- Bhatt, Meghana; Blakely, Johanna; Mohanty, Natasha; Payne, Rachel:How Media Shapes Perceptions of Science And Technology for Girls and Women
* Negative stereotypes of science and women constitute on of the most important roadblocks to attract and retaining women in STEM. Children and young people spend a considerate amount of time consuming media, which in turn has a great capacity to form or break stereotypes. The implicit associations are deeply subconscious and are directed towards other people and towards oneself. They are the result of our minds' tendency to create patterns and have a significant effect on behavior and achievement. They can limit expectations if too few images and categories are provided and create self-fulfilling prophecies. This has also been noted for race representations
But: Positive images can decrease women's negative self-perception and increase aspirations. Representation of women in science can deem the profession more appropriate for women. The prevalent stereotypes though are communicating that either "women are bad at math" or b) false assumptions on scientists character traits.
a) Girls perform consistently better at math and science in elementary and into middle schoool, but their self-concept can strongly limit their abilities. The so-called "identity threat" describes how peoples' ability can be subject to the elicitation of their harmful or positive traits, like "asian" (performs well) or "female" (performs badly). It is well known that women perform less well in mathematical tasks when being reminded of their gender and a large-scale study found a significant correlation amid countries' gender gap in science and their gender-science stereotypes. In addition to the own perception, there is also the expectancy effect by others, e.g. teachers, that can influence actual performance. Finally, also in the process of job applications, womens applications tend to be judged less qualified despite of equal qualification.
b) STEM professionals are often being represented as asocial and awkward Nerds, which is unappealing to both genders but has a greater effect on women. When being exposed to male non-stereotypical scientists, women also judge themselves as more appropriate.
Simply representing women in STEM can help to alleviate these effects, as numerous studies suggest. Female students having had a female scientist teaching them, performed better. Als both genders expressed a greater desire to participate in a conference when the video depicts a more gender-balanced crowd.
From these findings, it is evident that the media has a powerful role and leverage, to change existing presassumptions and resulting effects.
- Poster, Winfried:Global circuits of gender: women and high-tech work in India and the United States
- Kumar, Deepak: Disrupting the Cultural Capital of Brogrammers.
- Shih, Margaret, Pittinsky, Todd L. & Ambady, Nalini (1999):Stereotype Susceptibility: Identity Salience and Shifts in Quantitative Performance
Recent studies have documented that performance in a domain is hindered when individuals feel that a sociocultural group to which they belong is negatively stereotyped in that domain. We report that implicit activation of a social identity can facilitate as well as impede performance on a quantitative task. When a particular social identity was made salient at an implicit level, performance was altered in the direction predicted by the stereotype associated with the identity. Common cultural stereotypes hold that Asians have superior quantitative skills compared with other ethnic groups and that women have inferior quantitative skills compared with men. We found that Asian-American women performed better on a mathematics test when their ethnic identity was activated, but worse when their gender identity was activated, compared with a control group who had neither identity activated. Cross-cultural investigation indicated that it was the stereotype, and not the identity per se, that influenced performance.
- Etzkowitz, Henry; Kemelgor, Carol; et. al.:The paradox of Critical Mass of Women in Science
* The study inspected 30 different departments in STEM and the dynamics of the "critical mass". It is assumed that the discrete point at which a sufficient number brings about qualitative improvement and accelerates the change lies at 15%. This change has to be supported by outside intervention and assistance. Change agents can stem from the minority or the majority group.
Though attainment of critical mass doesn't solve the problem all by itself, since women pursue different strategies themselves and could be isolated in smaller research groups or subfield fragmentation. The differentiation of female faculty produces isolation even when the numbers reach critical mass.
Furthermore women chose different strategies - women who are following a "male model" or "relational female model" can pose a great challenge. They either lack the provision of a model that successfully combines family and academia or they pose much higher demands towards women, based on the assumption that women are constantly underestimated. This can result in a goals too high for some women to achieve, consequently being debilitating.
Another hurdle can be the deniance of women towards gender-related discrimination out of fear of stigmatization. Without role models, women are less willing to attempt carreers in academic science.
Hence it is not only the sheer number of women faculty members, but a conduit of information about negotiating the social structure of science, which is crucial. There is a great need to address isolation at the highest levels of academic policy. Programs and policies regarding child care and parental leave are a key factor in overcoming the significant high number of women dropping out at transition points. Also, tokeism must be eschweded, when some female stars are aggressively courted, but others still languish in discrimination.
Connecting female members of academia and pressure excerted from the outside, like decisions on grants, are essential. Participation of all groups in society is a basis for the public support for science and its legitimation. It is in everybodys interest to not waste on potential and utilizing talent to its fullest extent.
- Camp, Tracy: Women in Computer Sciences: Reversing the trend.
* Camp states: "To create better computing technology, computing development teams need to have different perspectives, different points of view and different approaches to problem solving.[...] While men usually focus on the computer and its technology, women most often focus on what the computer can do for socienty. Bringing these divergend personalities and abilities to the table creates better products, a fact that industry now realizes."
