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Kunin: Computer Games

05/08/12 7:55AM By Madeleine M. Kunin
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(Host) As the graduates of 2012 join the rest of the working world, former Vermont governor and commentator Madeleine Kunin wishes that more women were attracted to careers in computer science.

(Kunin) Why are video games so violent? The ones I've seen remind me of the 4th of July, with everything exploding, buildings, cars, airplanes, men and women. Kill, kill, and kill for sport and entertainment.

Video games seem to be mostly a boy thing - viewed by young boys and created by big boys. And I believe that if more videos games were created by women, the violence in these games - especially against women - would be rapidly toned down.

There's one catch, however. To design these games women have to become computer scientists. Yes, they have to enter a field, which has increasingly been dominated by men, and it's getting worse, not better. While enrollment in math, science and even engineering has been growing for women, computer science is moving the other way. In 1985, 38 percent of computer scientists were women. That figure has plummeted to 17 percent in some years.

A group of Vermont women formed a new networking organization for women in science, math and engineering and finance to encourage more women. A group of Harvard students recently revived a long dormant organization, Women in Computer Sciences. Why?

They discovered that the percentage of women in the field fell from 42 percent in the class of 2013, to 22 percent in the class of 2014.

Why is computer science a good field for women? For one thing, that's where the jobs are, and for another, the pay is better than for many jobs, and finally, it's easier to combine career and family.

But that's not all. Yes you may get a job at Facebook or Microsoft, but there's more at stake.

"If you completely shut out the entire feminine perspective on the world, you are going to have a different set of products, "the president of Harvey Mudd College , Maria Klawe, told Judy Woodruff on the PBS News Hour. The presence of women in computer labs will determine what kind of medical devices get created, what kind of products we buy.

Boys often get attracted to computer science because they like to watch video games. When women begin to create those games, more girls will begin to watch them too, and by the time they start college, they'll be hooked, not only on playing games, but also on a career in computer science. This is how greater gender equality can enrich all of our lives.
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