The number of females in computer science and engineering is low. In the 80s, 40% of computer science undergraduate students in the US were women. Since then, the number of female students in computer science is dropping. This trend is global.
Teenage years have been identified as the age when girls tend to drift away from mathematical scientific disciplines. Our hypothesis is that this is due to misperceptions about STEM in girls' minds, and that exposure to female role models can break these myths.
"Mind the Gap" is a pre-university effort started by female engineers in the Israel R&D Center to address this issue. Its goal is to change the way girls perceive Computer Science (CS) and encourage them to develop an interest in the field.
This initiative is promoted as part of the 20 percent time program, which encourages Google employees to use up to 20 percent of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. A key principle in designing this program was to reach as many students as possible, in the given time restrictions, and make a significant impact.
In May 2008, we started hosting groups of high school students in the Tel Aviv office for visits of approximately 2.5 hours. The visits consist of three components: 1) A talk about the Google search engine, 2) A panel of female engineers, and 3) a tour of the office.
The reactions were overwhelming. The girls leave our office energized and motivated to study CS, and they all want to work for Google! To learn how to launch a similar program in your office, click here.
Based on the success of the office visits, we hosted three conferences for over 500 girls each with the aim of exposing more ninth graders to Computer Science and role models in the field. To read more about our conferences, click here.
Our most recent conference was held at Open University in Raanana. You can view the Computer Science in the Real World talk by Software Engineer, Michal Segalov, and the panel discussion (Hebrew) hosted by Software Engineer, Inna Weiner, both filmed at the conference in Tel Aviv University (Dec 2011).
As of December 2012, we have hosted over 1100 girls in our office visits and another 1850 girls at 4 conferences at leading universities.
In May 2009, Prof. Orit Hazan and Larisa Eidelman from the Technion received a grant from the Google CS4HS EMEA 2009 fund to investigate the impact of these visits. An article about the program was recently published in ACM's Inroads magazine (Sept 2011).