The Priory Earns Nationwide Computer Science Female Diversity Award
St. Andrew's Schools
A startling report released in September 2020 by Accenture and Girls Who Code revealed that the number of women in tech has been decreasing over the years, despite what people may think about their presence in the industry. However, the young women at St. Andrew’s Schools, also known as The Priory, have something to say – and do – about that.
Women have almost caught up to men in the fields of technology, engineering and mathematics, right? You might assume so—but they have actually fallen further behind at the very moment when tech roles are surging and vital to the U.S. economy and its continued leadership around the globe. Unbelievably, the proportion of women to men in tech roles has declined over the past 35 years. And half of young women who go into tech drop out by the age of 35 (Executive summary, “Resetting Tech Culture” – report by Accenture and Girls Who Code).
Fortunately, the other side of this grim data about diversity in STEM fields is recent news from the College Board: Nearly 37% more high schools have been recognized for their work toward equal gender representation in AP (Advanced Placement) Computer Science courses this year than were recognized last year.
In its recent announcement, the College Board named St. Andrew’s Schools – The Priory among the forward-thinking schools earning the 2020 AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award. The award recognizes female representation among high school test takers of the college-level AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A courses.
Of the 1,119 schools nationwide who received recognition, only 56 schools received the award for both of the AP computer science courses. The Priory is the only Hawaiʻi high school among those 56.
St. Andrew’s is also the only private school among the 8 Hawaiʻi high schools who received awards for either AP Computer Science Principles (831 schools awarded) or AP Computer Science A (232 school awarded). The Hawaiʻi public high schools on the list were Aiea, Campbell, Castle, Leilehua, Waialua, Keaʻau, Maui.
As an all-girls high school with a strong educational program featuring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses, St. Andrew’s is well-positioned to prepare young women for success in these fields beyond high school. More than 50% of The Priory graduates choose STEM fields as their college majors.
Although women currently constitute a mere 27% of the STEM workforce, Head of School Dr. Ruth Fletcher (who herself holds multiple postsecondary degrees in the sciences) is confident that any downward trends can soon be reversed, saying, “Our graduates and their readiness to tackle careers in STEM will certainly play an important role in achieving gender equality in these industries. We are committed to a tradition of excellence and innovation and we could not be prouder of our students as they become the next generation of STEM professionals. We know their talents and interests were nurtured here at The Priory and will lead to lifelong success.”
Nina Pandya, a 2019 graduate of The Priory credits her alma mater for setting her on her career path in STEM.
“Going into my senior year at The Priory,” Nina says, “I was not planning on pursuing a career in computer science. However, I took an Introduction to Computer Programming course and instantly found computer science to be something that I enjoyed. Enrolling in The Priory’s AP Computer Science Principles class later that year helped me to solidify my interest in computer science. It also gave me a glimpse into a future in computer science and prepared me for college computer science courses.
Through computer science courses and encouragement from my teacher, I began to realize that a degree in computer science was the right path for me. Being in an all-girls environment with a female computer science teacher made me feel more comfortable and encouraged to pursue a career in computer science.”
Nina is currently studying computer science at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and also working part-time in the Technology Department at St. Andrew’s.
She says, “It is so important for companies in STEM fields to encourage diversity and provide supportive environments. I believe that females can do just about anything, and The Priory is an excellent example of that. Females should feel empowered in a STEM field and know that their skills and talent are valued.
Nina added, “Companies can make a STEM environment more supportive by being open to allow more diversity. Furthermore, having a diverse environment means more knowledge, ultimately leading to better performance and innovations.”