NYC Council Speaker Proposes Building Science Schools for Girls

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has proposed creating five new science schools exclusively for girls, according to Erin Durkin and Ben Chapman of New York Daily News.

The all-girl tech schools plan was unveiled by Quinn at a press conference in Brooklyn Bridge Park. According to Quinn, these tech schools will help boost female participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that many of our girls, the next generation of powerful women, aren’t being fully supported today,” Quinn said, adding that “we can’t let these smart, talented, brilliant girls slip through the cracks. The point of this school, in particular that it’s girls only, is in part to send a message to girls, this is a field for you,” Quinn said.

Under Quinn’s plans, at least one all-girls STEM middle school would be created in each borough, and the city Education Department would decide the exact locations of the schools. The plan, which focuses on middle schools, would target female students at a critical stage of their development and prepare them for success in high school, Quinn noted.

STEM education was a key component of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reforms to the public schools. In recent years, the New York City has created dozens of new STEM programs in public schools and provided millions of dollars in benefits for STEM-focused developments in higher education.

But girls have been left out of the high-tech revolution taking place in city classrooms, just as women in the U.S. workforce are missing out on jobs in high-tech fields. Only about one in four students in many of the city schools’ top tech programs is a girl, a statistic that echoes female participation in tech jobs nationwide.

According to education officials, “more than twice as many high school boys took advanced-placement tests in computer science, compared with girls, in 2013.” Despite lagging female participation, US jobs in STEM fields are expected to grow at about twice rate of other professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Efforts to increase girls’ interest and appreciation for science and technology are increasing as experimentation across the education sector develops. FemTechNet, a network of scholars, artists and students who combine technology, science and feminism in a variety of fields, recently launched an online course that highlights the significant contributions of feminists to technology, according to Hajer Naili of Womensenews.org.

The Dialogues in Feminism and Technology is the multi-university online course that emphasizes feminist contributions to technological innovation.  The FemTechNet’s curriculum has been called a Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC), which is a collaborative approach that contrasts with the traditional massively open online course (MOOC). The course’s commitment to a DOCC format means that it will not have a set curriculum and will instead draw on participants’ overall expertise.

The DOCC course will start from September 16 through December in 15 universities across the United States and Canada. In the coming year, FemTechNet aims to expand the program to across the globe.