Girls’ Interest in Computer Science Still a Challenge

Emblematic of the barriers to learning computer science that girls have faced for years, a new Google/Gallup report shows that girls are less likely than boys to express interest in pursuing a career in computer science. About one in eight girls (12%) in grades seven through 12 in the U.S. say they are likely to pursue a career in computer science someday. Nearly three times as many boys (33%) say they are likely to pursue a career in this field.

Girls Less Likely Than Boys to Pursue Computer Science Career

How likely are you to pursue a job in computer science someday?











U.S. students Female students Male students
% % %
Very likely 10 4 15
4 13 8 17
3 27 25 30
2 25 30 20
Not likely at all 25 33 18
Note: Sum of percentages appearing in article text may differ from tables due to rounding
Google/Gallup, 2020


These findings are among those highlighted in the new Google/Gallup report, Current Perspectives and Continuing Challenges in Computer Science Education in U.S. K-12 Schools. This report presents results from the third study in Google and Gallup’s multiyear, comprehensive research effort to better understand perceptions of computer science and access to computer science learning opportunities in K-12 schools. The report includes results from surveys of students in grades seven through 12, parents and guardians of students in these grades, teachers, principals, and superintendents.

Both Girls and Boys Are Confident They Could Learn Computer Science

Overall, two in three U.S. students in grades seven through 12 are very confident or confident they could be successful in learning computer science if they wanted to. This includes majorities of girls and boys — although consistent with previous Google/Gallup studies, girls (60%) are less likely than boys (73%) to express confidence.

Girls and Boys Confident in Learning Computer Science

How confident are you that you could be successful in learning computer science if you wanted to?










U.S. students Female students Male students
% % %
Very confident 36 30 41
4 31 30 32
3 20 24 16
2 9 10 8
Not confident at all 5 6 3
Google/Gallup, 2020


The gender gap is even larger when it comes to interest in learning computer science. Twenty-five percent of girls are very interested (8%) or interested (17%), compared with 50% of boys who are very interested (21%) or interested (29%) in learning computer science. Girls (45%) are more likely than boys (27%) to say they are not interested in learning it.

Fewer Girls Than Boys Interested in Learning Computer Science

How interested are you in learning computer science?










U.S. students Female students Male students
% % %
Very interested 15 8 21
4 23 17 29
3 26 30 23
2 18 22 14
Not interested at all 18 23 13
Google/Gallup, 2020


Girls’ relatively lower confidence and lack of interest in learning computer science are underscored by findings that show they are also less likely than boys to think it is very important or important for them to learn (31% vs. 49%, respectively).

Implications

Consistent with findings from previous Google/Gallup research, there is a persistent gender gap in students’ confidence and interest in learning computer science and in their intent to pursue computer science as a career. Boys are nearly three times as likely as girls to say they expect to pursue a career in computer science, twice as likely to be interested in learning computer science and significantly more likely to express confidence that they could be successful in learning it.

Results of the 2020 study show there is still opportunity for industry, philanthropy and education leaders to help girls know and explore the myriad career opportunities available in computer science, which may help boost their interest and intent to pursue a career in the computer science field. Leaders can build on the confidence that the majority of girls have in learning computer science (if they wanted to) to illuminate possible pathways.

This is the third article in a four-part series that explores results from and implications of the Current Perspectives and Continuing Challenges in Computer Science Education in U.S. K-12 Schools report. Accompanying articles discuss perceptions of the importance of computer science, access, and availability and quality.

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