- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

CHICAGO Katy Prendergast doesn't care what goes on inside her computer, and she has no grand thoughts about a high-paying technology job.
The only reason the high school junior signed up for an introductory computer-programming class was to get another credit toward graduation. She got a B, but still would rather leave the technical work to others.
"It's tough work getting it to work exactly correctly, and it's frustrating because one misspelled word and you can't get it to work," Katy said recently at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School.
Experts say an alarming number of girls feel the way Katy does: Fewer than one-third of computer-science degrees are awarded to women at a time when technology companies are begging for highly skilled employees.
"Since women are half the work force and so few go into computers, we're on the brink of disaster here," said Linda Scherr, chairwoman of IBM's Women in Technology program. "There will be companies that go out of business because they can't hire the skills they need. The manpower or woman power is going to be the major challenge."
A recent report by the American Association of University Women concluded that girls are turned off by technical careers they view as full of geeky guys in windowless offices who toil at keyboards for hours.
As a result, women take themselves off the path to jobs in the computer industry while failing to learn skills that could give them an advantage in careers that use computers.
Girls do keep up with boys when it comes to using computers for leisure activities like surfing the Internet and sending e-mail, said Pam Haag, director of research for the AAUW educational foundation.
"The problem area is they are underrepresented in computer classes, as network engineers, software developers areas that are growing," Miss Haag said. "The areas where technology is being designed and created is where we see a dearth of women."

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