Expanding the Pipeline: Characteristics of Male and Female Prospective Computer Science Majors – Examining Four Decades of Changes – CRN

March 20, 2017 at 7:00 am 3 comments

Interesting report from CRA that offers a nuanced view about gender differences in goals for STEM education and how those interact with pursuing a degree in CS.

Another example of a variable becoming more salient over time relates to one’s scientific orientation. Students of either gender who express a stronger commitment to making a “theoretical contribution to science” are more likely to pursue a computer science major, but over time this variable has become a significantly stronger predictor for women while remaining a steady predictor for men. In other words, it is increasingly the case that computer science attracts women who see themselves as committed to scientific inquiry. While at face value that seems like positive news for the field of computer science, the fact is that women are much less likely than men to report having a strong scientific orientation upon entering college; thus, many potential female computing majors may be deterred from the field if they simply don’t “see” themselves as the scientific type.

Still, there is some positive news when it comes to attracting women to computing. The first relates to the role of mathematical self-concept. Specifically, even though women rate their math abilities lower than men do—and perceptions of one’s math ability is one of the strongest predictors of a major in computer science—the fact is that the importance of mathematical self-concept in determining who will pursue computer science has weakened over time. Thus, despite the fact that women tend to have lower math confidence than men do, this differential has become less consequential over time in determining who will major in computer science.

Source: Expanding the Pipeline: Characteristics of Male and Female Prospective Computer Science Majors – Examining Four Decades of Changes – CRN

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Passing of William G. Bowen: Walk Deliberately, Don’t Run, Toward Online Education Brief from Google on the state of Girls in CS Education

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lecia Barker  |  March 20, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Important to keep in mind that math confidence is not the same as math competence. Girls/women under-report confidence and boys/men over-report confidence. This is a cultural phenomenon related to gender performance, NOT a cognitive phenomenon related to knowledge or ability.

  • 2. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  March 20, 2017 at 11:41 am

    I’d like to see the graph with a log y-scale, so that the ratio of men to women is a constant vertical distance. On a linear scale, the fluctuations in the more numerous men are more salient as an artifact of the scale—it is difficult to see what the fluctuations in the women are.

  • 3. Dennis Frailey  |  March 20, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    As a person who hired people for computer science and software engineering jobs and careers for over 40 years, I’m a bit disappointed here and I fear that the students are getting inaccurate career advice. Specifically, of the people I hired (men and women), those who had the most successful careers were strong in communication and leadership skills more so than in theoretical scientific, math or CS skills. This is not to say that the latter are unimportant, but that many who possess the former skills are likely to have successful careers as computing professionals in the business world.


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