Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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In 2008, women were only 22% of computer science graduates. What turns women off about computer science, where career opportunities are great and women's perspectives are missing?

It's the geek stereotype--the male dominated environment with sci-fi posters, messy offices, computer games and junk food--according to a recent article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Dr. Sapna Cheryan, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington, and her colleagues considered the results of four studies with more than 250 students who were not studying computer science. They concluded that female students who perceive the field of computer science as full of geeks create a masculine environment where they wouldn't fit in, so the women steer clear of it.

In one of the four experiments with 90 students each, in which the only variable was the objects found in two respective teams' "workrooms," students selected which "team" they wanted to join. Of the women, 82% chose the team supposedly working in the non-geeky workroom.

The researchers concluded that one way to increase the number of women in the field was to "broaden the image of computer science to make it so that other people have a connection to the field."

From the LiveScience report on msnbc.com for December 15, 2009.

Source Citation
"'Geeks' keep women from computer science." Women in Higher Education Jan. 2010: 6. General OneFile. Web. 22 June 2010.
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