To tackle the trend of decreasing female degree holders in computer science, Camp suggest several approaches, that are incumbent to academia:
- Locate women as speakers, esp. as keynote speakers
- encourage women to participate in online computing communities for women, like systers.org
- provide support for attending conferences
- install a mentoring program for women
The Carnegie Mellon University for example has experienced dramatic rise in the percentage of women from 8 (1995) to 42 percent in 1999.
A major challenge is the lack of self confidence for women. This adds to the tendency of women to perform less well in the beginning, since they often have had less experience with computers at an early age compared to men. Also women often feel less belonging in the study course despite of earning average grades. Hence women need extra encouragement. More introductory courses can also thwart gender differences.
Furthermore the incorrect stereotype that computing is anti social and solitary, can be discouraging for women. Counteracting this stereotype, e.g. by inviting industry employees (preferrably women) that report on their daily routine can be helpful.
Technology developed by women is vastly different than tech developed by men. "Thus, to ensure that technology is useful for everyone, not just the 49% male population, it is imperative that we have a diverse mixture of people working to design, develop, and implement our computer systems."
- Murphy, Mary C.; Steele, Claude M.; Gross, James J.:Signaling threat: how situational cues affect women in math, science, and engineering settings.
Study containts findings, that have been described in the first article. Men and women who watched a video of a conference with a more balanced or unbalanced ratio felt more attracted to the balanced conference. For women, the effects were more profound, they felt less adequate inspite of excellent qualifications and were even more stressed.
I am not quite sure about the explicit message of that study. Maybe because I don't really get, what "cue" is supposed to mean and how it differs from other findings and challenges.
- Robnett, Rachel: The Role of Peer Support for Girls and Women in the STEM Pipeline: Implications for Identity and Anticipated Retention
* The study examined the role of peers in girls' and women's intent to pursue careers in STEM and to remain in these fields. Prime goal of the study was to test a model in which peer climate (influencing motivation, confidence and belongliness) predicts girls identification with STEM which in turn predicted their intent to remain in STEM.
STEM identificiation reflects the extent to which students view themselves as members of STEM-related communities of practice. This identification appears to be more challenging for women which can results in identity interference, which in turn is linked to lower performance. Supportive ties can buffer this problem, which is why having a supportive STEM network is crucial. Also because increasing feelings of isolation by women in STEM subjects are leading to a lack of confidence.
The preassumption of the study was, that peer climate is linked to confidence, motivation and sense of belongliness, which predicts the extent of identification which in turn predicts the likeliness of women to stay in STEM.
The results were widely consistent with the expectations. They emphasize that social relationships play an important role in shaping identity. Peers are influential because they can enhance the likelihood that a particular academic domain is incorporated into one's sense of self. This suggests that programs aimed at increasing gender parity in STEM would benefit from an explicit emphasis on fostering social ties among the students they serve(!).
- Blum, Leonore: Women in Computer Science: The Carnegie Mellon Experience
*The Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University improved managed to raise the percentage of women entering from 7% to appx. 40 % in 2000. Crucial were findings based on gender studies, support by respected key adminstrators and the commitment of female students and a growing reputation as a place that values and wants women to join. Note: This undermines my personal assumption, that sometimes simply communicating, that women are wanted and welcomed in a company, a conference, etc. can be a decisive first step to include more women, that assume they aren't welcomed by default.
Allan Fisher, an Associate Dean, cooperated with Jane Margolis, a social scientist to explore this problem. They conducted hundreds of interviews and found four crucial problem areas: Experience gap, confidence doubts, curriculum and pedagogy and peer culture. As a result, several initiatives were founded. One of them was a program aimed specifically at teachers that are preparing high school students for a computer science test. It made them more aware of the topic and led to more women taking the test. One crucial effect was that the CMU was generally then considered as a place that valued women.
The admission office opened up towards qualifications other than programming experience and also it was openly stated that no prior programming experience is necessary. This encouraged some women to join.
As a third result, a supportive community, the "Women @ SCS Advisory Council", was founded. Students from all years were included, who's top priority is Community Building. Their goals were to be fostering a supportive peer environment, communicating the needs of women to administrations, being consultants that provide suggestions and organizing outreach activities to increase the numbers of women applying.
The activities of the program:
- they started a "Little Sister, Big Sister" program that paired students of different classes and organized several dinners and other social events.
- they advised the faculty on the curriculum, based on the findings, that specifically the first semesters, that are focused on technology, can be discouraging for women. More possibilities to evolve on that and more support in introductory courses are neccessary.
- they shared their experiences and findings publicly
- they organized recruitment and outreach events
The impact was most profound on the women participating in the council. Others either were moderately interested or rather denied that there were specific problems for women, inspite of naming the same difficulties (which could be an indicator for insufficiently communicated goals by the council.)
Far more goals were planned at that time, but the conclusion is a generally valid one: "Increasing and maintaining the presence of women in computer science at levels equal to men necessitates taking a hard look at, and changing, business as usual." The resulting changes can be valuable both for men and women.
