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Expanding Access to Computer Science Education

By Sandra Santana
Emma Willard School students are captivated by computer science. In 2020-21, Emma received honors for expanding young women’s access to advanced computer science classes, and our Emma Codes team excelled at the American Computer Science League competition.
Studying computer science can open a number of doors for today's students, giving them the tools to excel at tech based jobs where they can drive innovation and creativity in the field. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go to achieving equal gender representation in the world of computer science. Research demonstrates that women are more likely to pursue computer science if they are given the opportunity to explore it in high school. 

  • According to new College Board research, female students who take advanced computer science courses in high school are more than five times as likely to major in computer science in college. The study also finds that for most students, advanced computer science course work serves as a stepping-stone to other advanced STEM coursework.
  • The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $88,240 in May 2019. However, a analysis of 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics data finds women represent just 24% of the 5 million people in computing occupations.
  • Despite growing demand, women still only earn 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees and make up a mere 28% of the science and engineering workforce, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.
  • A Microsoft study found that girls often assume the sciences do not align with their desire to be creative and make an impact in the world.

College Board has chosen to honor schools with the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for expanding young women’s access to AP computer science classes and for the important steps they’re taking to reach gender parity. Schools receiving the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award have achieved either 50% or higher female exam taker representation in one of or both AP computer science courses, or a percentage of female computer science exam takers that meets or exceeds that of the school’s female population.

During the 2019-20 school year, 1,119 schools have been recognized for their work toward equal gender representation, nearly 37% more than the 818 schools recognized the year prior. This year, 831 schools received the award in AP Computer Science Principles, 232 schools received the award in AP Computer Science A, and just 56 schools received the award in both AP computer science courses. We are thrilled to announce the Emma Willard School was recognized for both AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A. This honor acknowledges the outstanding work our students and faculty are doing to close the gender equity gap and solve some of society’s most challenging problems.

This year, Emma Codes competed in the American Computer Science League (ACSL), a series of computer science and programming contests for K-12 students with over 500 teams participating in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Each ACSL season is divided into four contests, testing students on fundamental concepts in computer science, ranging from Number Systems to Boolean Algebra to Digital Electronics. Each contest also includes a problem to solve by programming. In their ACSL debut, Emma Codes, led by Computer Science and Mathematics Instructor Chiara Shah, tied for second place in the classroom division. Additionally, four students were invited to compete in the finals' competition: Stella L. '23 earned a bronze medal for her performance, scoring 17 of 20 points, while Seren Y. ’24, Evangeline W. ’23, and Carol Wang ’21 earned above average scores. 

When girls miss out on opportunities to learn computer science, the tech industry misses out on their perspectives and potential innovations. It is imperative that we do our part to close the equity gaps and break the barriers that discourage underrepresented groups from participating. By diversifying the field, computer science becomes truly open and welcoming to all. Join us in congratulating Emma Codes on a triumphant first year of ASCL competition and celebrating the future of women in computer science.
    • College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award

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Honoring its founder’s vision, Emma Willard School proudly fosters in each young woman a love of learning, the habits of an intellectual life, and the character, moral strength, and qualities of leadership to serve and shape her world.
285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY 12180 | P: 518.833.1300 F: 518.833.1815
Welcome to Emma Willard School, a private day and boarding high school for girls in Troy, NY, and a leader in girls' education for over 200 years. 

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