There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of students learning computer programming and coding. While these are indeed skills that will continue to become more critical, it’s important to note that Computer Science (CS) is much more than just writing code. It’s also the study of computers and algorithms including their principles, their hardware and software design, and their impact on society. Computer Science is about the way of thinking needed to solve complex problems and drive innovation, not just in tech, but also in fields as diverse as medicine and music.

Yet, despite the importance of learning CS, there simply aren’t enough students who understand the power and creativity that it holds. Even fewer have role models in the field or have access to opportunities to learn CS. There will be 1.4 million new computing-related jobs created in the US this decade, and if current trends don’t change significantly, the US will only produce enough undergraduates in CS to fill 32% of these jobs (NCWIT). This is a problem Google cares deeply about.

To address this, Google is focusing on where the greatest gaps are in attracting and retaining more students in Computer Science -- particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field. Today, women hold only 27% of all CS jobs (NSF). While the number of women studying STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) in college is generally on the rise, fewer are studying CS: women earning bachelor’s degrees in CS has dropped from 37% in 1984 to 18% in 2009.

Reversing this trend will be a collective effort. As Chris Stephenson mentioned in her recent post on Supporting CS Education, “achieving systemic and sustained change in CS education is a complex undertaking that requires strategic support that complements both existing formal school programs and extracurricular education.”
source: NSF
Google is committed to ensuring that all groups -- regardless of gender, ethnicity, geography, or socio-economic level — have equal access to CS opportunities because it is the right thing to do. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the issue, we commissioned a research study, Women who Choose Computer Science, to identify the drivers that motivate young women to pursue CS. Our findings show that 61% of these factors are determined before college. This means we’ve got to start early, at the K-12 level, and make sure students get the right exposure to CS, as well as encouragement from teachers, parents, and peers along the way. In addition to partnering with key organizations working to increase access to CS education, we’ve also launched initiatives such as CS First, an after-school and summer CS program for grades 4-8; Google Code-In, open source projects; Blockly Games, a series of educational games that teach programming; and CS4HS, a program that supports professional development for high school and middle school teachers.

Sustained interest in CS at the university level is also critical, and we’ve developed programs including Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI) to help recent high school graduates transition to college CS classes and Engineering Practicum, which provides summer internships for rising sophomores and juniors. Beyond the classroom, we’re also working to change the perception of CS through Made with Code and a $50 million commitment to increasing young women’s access to CS. As Geena Davis says, “if girls can see it, they can be it.”

Through tailored programs based on research and ongoing support for the ecosystem, we can help students understand the promise of Computer Science and use its limitless possibilities to help solve the world’s problems.