Williston Recognized for Computer Science Gender Equity

woman standing before young people in classroom

Williston Northampton School was proud to have been recognized this week with the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for expanding young women’s access to AP Computer Science Principles. This award acknowledges schools for their work toward equal gender representation during the 2019-20 school year.

We caught up with Williston computer science teacher and Director of Curriculum Kim Evelti, who teaches AP Computer Science Principles, to discuss why this honor is significant. She cited data from the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) that notes that women still are heavily underrepresented in computer science. “According to the National Science Foundation’s 2018 report on the science and engineering workforce, women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce,” the NGCP report says. “Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (60 percent) and biological, agricultural, and environmental/life sciences (48 percent) and relatively low shares in engineering (15 percent) and computer and mathematical sciences (26 percent).”

Considering this data, why is it important to recognize, and achieve, gender diversity in computer science?

Computer scientists have a big impact on our lives. The programmers that develop the machines and apps we use daily impact the way these tools function, who they are designed for, and where bias might exist. It is important to have the developers mirror the users.

How do you recruit girls to be in the class? Or is that even necessary?

Because there are fewer women in computer science career roles, girls don’t see as many female role models and sometimes do need to hear that computer science is something for them. I always invite the girls in my dorm to take classes with me. I like to show them the fun projects we do in class and explain how computer science opens doors to lots of college and career paths beyond what they might typically expect. I also discuss computer science options with prospective students and advise new students on the exciting classes available to them. I basically take as many opportunities to plug computer science to girls as I can because I wish someone had done that for me in high school!

How does it feel to you that Williston was given this honor?

To me, the award truly belongs to the girls that took a chance on trying something new and sticking with it. I’m so proud of them! I hope that this serves as an example to the rest of the Williston community that girls are already a big part of the computer science program here, and we welcome many more!