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Researchers Explain How Stereotypes Keep Girls Out of Computer Science Classes

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Young women in class.

Three University of Washington researchers say educators need to start early and set a strong foundation to overcome the stereotypes that keep girls from entering the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Credit: Trinity Teen Solutions

The gender gap in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is not improving. To solve the problem, educators need to start earlier and set a strong foundation, write University of Washington researchers Allison Master, Sapna Cheryan, and Andrew N. Meltzoff.

They say girls are negatively affected by the stereotypes that computer science is for "geeky" guys who sit alone writing code all day and that boys are better at math and science.

The researchers recently proved the first stereotype affects girls by high-school age, but they believe it starts before then. They showed girls pictures of computer science classrooms, and found they were three times more likely to want to pursue the subject matter when the classroom was non-stereotypical.

Meanwhile, a study in the researchers' lab found children believe the stereotype about ability as early as second grade. Young girls are absorbing these powerful stereotypes and are affected by them, say the researchers.

"The best way to encourage girls is to remove the stereotypes keeping them out," they contend.

From The Washington Post
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