Geeks drive girls out of computer science

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Summary of the article “Geeks drive girls out of computer science” written by Jeanna Bryner

The stereotype of computer scientists as geeks may be driving women away from the field. Women can be turned off by just the physical environment of a computer-science classroom or office.

When we think about computer science, we immediately think about the computer geek surrounded by such things as computer games, science-fiction stuff and junk food. That stereotype doesn’t appeal to many women who don’t like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes.

Only 22% of computer science graduates are women and this percentage has been steadily decreasing.

The researcher Sapna Cheryan, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington, noticed that not only are women missing out on some of the “best career opportunities, but computer science is missing out on female perspectives“.

Studies showed that women are significantly less interested than men in computer science when they have to work in class-rooms or offices that contained objects stereotypically associated with computer science (Star Trek posters, video game boxes and Coke cans). While in a neutral room, there is no gender difference.

Women are more interested by a job in a company with neutral physical environment than a job in a company with stereotypically geek objects.

There was a subset of women in the study who didn’t view the stereotypical objects as masculine and geeky.

It seems to Cheryan that this is a cultural phenomenon: “These objects are not inherently masculine or geeky; they’ve been constructed that way. That means to me we can reconstruct the objects or more importantly the whole field.

In conclusion, we should attempt to broaden the image of computer science to make it so that other people feel a connection to the field.

Link to the original article:

http://www.livescience.com/culture/091215-computer-science-girls.html

Links to related articles and containing more info about the conducted studies:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-12/uow-oga121409.php

http://uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=54341

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