girls and computers

Subject: girls and computers
From: Barbara Rigg-Healy <brigg -at- UNM -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 14 Apr 1994 11:05:00 MDT

Barbara Rigg-Healy \
Technical Editor \
Computer and Information \
Resources and Technology \
University of New Mexico \ "White space never lies."
Albuquerque, NM 87131-6046 \
e-mail: brigg -at- unm -dot- edu \ -- Bill Horton
voice: (505) 277-8147 \
I find the current discussion about why there are fewer women in computing
fields then there are men very interesting. Working around computer types
all day piqued my interest in this topic about five years ago, and I did a
lot of reading in dusty academic journals about research on gender and
computers. Lest you think I am some high-brow, I must tell you that I did
this research while pursuing a masters degree in communication :-) . I
would be happy to post my reference list, if anyone wants read up on the
subject. Here's my two cents worth.

- In the academic field of communication these days, there is a very
popular theory that men and women actually fall into two different
*cultural* groups. So, communication between men and women is actually
"intercultural" communication. I believe Tannen alludes to this in her
book (it's been awhile since I read it.)

- For those who have posted comments that either they, as women, or their
female partners/friends (from the men) read computer mags, beat men at
war-type computer games, are computer programmers, etc. -- remember this:
because *you* do these things doesn't make it applicable to the whole
population. If you look at the research and the number women in computer
science, engineering or science in general, you will see a sharp contrast
between the sexes. There are always exceptions, and many of us on this
list probably fall into that exception category.

- Much of the research I read points to several reasons for problems with
women and computers.
-- Computers have been traditionally linked with mathematics and the task
of "teaching computers" was given to the math teachers. According to the
research, there already exists a bias towards women with regard to math.
This bias has been transferred to computers.

-- Girls were found to be reluctant to compete for computer resources,
which are frequently scarce in schools. Even in a pre-school situation, it
was found that the little boys dominated the computer until the teacher
intervened and set up times for the girls to use the computers, which they
did with just as much enthusiasm as the boys once they didn't have to
compete for access.

-- Computer games, even the educational games, involve subjects of greater
interest to males, such as sports and war.

-- Computer environments, from a computer store to university lab, tend to
make women uncomfortable.

-- One of the more interesting studies I read was one involving learning
styles. The study found that when computers were included and taught in
the curriculum, the difference in attitudes and perceptions about computers
between men and women dropped to almost nothing. What didn't work was
teaching a class that required computer use, but expecting the students to
learn how to use the computer outside of the class. Males did fine,
females' attitudes about computers were significantly more negative.

This subject happens to be one of my favorites, and I could go on and on
and on (just ask my colleagues)... but I'll spare everyone that fate!

Previous by Author: Prepositions ending sentences
Next by Author: gender & computers ref. list
Previous by Thread: What is techie language?
Next by Thread: Copyright & the net: more thoughts

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads