Beginning in 2008, a group of female engineers at Google in Israel decided to tackle this problem. We established the “Mind the Gap!” program, aimed at encouraging girls to pursue math, science and technology education. In collaboration with the Israeli National Center for Computer Science Teachers, we began organizing monthly school visits for different groups of girls to the Google office and annual tech conferences at local universities and institutes. The girls learn about computer science and technology and get excited about its applications, as well as have a chance to talk with female engineers in an informal setting and see what the working environment is like for them.
Since we started this program over three years ago, we’ve hosted more than 1,100 teenage girls at our office, and an additional 1,400 girls at three annual conferences held in leading universities. These 2,500 students represent 100 schools from all sectors and from all over the country: Tel Aviv, Haifa, Tira, Beer-Sheva, Jerusalem, Nazareth and more; what they have in common is the potential to become great computer scientists.
The results are encouraging. For instance, some 40 percent of the girls who participated in last year’s conference later chose computer science as a high school major.
We encourage people in other countries, at other companies and in other scientific disciplines to see how they could replicate this program. You can read more at the project site. Currently, we are working with the Google in Education group to expand the program to more offices globally and get even more young women excited about computer science. The difference we can make is real: At one of our first visits three years ago, we met a 10th grade student named Keren who enjoyed math but had never considered computer science as a high school major. Last month, Keren informed us that the visit made such an impact on her, she decided to change her major to computer science. “Talking to women in the field helped me change my mind,” she said.
Posted by Michal Segalov, Software Engineer at Google’s R&D Center, Israel