- Walton, Gregory M.; Cohen, Geoffrey L.:A Question of Belonging: Race, Social Fit, and Achievement
- Hirshfield, Laura E. (2010): „She Won't Make Me Feel Dumb“. Identity Threat in a Male-Dominated Discipline. In: International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology (GST
Vol 2, No 1 (2010) http://genderandset.open.ac.uk. She Won’t Make Me Feel Dumb”: Identity Threat in a Male-Dominated Discipline
- Fisher, Allan; Margolis, Jane; Miller, Faye: Undergraduate Women in Computer Science: Experience, Motivation and Culture
* Study at Carnegie Mellon Hall that provided the basis for several initiatives and further research in and outside of the CMU. The goal of the study, which is a collaborative work of a Dean and a sociologist, was to understand women's attachment and detachment to CS, ensued by concrete actions based on the findings.
They used ethnographic methods and conducted interviews among male and female students. Their findings can be categorized as follows:
* Experience, Ability and self confidence: There is a significant gap in the prior experience of men and women, which is largely due to childhood exposure or lack of exposure to computers. When asked about their preparedness for class, 53% of the men rated themselves as highly prepared, while 0% of the women did. But in fact there is a gap between womens' perceived ability and their actual performance, especially when reaching upper class. Women do well and gain confidence as they proceed to higher classes. Their hard work and discipline seems to pay off. This poses an important challenge to the widely-held belief, that hacking skills are necessary for entering and remaining in CS.
* Differing motivation: While male students showed a strong interest and fascination to the machine itself, women were more focused on context within a larger purpose and possibilities and saw the computer rather as a tool. This is also something, that is expressed by older males. While most men cite an intrinsic interest for computing, women, especially with international backgrounds, cite more pragmatic reasons, e.g. employability. Interestingly, support by family/teachers was reported, but didn't account for attachment, neither did peer internaction.
* Geek Mythology: There is a dominant stereotype on CS students being the myopic, narrowly-focused geek. Most of the men and women didn't feel like they matched the stereotype. It is exclusive in many ways and works against gender equity.
A key question is, how students understand the social and intellectual nature of their field. One of the issues that deters women from pursuing computer science it the conception, that it is narrowly focused on programming and that students are forced to be narrowminded themselves. Even students enrolled are carrying this stereotype while denying it for themselves. One question that evolves from that is, whether the curriculum is too much in line with what seems to be male desires.
- Jensen, Fredrik; Bøe, Maria Vetleseter: The Influence of a Two-Day Recruitment Event on Female Upper Secondary Students’ Motivation for Science and Technology Higher Education
* Study on the impact of a recruting event on high-achieving female STEM students. The findings supported the idea, that these event had an actual impact on young women's choices for academia. The encounter with actual students was crucial, for providing an achievable role model and trustworthy information on the study course.
- Simard, Caroline; Gammal, Denise L.:Solutions to Recruit Technical Women.
- Spertus, Ellen: Why are there so few female Computer Scientists?
Written 1991. Frankly speaking, I am particularly curious about the section "Negative Consequences of some attempts to help women".
- Fisher, Allan; Margolis, Jane:Unlocking the Clubhouse. Women in Computing. 2002.
More stuff that I read
- MIT Computer Scientists Demonstrate the Hard Way That Gender Still Matters
3 female scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened an AMA (Ask me Anything) thread on reddit and the Internet was pretty Internet about it. Originally the scientists wanted to address issues that affect women in STEM, exchange with others, talk about how they got into the topic. But the most frequent reaction was "Why would you put your gender in the AMA anyways?" which works great as a qed. Because it matters.
- What Has Driven Women Out of Computer Science?
- Gesellschaft für Informatik: Mehr Informatikerinnen braucht das Land!
Die Gesellschaft für Informatik möchte mehr Mädchen für Informatik begeistern. Eine der Maßnahmen: Drei Frauen werden in der Plakatserie "Wir sind Informatik" portraitiert: Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper und Sophie Wilson. To be fair: Das ist nett. To be honest: Das ist natürlich nicht genug und wird dem im Artikel skizzierten Problem nicht gerecht.
- "Deutschland ist rückständig"
Sehr interessantes Interview mit der Informatikprofessorin Susanne Albers, die einige Punkte zur Erklärung des niedrigen Frauenanteils in der IT im Studium und Beruf nennt.
- We are the future cunt - cyberfeminism in the 90s.
Great piece on the cyber feminism of the 90ies. So much anarchy, badass, weirdo and cunt attitude. We need that. Bring it back.
- Grandma got STEM
Blog dedicated to women in STEM, thus proving a counterpart to the popular "Explain it so that Grandma understands it"-meme. Highlights the importance of not neglecting that great groundbreaking discoveries have been made by women before the "turn" in the 80ies, when women in STEM were far less of an unsual phenomenon.
More texts I want to read
More Interesting Links
- Ada new Media - Journal on media, tech and gender.
- Women in Programming
This is a rather long list of women that contributed significantly to Computer Science. Although frankly speaking, I think, this list could be even longer, if more research was done. Or am I mistaken?