Considering how fast our world is being transformed by technology, you might expect the number of students studying computer science to be at an all-time high. You’d be wrong.

According to a 2012 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2020 the U.S. will have 1 million unfilled computer programming jobs. Of those studying computer science at the college level right now, only 15 percent are women and 8 percent are students of color.

A 2010 research report by the American Association of University Women – “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM),” – points to environmental and social barriers that continue to block women’s progress in STEM. We can start addressing these issues by working with young students to spark their interest in computer science and programming.

We’re starting right here in Maine.

Governors and legislators across the country – including Gov. LePage and Sen. Angus King – proclaimed the week of Dec. 9-15 as Computer Science Education Week.

And they are supporters of efforts like the Lego League Championship and Hour of Code that introduce young students, especially girls, to STEM fields.

AAUW of Maine members joined Project>Login at the “Hour of Code Dojo Room” – one of many Lego League Championship activities – at the Augusta Civic Center on Dec. 14.

More than 500 students competed in the day’s events, and the Hour of Code participants ranged from ages 5 to 80.

Maine is leading the charge in collaborating with K-12, higher education and business to align the core curriculum and soft skills that students are learning with the needs of the 21st-century workplace.

More importantly, there is an emphasis on empowering young girls to explore their strengths and interests and break down stereotypes in gender roles.

Kimberly Hayes Pollard

state organizer, AAUW of Maine

Syracuse, N.Y.