“Some people think that girls’ and women’s ownership and use of these [mobile] devices will automatically lead to their increased interest in computing education options. That has not proven to be true.” – Lucy Sanders, USA

When you ask Lucy Sanders why it is imperative that more girls and women are involved in the world of computer science and technology, her answer is simple. “Women make up half the world’s population, they use technology as much as men and they are innovative technical thinkers,” says Sanders. “So if we want the best technology that we can get, we need diversity at the design table.”

As chief executive officer and co-founder of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Sanders is doing her part to ensure that women not only have a place at the table, but that their place is front and center. NCWIT is a change-leader network of over 500 organizations, from K-12 through career, all working to significantly advance girls’ and women’s participation in computing. And, according to NCWIT, their efforts are paying off. Sixty-one percent of their university members are showing increased percentages of women in their computing degree programs. NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing program supports thousands of young women with demonstrated capabilities in computing (over 1200 on college campuses). And they work with many partners, including code.org, to get “rigorous, relevant and inclusive” computer science education into every high school in the US.

“It’s not just a matter of equity and workforce readiness, but it’s also a very important matter of innovation and global competitiveness,” notes Sanders. As an award-winning computer scientist herself — Sanders earned the Bell Labs Fellows Award in 1996 for her work on leading-edge software architectures for telecommunications, and was inducted into the Women in Technology International organization’s Hall of Fame in 2007 – she knows first-hand the challenges of getting girls and women interested in computing and technology. 

One major issue, she says, is lack of encouragement for young girls and women to go into careers in technology and computer science – jobs that Sanders believes women are very well suited for as they are flexible, creative and can be found in pretty much any industry or company. “Everybody can encourage a young girl to go into computing.” 

It’s my pleasure to share today’s Daily Edventure with Lucy Sanders. 

Lucy Sanders – Science and Technology Award from OnSight Media on Vimeo.

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you? 

Technology outreach efforts with under-represented groups led me to the field of education.  Computing skills are essential for the workforce of the 21st century.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?

My high school advanced math teacher, Sandra McCalla.  She was tough as nails, extremely high expectations, taught us computing.  When you got a good grade on one of her exams you knew you had really accomplished something. 

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work? 

At the moment, we are making use of standard web platforms, content management systems and database systems to deliver our content to our members and to the general public.  Our media partner, Turner Broadcasting, live streams our annual summit. We are beginning to work on mobile apps and also see an increased demand for video resources.  

In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cellphones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work? 

Some people think that girls’ and women’s ownership and use of these devices will automatically lead to their increased interest in computing education options.  That has not proven to be true.  So, from our perspective, we see these devices as a way to deliver content quickly to people, right when they need it.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

Efforts like the Khan Academy are very exciting.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

Every student needs a course in the fundamentals of computing – they need a basic computer science course.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why? 

Not sure it is a tool, but I would have every child implement, from start to finish, some type of exciting, meaningful software module, and explain to them how software is changing the world, solving the worlds’ problems, and perhaps even contributing to them.

What is your country doing well currently to support education? 

The U.S. National Science Foundation has done an outstanding job promoting quality computer science education for all students. There is also a growing community of computing stakeholders working through efforts like Computing in the Core and code.org to get computer science to count in every state as a math/science credit for high school graduation.  Also, Computer Science Education Week is becoming a strong promotion for computing. 

How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century? 

At the very least every high school should offer the new gold standard Computer Science Advanced Placement (AP) Course, coming soon.  Also, Exploring Computer Science is great too.

About Lucy Sanders

CEO and Co-founder, NCWIT

National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)

Boulder, Colorado, USA

  • Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Current residence: Boulder, Colorado
  • Education:  MS, Computer Science
  • Website I check every day: CNN
  • Person who inspires me most: My mother
  • Favorite childhood memory: Playing in the stream in the back of our yard.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): work/Orlando
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why?  I laughed at our son’s dog watching TV.
  • Favorite book: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
  • Favorite music: Rock, country
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? Treat feedback as a gift.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: Facts are our friends.
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