The push to get more girls and women interested in computer science has been the talk of tech for years. On Sunday night, the effort — and hopes around progress — were the focus of a segment on “60 Minutes” titled “Cracking the Code.”
Longtime Seattle entrepreneur and Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi and Microsoft corporate vice president and “Halo” chief Bonnie Ross both featured heavily in CBS’s story, shedding light on the existing gender gap and providing some hope that progress is being made.
For her part, Ross talked about her desire to recruit more women for her team, the Microsoft games studio 343 Industries, but the candidates are just not there.
Microsoft has 4,000 current job openings, and women interns at the tech giant are so heavily valued that when the company is prepared to offer them a position, the women are already considering five to seven job offers from other top tech companies.
“These women, basically they open every door because we all want them,” Ross said. “There’s so few of them, they’re amazingly talented, there’s just not that many of them.”
Partovi told “60 Minutes” that it’s a chicken/egg problem: not enough women are going into computer science because the field is so male dominated it doesn’t make women comfortable. Both problems hurt each other, he said.
But Partovi’s non-profit could be the answer, as he shared impressive numbers on what Code.org has achieved in six years — there are over 10 million girls now coding on the platform.
The key is to get girls started early — as early as kindergarten — before they lose interest in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM subjects) in middle school.
“Middle school is roughly when girls traditionally drop out of STEM fields,” Partovi said. “And for computer science, they’ve not even been exposed to it at that young age in many cases. And that’s when we need to start.”
Ross said that research that’s been done at Microsoft shows that 91 percent of girls identify with being creative. But when they’re asked about computer science, they don’t see the field as creative.
“We do need to connect the dots,” Ross said. “Because it is incredibly creative, it’s just that we’re not doing a good job of showing them what they can do with it.”
With a goal to teach computer science to every child in America, “60 Minutes” said that Code.org has the potential to change the face of the tech workforce.
Watch the full segment at CBSNews.com and check out these additional clips from YouTube: