"I am used to being in a male dominated classroom" - experiences of an A-level computing student

Posted by s.hettrick on 21 March 2014 - 10:00am

By Phoebe Chapman, A-level student, Barton Peveril College.

My journey into the unknown field of Computer Science started at an open day held at my college, Barton Peveril. I had not come across computing before and I (naively) thought it was pretty much the same as ICT (Information and Communications Technology), which I had studied at school and wasn’t very keen on. Computing has a lot more application than ICT. In ICT, all we did was take screen shots, hear about how to use Microsoft word and PowerPoint and access files and folders on a computer (all of which everyone knew how to do anyway). In my opinion, students should start learning programming skills at an earlier age, because it is too late to wait until A-level, when most of the important decisions on subjects have already been made.

I have always had an interest in maths and a logical approach to problems, and I was told that these skills would be very useful when studying computing. The idea of putting logic into practice is what encouraged me to try the subject. As I sat in my first-year classroom I was, at first, intimidated by the large number of guys who had been programming for years, and seemed to know a great amount about programming. This turned out not to be a problem, because the lessons were about getting everyone up to a certain standard, and I did not feel left behind. The lessons were interesting: we created programs to carry out all sorts of different functions. It quite quickly became my most enjoyable subject, despite my initial doubts. You really can make a program to do just about anything you want with knowledge of computer science.

Computer science, by the vast majority of people, is seen as a guys' subject. One of my teachers is a woman, and I have been encouraged to see that females can excel at a subject deemed to be for males. There has only ever been one other girl in my A-level class, and together we make up only a very small percentage of the people who take computing. I am used to being in a male dominated classroom, because most of the subjects I study are that way. However, I think it discourages a lot of females from taking the subject, though unintentionally. I would rather study a subject with people who are just as keen as me, than be in a class of people who had been forced to study the subject just to even out the numbers.

I am now in my second year of college, and have been accepted to study computer science at the University of Surrey (providing I get the grades I need). I am looking forward to this opportunity to learn more about the subject, and expand my abilities and knowledge. There is still so much that I don’t know, and I can’t wait to experience all I can while at university. I am unsure about the career I would like to pursue in the future, but I would like a job related to computer science, and I will explore the options that a degree in computer science will open up for me.

There is a large difference in the number of males and females in computer science related jobs, which I think could be addressed by ensuring that, at a young age, children are not biased towards a particular stereotype. If more people, including females, are introduced to what computer science is, and how it differs from ICT, I feel that it would encourage more people to study the subject. A lot of people I know wouldn’t try to understand the work I do because they think it looks too confusing, but it’s only a question of learning the subject matter. (I would be confused too if I hadn’t been in any of my computing lessons.) Real computer science is what sparked my enthusiasm for technology and has hooked me into studying it further. Real computer science is shaping the future, and I want to be a part of that.

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