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Are Wyoming girls playing it safe?

Jan 17, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Not a single Wyoming girl took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam in high school in 2013.

What do girls want?

The answer in Wyoming, it appears, is anything but computer science.

That's the troubling conclusion to be drawn from the recent survey that showed not a single Wyoming girl took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam in high school in 2013.

That exam is the gateway to college for students who want to pursue a career in computer science.

All told, about 30,000 high school students around the country took the AP computer science exam last year.

Good for them.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for computer science majors will grow by 25 percent in the next five years.

Starting salary for computer science majors fresh out of college: $63,000.

Industry experts say that by 2020, the United States will need 1.2 million new computer science workers, but at today's rate our colleges will produce only about 400,000 computer science grads.

Honestly, it doesn't take a computer scientist to look at these statistics and realize this would be a fine field for college enlightenment.

But you gotta take the test to really have a shot at a scholarship or to get the attention of a selective computer science program.

Why didn't a single girl in Wyoming take the test?

One clue might be found in examining the most popular majors at the University of Wyoming these days for women students.

What's popular?

Elementary education and nursing rank 1 and 2.

These are fine fields to pursue.

Anybody who has child in school or who has ever spent a minute in a hospital knows the importance of elementary school teachers and nurses.

But there is also this.

Elementary education and nursing are two of the most traditional, inside-the-box majors imaginable for girls today.

It's almost like boys saying they want to be firemen.

Yes, these are important jobs. They have a kind of social comfort that comes attached to them.

That's the worrisome part of this. Of course we need nurses and teachers who are women. But we also need computer scientists, CEOs, and superstars in a dozen other fields who are women.

Judging from the statewide shying away from the AP computer science exam, Wyoming might need to ask this: Are we creating a place when too many girls are being subtly coached to play it safe?

When she turned 60, Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton had this to say about girls playing it safe: `

"My biggest take-away after 60 years on this planet is that there is great value in being fearless,'' Keaton said. "For much of my life, I was too afraid, too frightened by it all. That fear is one of my biggest regrets.''

Mark those words if you know a girl who has a knack for science, or computers, or both.

Tell her not to be afraid but to go for it.

She'll thank you later -- all the way to the bank.

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