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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.504 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2013004471
pages 67-85

WILLING, ABLE, AND UNWANTED: HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS' POTENTIAL SELVES IN COMPUTING

Kimberly Kelly
Department of Sociology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762, USA
David A. Dampier
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762, USA
Kendra Carr
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 3909 Halls Ferry Rd, Vicksburg, Mississippi 39180, USA

ABSTRACT

The shortage of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is well-documented. Many efforts address women's low representation in fields such as computing target high school girls in an effort to solidify their commitment to these fields before they enter college and create computing "potential selves." This paper describes one such effort in the rural South, the Women in Cyber Security residential camp for girls in Mississippi. Consistent with existing literature, we find girls are interested in the social relevance of various technological skills and desire hands-on, applied learning exercises. We also find girls are poorly informed about the connections between different types of skills and the jobs where such skills would be used. In fact, girls had very little idea what being a computing professional entailed. Of particular note is the girls' endorsement of single-sex skills training for at least some of the curriculum and their awareness of the barriers they would face as women in computing. Thus, girls become aware that they are unwelcome in men-dominated technology jobs even before they know what such jobs involve. Girls also identify women role models and mentors as a critical resource for negotiating and succeeding in such jobs without having experienced such relationships. Future efforts should solidify the linkages between skills and jobs, demystify computing careers, and when possible, introduce girls to senior women as role models and mentors.