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"This generation of young girls see really dumb girls who are famous for nothing more than their clothes and who they are sleeping with. Girls are not being rewarded for being smart. They are being rewarded for being skinny and pretty and dumb," says Elana Metz, a director with the Emeryville based Girls Moving Forward, which works with young girls to improve their self esteem. "The glamorization of female stupidity is pervasive in this society."
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To help reverse that trend, Girls Inc. of Alameda County is offering middle school girls the opportunity to design software, explore computer hardware and create blogs through Build IT, an after school program based at John Muir Middle School in San Leandro. Build IT was created to develop IT (internet technology) fluency through hands on training.
In order for a girl to participate in any Girls Inc. program, an enrollment packet must be completed. Enrollment packets for all programs except GIRLStart are available online. All programs are free or based on a minimum charge, and no girl is ever turned away due to an inability to pay.
A group of girls from Girls Inc. attending the conference agreed that it helps to see other girls excited about science and computer engineering. "Girls can't do anything, but boys can do everything. That's what the media tells us every day," says Landesha Pace, 15, of Oakland. "But I see it differently. Girls Inc. teaches us to be strong, smart and bold. And my mom, she can do anything. If there's a broken car, she'll fix it. My mom can do anything a boy could do.
How to Join Girls Inc.
Girls Inc. offers community and school based programs in San Leandro and Oakland. The San Leandro facility is open to all girls 8 18 years of age. A variety of after school programs are available. The San Leandro school based programs are held at Wilson Elementary and John Muir. The Oakland school based programs are held at Lockwood and Parker elementary schools, and at Frick, ASCEND, Madison, Sobrante Park, Stonehurst and Havenscourt middle schools.
Ellen Spertus helps guide young girls into computer careers both through the Girls Inc. program and the Expanding Your Horizons annual conference.
"Going back to the 1940s, the first computer programmers were women. One of the first computers was built by the military, then it was deemed that computer science would be an important field, and women were pushed out," Spertus says. "Women started making a comeback in the 1970s until 1984, when it began to be seen as a gender thing. There's the stereotype of computer nerds, and girls might be a little more sensitive to that than boys."
That trend of young girls being more consumed with body image than brains appears to be having a direct impact on the number of young women going into computer science fields.
According to the Computing Research Association's Taulbee Survey, computer science and computer engineering degrees granted to women since 1993 have fallen from 18 percent to 14 percent for undergraduate degrees and, since 2000/01, master's degrees in those fields have fallen from 27 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2005/06. Some sources put those numbers even higher, saying the percentage of women earning degrees in computer science have decreased by as much as 12 percent since 1985.
Conductor Ellen Spertus, left, teaches Sarah Klugen, and Zoe Yi how to peel wire to make connections in a half adder box, a kind of calculator that adds numbers at Mills College in Oakland. (Ray Chavez/The Oakland Tribune)Girls today are growing up in an image based environment where their self esteem Michael Kors Handbags Mini
"Boys have a stereotype of playing video games, while girls have the stereotype of playing with Barbies and dressing up. When you get older, it's all about being skinny and standing around looking good," says Yi. "Here (at Expanding Your Horizons), you see a ton of all different kinds of girls who want to branch out of that stereotype. Girls are afraid to be outcasts, but you come here and see you aren't alone."
the Girls Inc. program, girls were learning how to take apart cell phones, PDAs and other items to see how they worked.
comes from what they see rather than what they read, say sociologists.
In addition to the Girls Inc. program, Expanding Your Horizons, a special conference at Mills College for sixth through eighth grade girls in Alameda and Contra Costa counties explored careers in science and math.
age where you see constant images (of stupid girls). The first time I had a TV in my room was my second year of college in my dorm," says Elan Consuella Lambert, who attended one of the adult seminars on boosting middle school girls' Handbag Michael Kors Tiruan self esteem during Expand Your Horizons.
Spertus says studies have shown that girls begin to lose interest in science and math around middle school, and that trend toward dropping out of programs that provide the foundation for degrees in computer sciences might be reversed if caught early. But it's difficult when the girls are being bombarded with images from a media obsessed with the thin and the vapid.
"Growing up, I only got rewarded for being academic or intellectual, but people who were born in the next generation live in an Michael Kors Ava Medium
"After I started with this program, I decided I wanted to be an engineer because it's fun," says Lesly Perez, 13, of San Leandro. "Boys think they can do these things better than girls, but girls can do anything boys can do."
Girls learn importance of science and math
Zoe Yi, 12, of Berkeley says she's overwhelmed by stereotypical images on a daily basis, so she relies on other sources for a different viewpoint.
"When I'm at the house all I do is watch TV, " says Alejandra Hureta, 13, of San Leandro. "This program is teaching me that learning about (technology) is fun."
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