Google ran a blog post today about how it encourages women to study engineering, highlighting its “Mind the Gap” program. The program aims to tackle the issue of the decline in females studying computer science globally.
“Teenage years have been identified as the age when girls tend to drift away from mathematical scientific disciplines,” Google says on the program’s home page. “Our hypothesis is that this is due to misperceptions about STEM in girls’ minds, and that exposure to female role models can break these myths.”
The program is based in Israel, but Google is planning to expand it. It’s promoted as part of the company’s 20% time program.
“Women make up more than half the global population, but hold fewer than a third of the world’s engineering jobs,” says Google software engineer Michal Segalov. “In the U.S., female students comprise fewer than 15 percent of all Advanced Placement computer science test takers. Even in high-tech Israel, few girls choose computer science. Not only is this a loss to companies like Google and everyone who benefits from a continually developing web; it’s also a lost opportunity for girls.”
“Beginning in 2008, a group of female engineers at Google in Israel decided to tackle this problem,” continues Segalov. “We established the ‘Mind the Gap!’ program, aimed at encouraging girls to pursue math, science and technology education. In collaboration with the Israeli National Center for Computer Science Teachers, we began organizing monthly school visits for different groups of girls to the Google office and annual tech conferences at local universities and institutes. The girls learn about computer science and technology and get excited about its applications, as well as have a chance to talk with female engineers in an informal setting and see what the working environment is like for them.”
Since starting the program over three years ago, Segalov says, Google has hosted over 1,100 teenage girls at the office, and 1,400 girls at three annual conferences. Combined, these girls are from 100 schools around Israel. 40% of those who participated in last year’s conference chose computer science as a high school major.
Google says it is working to expand the program to more offices globally.