namely college undergraduates and above. Few methods have reached the K-12 age group….

Women in ICT – Education Pioneers

Ada Lovelace and Grace Hooper were early computer pioneers.

Ada and Grace

Ada Lovelace

Quoting from the Wikipedia:

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815, London – 27 November 1852, Marylebone, London), born Augusta Ada Byron, was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron. She is widely known in modern times simply as Ada Lovelace.

She is mainly known for having written a description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. She is today appreciated as the "first programmer" since she was writing programs—that is, manipulating symbols according to rules—for a machine that Babbage had not yet built. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Grace Hopper

Grace Murray Hopper (1906–1992) was a Ph.D. mathematician, a computer scientist, an educator, and a very successful spokesperson for the field of computer science and for women in computing.

Quoting from
Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a remarkable woman who grandly rose to the challenges of programming the first computers. During her lifetime as a leader in the field of software development concepts, she contributed to the transition from primitive programming techniques to the use of sophisticated compilers. She believed that "we've always done it that way" was not necessarily a good reason to continue to do so.

In more recent times, a number of women have emerged as national and international leaders in uses of computers in education. When I established Information Age Education (IAE) and its website in 2007, one of my first writing projects was to identify a list of “pioneers” currently in the field of computers in education. I was particularly interested in identifying pioneers in the use of computers in precollege education. Drawing on multiple sources, I ended up with 77 names, and 20 of them were women (Moursund, 2015). There was nothing particularly scientific or exhaustive about this selection process, but the list suggests to me that at least of a quarter of the movers and shakers in the early years of moving instructional use of computers into the U.S. K-12 curriculum were women.

Gender Gap: Some of the Literature

My 10/4/2015 Google search of the term women and computer technology produced about 284 million results. Here are a few of the articles that caught my attention.

Gardella, Adriana (6/24/2011). Why Women Have an Advantage in Technology. The New York Times. Retrieved 6/29/2011 from This article is an interview with Audrey MacLean, a technologist and entrepreneur. Here is one of the questions:

Q. What would get more women to choose careers in technology?

Ms. MacLean: We need to get girls interested in computing by first grade. By fifth grade, it’s game over. Computing has an image crisis. A boy geek subculture has grown up around gaming that involves violence. It’s not something little girls aspire to. It’s not about lack of educational opportunities for women. Smart girls graduate from high school with straight A’s, go to college, and find themselves surrounded by guys who’ve been hacking for 10 years. So they’re way behind. They get discouraged, and go into law or medicine. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Snyder, Bill (11/14/2013). Shocker: Women Outnumbered Men in This Year's Tech Hires. InfoWorld. Retrieved 11/15/2013 from Quoting from the article:

Women have been locked out, or at least badly underrepresented, in IT for years. And not just from the corner office, but in every job from janitor to the science- and engineering-related positions that make up the vast bulk of good-paying jobs in the technology industry.

That's finally changing—in a significant way. For the first time in at least a decade, a majority of the jobs created in technology so far this year have been filled by women, according to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

During the first nine months of 2013, a total of 39,000 jobs were created in what the government calls "computer systems design and related services." Of those a bit more than 60 percent went to women, compared to just 34 percent for all of 2012. Over the last 10 years, the average proportion of women hired to fill new jobs in the sector—there were about 534,000—was just 30.8 percent.

Weissimann, Jordan (9/12/2013). The Brogrammer Effect: Women Are a Small (and Shrinking) Share of Computer Workers. The Atlantic. Retrieved 10/4/2015 from Quoting from the article:

According to a Census report out this week, women today still make up a frustratingly small 26 percent of workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs. But whereas their presence has at least grown or held steady in most of these fields, it's been on a 20-plus-year decline in computer workers, such as developers, programmers, and security analysts.

In 1990, a third of computer workers were women. Now: 27 percent.

Organizations for Women in Computing

This section contains a list of nine organizations that work to improve the educational and work opportunities for women in ICT.

ACM's Women in Computing (ACM-W)

Quoting from the ACM-W website:

ACM-W's mission is to celebrate, inform and support women in computing, and work with the ACM-W community of computer scientists, educators, employers and policy makers to improve working and learning environments for women. This includes promoting activities that result in more equal representation of women in CS such as mentoring or role modeling; monitoring the status of women in industrial and academic computing through the gathering of statistics; providing historical information about women's accomplishments and roles in CS; and serving as a repository of information about programs, documents and policies of concern to women in CS.

Anita Borg Institute (ABI)

In 1987, computer scientist Anita Borg started a digital community, now the Anita Borg Institute, for women in computing. Quoting from the website:

Today, ABI works with women technologists in over 50 countries, and partners with leading academic institutions and Fortune 500 companies. ABI is a social enterprise founded on the belief that women are vital to building technology that the world needs.
Black Girls Code

Quoting from the website Black Girls Code:

Our Vision: To increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology.

Computer Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women
in Computing Research

Quoting from the website Computer Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research:

The goal of the CRA Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) is to take positive action to increase the number of women participating in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) research and education at all levels.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility: Women in Computing

The Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility: Women in Computing addresses these major topics:
  • The Debate over Gender Differences

  • Women & Computing Careers: Problems & Solutions

  • Advances for Women in Computing

  • Women Networking
EDUCAUSE Women in IT Constituent Group

The EDUCAUSE Women in IT Constituent Group collects and disseminates effective practices in the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in higher education IT.

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code
is “a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. With support from public and private partners, Girls Who Code works to educate, inspire, and equip high school girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in computing fields.”

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is the world's largest gathering of women technologists. It is produced by the Anita Borg Institute and presented in partnership with ACM. An annual conference is held to celebrate the work of Grace Hopper and other women in computing”.
National Center for Women and Information Technology<

The National Center for Women and Information Technology is a non-profit community of more than 600 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology.

Final Remarks

Our educational system has yet to internalize the fact that ICT is a “basic” of education. It needs to be integrated into the curriculum  starting at the lowest grade levels, much as we do with the basics reading, writing, and arithmetic (math).

The three R’s are now routinely used in a computer environment and have been changed by computer technology. For example, writing in a word processing environment, with handy dandy spellchecker, grammar checker, dictionary, and online references, is quite different from writing with pencil and paper. Thus, writing is changed by a computer system serving both as a typewriter and as a major aid to editing. Writing is also changed by instant messaging, email, texting, and social networking, as well as by the ease in which one can insert photographs and other graphics into one’s messages.

This newsletter focuses mainly on the education and employment of women in computer-related fields. But, in my opinion, we have an equally important issue of whether girls and boys are all getting a good education in the basics of using ICT in the subject areas they are studying in school, and in their use of ICT in their everyday (outside of school, outside of work) lives. It appears to me that girls and boys are both receiving an inadequate education in uses of ICT in the various disciplines they are studying, but girls and boys are both having considerable opportunity to learn about and make use of computer technology outside of their school environments.

References and Resources

Hill, C., & Corbett, C. (2015). Solving the equation: The variables for women’s success in engineering and computing. AAUW. Retrieved 10/4/2015 from

Moursund, D. (2015). ICT educational pioneers. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/4/2015.

Prottsman, C.L.L. (2011). Computational thinking and women in computer science. Retrieved 10/4/2015 from

Wing, J. M. (March, 2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 8/30/2013 from


David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and coeditor of the IAE Newsletter. His professional career includes founding the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology. He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free online. See In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and books. See


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