Governors and legislators across the country, including Gov. Paul LePage, proclaimed the week of Dec. 9-15 as Computer Science Education Week. It is critical that our elected and school officials recognize the roles that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and computer science education play in developing problem-solving skills and equipping our young people with tools for success in today’s economy.

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

Why so few? “Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” a 2010 research report by the American Association of University Women, points to barriers that continue to block women’s progress in STEM fields. The report offers new ideas to open scientific and engineering fields to girls and women. We can start by working with young students to spark their interest in computer science.

Last weekend, AAUW of Maine collaborated with Project>Login to support Computer Science Education Week. More than 2,500 students from more than 300 Maine schools participated in a national Hour of Code, demystifying the subject of computer science and demonstrating that programming is within the reach of every child.

A petition to support bringing computer science to more schools in Maine can be found at http://bit.ly/1bbf53R.

Bets Brown, AAUW of MEPublic policy chairwomanSouth China