AOIT attempting to decrease gender imbalance; girls weigh in


Photo by Ashi Stanislaus

Sophomore girls gather around a computer, collaboratively learning code in AP Computer Science.

Millie Vyas sits in her AP Computer Science A class, perplexed over the fact that she is one of only seven girls in the room. A few hundred miles away, Amazon software engineer Disha Das works at her New York office as one of the two girls in her team of 15.

Gender imbalance in STEM fields is common. Women are less likely than men to pursue computer science in high school, college and as a career. According to The Harvard Gazette, this trend is potentially caused by the absence of role models and reinforced stereotypes that make women question their intellectual capabilities. This imbalance is seen in the Academy ofInformation Technology here as well. AOIT is a program designed to introduce and acclimate students into career fields in today’s digital landscape. “The AOIT experience prepared me for college classes and my career. I saw how the things I learned in class translated into the work I’m doing now,” 2018 AOIT alumni Disha Das said.

Sixty-seven out of 262 students in AOIT are girls, or around 25%. “While this percentage is clearly not where we think it should be, the overall percentage of girls in AOIT (and our CS/IT courses) has continued to rise over the years so that is promising,” technology teacher and AOIT coordinator James Turner said.

AOIT is continuously trying to decrease this gender imbalance. In the past, there have been sessions in which upperclassmen AOIT girls talk to freshmen about the program, and technology teachers have been speaking with girls in their classes about joining. “The percentage of girls enrolled in Computer Programming 3 my first year teaching was 7%. This year it is 33% and has been higher previously,” Turner said.

Das said that while in AOIT, she didn’t notice an obvious gender imbalance. “The difference is very clear for me now at work, as I am one of the few women in my team and in my office,” Das said.

If this imbalance is apparent in the workforce, what can AOIT do to fix it at school? Students have suggestions on how to decrease the disparity. “I think workshops held by women in the tech field will get more girls interested. If girls see more representation, they might be more interested,” junior Joanne Li said.

Other students feel like AOIT should focus more on outreach. “Some girls I talk to simply don’t know the program exists. If they knew about it a few years ago, maybe they would have joined,” senior Anjali Gallacher said. “I’m a Patriot Ambassador, so maybe PAs could go to middle schools to talk about AOIT to increase exposure.”

Even with this shortcoming, AOIT students feel that the program offers an invaluable education that they will take with them for the rest of their career. “I think everyone should give AOIT a shot. I can tell I’m learning so much from the classes and the program has only made me more certain about pursuing technology as a career,” junior Millie Vyas said.