© 2019 by Anke Plagnol. All rights reserved

Abstract

 

Julia Yates and Anke C. Plagnol. "'Not made for technology': A mixed methods approach to investigating women’s experiences studying computer science at university in the UK". (blog post)

 

The under-representation of women in computer science education courses is well documented, and the social and commercial need to address this is widely recognised. Previous literature offers some explanation for this gender imbalance, but there has been limited qualitative data to provide a more in-depth understanding of the quantitative findings.  The present mixed methods study explores the experiences of computer science students from eight institutions in the UK, using Cheryan, Ziegler, Montoya and Jiang’s framework of women in STEM (2017). Results of a quantitative survey (n=210) indicate that female respondents are less decided about their career plans than their male counterparts, which appears to be linked to a lower sense of occupational fit and lower levels of computer self-efficacy. Follow-up qualitative interviews with 20 of the female respondents suggest that whilst the women have not been troubled by their sense of fit at university, a combination of stereotypical assumptions of male superiority in this field, and a masculine, agentic learning environment, has left the female participants feeling less technically capable. The findings are discussed in terms of theoretical considerations and recommendations are offered towards the development of a more hospitable environment for female students within university departments.