Sites and Affiliations
Research and Applications
Major Accomplishments
Frequently Asked Questions
Knowledge and Technology Transfer
Education and Outreach
Media Resources
Technical Reports and Publications
Parallel Computing Research - Our Quarterly Newsletter
Contact Information
CRPC Home Page

UniGuide Featured Site

When it comes to computers and technology...

Are Girls Being Shortchanged?

From: Parade, February 8th, 1998
By Sara Brzowsky
Great Software
For Girls (And Boys)


  • Rockett's New School and Secret Paths in the Forest (both for ages 8-12), from Purple Moon, 888-278-7753; both $30.
  • The Babysitters' Club (ages 7-11), from Creative Wonders, 800-543-9778; $30.
  • American Girls Premiere (ages 7-12), from The Learning Company, 800-227-5609; $35. Based on the historical dolls.
  • Barbie Cool Looks Fashion Designer (ages 6-up), Mattel Media, 888-628-8359; $45. New this month.


    Good software doesn't have to have a "Girlish" theme. Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Software Revue, which tests software (, selected these titles that let both girls and boys go on adventures, make things, explore and learn.

  • All Dogs Go to Heaven Activity Center (ages 3-8), MGM Interactive, 800-586-2021; $30. Characters from the animated film.
  • Reader Rabbit's Preschool (ages 3-5), The Learning Company, 800-227-5609; $30. Kids help a broken carousel pony by solving puzzles.
  • Catz II and Dogz II: Your Virtual PETZ (ages 3-up), PF.Magic Inc., 800-482-3678; $20 per title (Windows only). Kitten or puppy on screen to feed, groom, play with.
  • Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell (ages 3-8), Humongous Entertainment, 800-499-8386; $40. Musical scavenger hunt.
  • Orly's Draw-A-Story (ages 5-10), Broderbund, 800-521-6263; $20. Kids create sketches for a story
  • I Can Be an Animal Doctor (ages 6-10), Cloud 9 Interactive, 888-662-5683; $35. Future vets diagnose and try to cure sick animals.
  • The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures (ages 7-9), The Learning Company, 800-227-5609; $30. Kids solve a mystery on a trek.
  • The Oregon Trail 3rd Edition: Pioneer Adventures (ages 10-up), The Learning Company, 800-227-5609; $50. Child makes strategic decisions for the Journey West.
  • Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (ages 9-up), Broderbund, 800-521-6263; $39 Kids go back to ancient Egypt, or talk with Ben Franklin or Julius Caesar. Also try Carmen Sandiego Word Detective.
  • UP UNTIL RECENTLY, parents who ventured into a computer-software store looking for something to interest a preteen daughter usually came away empty-handed. There were shelves of games aimed at boys - mostly shoot-em-ups full of guns and gore - but there was nothing very appealing for the adolescent or teenage girl who just wanted to have fun on the computer.

    Does it matter? If a girl doesn't want to play on the computer, why should she be pushed to do so? Experts and educators say it does matter. Research shows that playing with computer games helps develop an array of learning skills, such as focusing, concentration and problem solving. Most important, perhaps, it helps children to acquire a familiarity and ease with technology - of critical importance in the future job market. The occupations with the fastest employment growth for the next decade, according to a 1997 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, are computer scientists, computer engineers and systems analysts.

    "Computers are not for girls." "Absolutely untrue," says Roberta Furger, author of the book Does Jane Compute? Preserving Our Daughters' Place in the CyberRevolution. "Given the opportunity - and that's key - girls demonstrate an interest in computers time and again."

    As young children, girls play on the computer as much as boys do, studies show - and, significantly, software available at this stage is the same for both groups. Then, as boys and girls grow and develop different interests, the software available for girls dries up.
    How Adults Can Help
    (From Roberta Furger and GirlTECH)

    FOR A YOUNG GIRL, purchase games that appeal to her. The more time she spends on the computer, the more confident she'll be with it.

    AT HOME, put the computer in a central location, such as a family room, and give girls equal access with their brothers.

  • DON'T STEREOTYPE parental roles: It sends a mesage if the father always buys the computer software, or a normally competent mother insists, "I can't figure that stuff out."
  • IF YOUR DAUGHTER is skilled on the computer, encourage her. Let her show you the ropes. You'll get up to speed as well.
  • FIND OUT how many girls are in advanced computer classes at your daughter's school. If not at least 50%, make the school aware of it.
  • Why? Software companies haven't wanted to take the financial risks to develop games for girls because they think they won't sell. Even after years of consciousness-raising, as a society we expect different things from boys and girls. "Activities that are more science or technology-oriented have typically been seen as more masculine," says Furger. When the parents of a boy and a girl buy a new computer, one study found, it usually goes in the boy's bedroom.

    Brenda Laurel, co-founder of Purple Moon, a software company for girls, headed a research team that studied boys' and girls' play. "The main objection of girls to existing computer games," she says, "was that they are boring. Girls tend to be interested in character and story and social complexity in their play. They're not drawn to speed and action, or defeating opponents, or high scores for their own sake, or beating the clock."

    At school. Differing expectations of girls and boys often are perpetuated in school. Cynthia Lanius, a math teacher at Milby High School in Houston, recalls the first time she introduced a class to the Internet: "I took a laptop into class, hooked it up and said, 'how many of you would like to see the Internet?' Nine students rushed to my desk - eight boys and one girl. I thought, 'Boy. is this an in-my-face symbol of the problem!'" She notes that teachers often allow boys to dominate computer classes. The less assertive girls, left by the wayside, often don't increase their skills much.

    A similar problem has existed regarding the teaching of math and science to girls. "Technology requires far more attention," says Janice Weinman, executive director of the American Association of University Women, which conducted a landmark study of the issue. "There seems to be much more encouragement for boys to go into the advanced areas, whereas girls have sometimes felt out of place in these areas."

    Opening doors online. One thing girls do like is Internet chat rooms. "They provide the opportunity for relationships - extremely important to adolescent girls," notes Roberta Furger. And for many girls, chat rooms become the gateway to more challenging online exploration. "They are applying the technology to the kinds of interests they have off the computer. They form clubs. It's not competitive, it's a community."

    Made for girls. In 1996, Mattel Media introduced Barbie Fashion Designer - a CD-ROM that let girls design and print out clothes for Barbie and every little girl wanted one. It became a No. 1 seller, opening the door for other innovative companies (many founded by women) to create games and activities for girls. While still only a tiny share of the market, they are at last offering girls some choices.

    For more information about encouraging girls' interest in computers, visit the GirlTECH site at on the Web.

    Sites & Affiliations | Leadership | Research & Applications | Major Accomplishments | FAQ | Search | Knowledge & Technology Transfer | Calendar of Events | Education & Outreach | Media Resources | Technical Reports & Publications | Parallel Computing Research Quarterly Newsletter | News Archives | Contact Information

    Hipersoft | CRPC