More women nix outdated ‘nerd’ stereotype with single CS class
A fascinating set of studies! (Follow the link below to see the description of the second one.) It reminds me of our GaComputes findings about the importance of early computing experiences for minority students. Just taking a single CS class changed the women’s definitions of what a computer scientist is. I’ve written on Blog@CACM about how under-represented minorities were more likely than majority students to have had some CS experience in middle or high school that influenced them. These studies together support the argument that having some CS in K12 will likely have a significant impact on later attitudes towards computing.
First, they asked undergraduates from the UW and Stanford University to describe computer science majors.
They found students who were not computer science majors believed computer scientists to be intelligent but with poor social skills; they also perceived them as liking science fiction and spending hours playing video games. Some participants went so far as to describe computer scientists as thin, pale (from being inside all the time), and having poor hygiene.
“We were surprised to see the extent to which students were willing to say stereotypical things, and give us very specific descriptions. One student said computer science majors play ‘World of Warcraft’ all day long. And that’s a very specific, and inaccurate, thing to say about a very large group of people,” Cheryan said.
However, women who had taken at least one computer science class were less likely to mention a stereotypical characteristic. There was no difference in men’s descriptions, whether or not they had taken a computer science class.