Open Codex HISTORICAL entry

2012 Jun 27 | Is the Internet convincing women not to study computer science?

I recently encountered Beth Andres-Beck’s (2012) interesting note asking is reading the Internet convincing women not to study computer science? I find her affirmative conclusion compelling as she shows:

  1. an increasing gap in interest in C.S. between men and women post-Internet (1996) in the U.S.;
  2. a negative correlation within other countries once the Internet is introduced;
  3. a negative correlation across countries: countries with pervasive access tend to have suppressed CS interest by women.

The one exception is “the group of Mediterranean nations that show a positive correlation.” Andres-Beck surmises these differences are cultural, to which I am sympathetic. As I write in Free as in Sexist: The Gender Gap in the Free Culture Movement

Related figures do indicate that these imbalances are significantly affected by social context. (It is more than a simple choice by individuals.) For example, among Wikipedians who gender-identify in their profile, women are 12% of the Wikipedians on the German encyclopedia but 23% of those at the Russian one (Reagle 2011). Also, 40 years ago there were few women in computing. Eventually women began to enter the field with their share of computer-related positions peaking in the 1980s – but declining since (NCWIT 2007). Contemporaneously, culture and environment can be significant determinants of women’s participation in computing. One can see this in the micro-cultures of a particular college or programming methodology as well as in cultures where computing is seen as a good career path rather than a masculine or personality-driven type activity (e.g., Palestine, Qatar, and Malaysia) (Blum et al. 2008; Lagesen 2008).

Andres-Beck, Beth. 2012. “Is Reading the Internet Convincing Women Not to Study Computer Science?.”

Blum, Lenore, Carol Frieze, Orit Hazzan, and M. Bernadine Dias. 2008. A Cultural Perspective on Gender Diversity in Computing. Proceeding of the 2008 Conference on Current Issues in Computing and Philosophy. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

Lagesen, Vivian Anette. 2008. A Cyberfeminist Utopia?: Perceptions of Gender and Computer Science Among Malaysian Women Computer Science Students and Faculty. Vol. 33. Sage Publications.

NCWIT. 2007. “NCWIT Scorecard 2007: A Report on the Status of Women in Information Technology.”

Reagle, Joseph. 2011. “Comparative ‘Gender Gaps.’”

Open Communities, Media, Source, and Standards

by Joseph Reagle