There is more than enough evidence that women are underrepresented in the technology industries and that the percentage of young women pursuing degrees in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art/architecture, and mathematics) disciplines is significantly behind that of young men.
All of these disciplines require some knowledge of and facility with computational thinking. According to the Center for Computational Thinking at Carnegie Mellon, computational thinking “is a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science. To flourish in today's world, computational thinking has to be a fundamental part of the way people think and understand the world.”
Not all Lincoln students will pursue degrees in computer science, nor should they. Our students are passionate about writing, debate, robotics, art, the environment, and more. But what all Lincoln students have in common is the desire to make a difference! You can see it in the workshops they facilitate on Morgan Stone Day, the topics they debate in Model UN, the apps they design in our Middle School Girls Who Code Club and the reflections they share with each other during our weekly silent meetings.
The STEAM disciplines are critical to solving many of the world’s problems. And yet, too often girls and young women self-select out of the STEAM disciplines because they don’t think of themselves as “math/science” people. This is where our work is!
Tasneem Raja, the author of "Is Coding the New Literacy" dispels the myth about coding as a club for the few. She brings this skill into the spotlight, as a tool that can facilitate innovations and solutions to real world problems.
I could not agree more. Take me as an example. I majored in English and French in college, got my masters in elementary education and continued to take graduate classes at the Gallatin School at NYU where I studied the intersection between memoir and self-portrait. Learning how to code could not have been further from my mind!
But after reading Raja’s article and the many conversations I have had with colleagues and with my husband (who is a software engineer), I have finally internalized that coding is not a mysterious language. It is not a discipline for the few. It is everywhere – in the apps on our phones, in the social media we use, in the cars we drive.
If I am going to participate in the mission of closing the gender gap in the STEAM disciplines, and computer science in particular, I have to have a sense of what it is, the resilience it requires, and the creativity that emerges through all the trial and error.
Which is why I buckled down this winter to take coding classes through Kahn Academy. I learned some fundamentals and vocabulary for coding and then extended my experience to learning about variables and functions. My goal is to take one class every weekend for the next year.
And just think if I started coding when I was in elementary school – all the practice I would have had! Tasneem Raja points out the keen importance of starting early: "Similarly, exposing today's third-graders to a dose of code may mean that at 30 they retain enough to ask the right questions of a programmer, working in a language they've never seen on a project they could never have imagined."
Through our Middle and Upper School Girls Who Code Clubs, partnership with Brown’s School of Engineering and the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, partnership with RISD’s School of Architecture, and hiring of a full-time computer science teacher, Lincoln School is working towards closing the gap between women and men in STEAM disciplines. We all have the ability to think computationally. We all have the skills to code. We just need to create room to learn and practice this new literacy!
Stay tuned as our programs continue to gain breadth and depth, and our students reap the benefits of and show growth in STEAM fields.
Suzanne Fogarty, Head of School