HIGH-SCHOOL GIRLS ARE taking more Advanced Placement computer engineering exams than ever before, according to a new report from and the College Board. In 2017, largely thanks to a new test aimed at expanding the reach of engineering classes, female participation in these AP tests increased at a faster rate than young boys’ participation on the exam in 2017.
For women hoping to have careers in computer engineering, this kind of early training can make all the difference. The field of computer science is growing so fast it outpaces all other occupations in the US. It’s great work if you can get it. In fact, 70 percent of students who take this AP exam say they want to work in computer science. Trouble is, it’s mostly white or Asian men who land these high-paying jobs.
Experts say to change that you’ve got to combat the so-called “pipeline problem,” educating women and people of color so they come out of high school and college with the right degrees to enter the field. Heartening numbers like this report are a good step in the right direction. But they also belie the fact that getting women and people of color into the pipeline is just the beginning. The real challenge is supporting these engineers once they enter the field—and actually hiring them in the first place.
Though the increases reported for women and people of color taking this exam should be celebrated, they are fairly modest gains in the scheme of things. This year, 135 percent more women took the AP Computer Science exam than last year. Much of that growth, however, is because the total number of students who took the AP Computer science exam more than doubled on the whole to 111,262 students—spurred on by a new AP course aiming to broaden the reach of computer science and bring the subject to underprivileged communities in urban and rural areas.says participation from black and Latino students in the AP exam increased by 170 percent compared to one year ago—though that combines two groups together. it is possible the proportion of black students and of Latino students, taken separately, did not increase faster than the rate of boys who took the AP exam this year.
“Seeing these gains among female, black, and Hispanic students is a story of how we can bring opportunity to people who need it the most,” says Hadi Partovi, CEO and cofounder of.