- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Girls avoid high-tech careers not because they don't believe they can do the work, but because they believe it's boring and anti-social.

That's the conclusion of a two-year study, "Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age," released yesterday by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

"They're not phobic about computer technology but disenchanted by it," said Pamela Haag, research director for the AAUW Education Foundation. "What they are saying to us is: 'We can do this, but we don't want to.'"

The report recommends a variety of improvements in everything from computer games to teacher training to attract more women to high-tech fields.

The study involved work by a predominantly female commission of 15 researchers, educators, journalists and entrepreneurs. It also included a survey of 900 teachers, a focus group of 70 girls and reviews of existing studies.

"Tech-Savvy" elaborates on a report the AAUW foundation released two years ago, which found that while girls were closing in on boys in math and science performance, wide disparities existed in technology use.

This latest report found that women receive less than 28 percent of the computer science bachelor's degrees. Computer science is the only major in which women's participation has decreased over the years in 1984, 37 percent of the degrees went to women.

Women make up just 9 percent of college graduates receiving engineering-related bachelor's degrees. Only 20 percent of high-tech jobs are held by women, according to the report.

Girls represent 17 percent of the high school students taking advanced placement computer science tests.

Miss Haag attributes the under-representation to the persistent "computer geek" stereotype that many girls want to steer clear of and a lack of high-profile female role models.

"Their term was that they want to see a female Bill Gates," she said.

Girls are turned off by the violent computer games that have helped stimulate boys' interest in computers and computer games, Miss Haag said. They also find programming classes tedious and dull.

Recommendations for attracting girls into high-tech careers include beefing up teacher training in technology and revising computer science courses to make them more interesting. Integrating more computer use into other subjects that attract girls, such as science, history or music, also might stimulate their interest in technology, she said.

• Distributed by Scripps Howard.

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