The Department of Education is looking for a new solution to a persistent problem: how to get more girls to study technology. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña says she's not particularly skilled at using technology, but luckily, she has grandchildren.
"I have a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old who are teaching me everything I know about technology, and my 8-year-old literally came and fixed my computer the other day," Fariña said.
Speaking to 150 high school girls this week at Microsoft's Times Square offices, the 71-year-old chancellor said the key to understanding technology is getting a strong foundation early.
"When you have to learn it at my age, it really takes a lot more work," Fariña said.
The girls were at Microsoft as part of an effort to correct a serious gender imbalance in the tech world, where just 18 percent of computer science degrees go to women, down from 37 percent in 1985.
While the city has been trying to get more high school girls enrolled in schools and programs that stress engineering, science, math and technology, Fariña has decided the instruction needs to start much earlier.
"I think the answer is really starting younger, which is one of the reasons I really want to start in second grade," she said.
Her plan is to start a special summer program, getting 7-year-old girls coding. And while Fariña came to Microsoft to celebrate its DigiGirlz initiative that gets teenagers designing circuits and mobile games, she is also looking for money.
"We're waiting for funding, so I'm hoping events like today will help us get there," she said.
The Department of Education has realized that by middle school, girls are shying away from studying tech. Take the Software Engineering Academy, a public high school in Union Square that doesn't require any prior knowledge. Girls make up just 20 percent of the students who enroll.
"Once you get to be an adolescent, you're kind of fixed on what you think you want to do or you believe in," she said. "But when you're in elementary school, anything is possible."
As she knows from her grandchildren, they can be quick learners, even fixing computers.