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HomeScienceAt what point does the gender disparity begin in computer science?

At what point does the gender disparity begin in computer science?


Computer coding is fun. Just ask nine-year-old Molly as she shows her brother Charlie, seven, her work on a coding program for young students. Amy Allison Master, assistant professor and researcher at UH is looking for gender gaps in school computer classes. Master has been busting preconceptions since her early years, when girls weren’t expected to win math competitions. She says, “At that age, a fire is lit under you to shatter those stereotypes.” Credit: Alison Master

If you’re a third-grader, your chances of becoming a computer scientist likely depend largely on your gender—a position Allison Master says is completely wrong.

How sure is the teacher? Because third graders tell her so.

“Our new research addresses a big and long-standing problem in STEM education, which is that women are underrepresented in fields like computer science. It’s actually one of the most challenging fields for women to be represented. Only about 20% of people major in computer science,” said MA. Associate Professor of Psychological, Health, and Education Sciences at the University of Houston College of Education She is also the principal investigator on a new study published in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

The study tracks the inequality back to early elementary school ages, to see if coding and other computer science tasks are welcomed by most boys, but girls are likely to avoid. But it is not the children themselves who create such assumptions. The research team found that girls had opinions in favor of girls, suggesting that stereotypes are more likely to emerge as they grow older from the adults in their lives and the popular media surrounding the children.

Its investigations make it a leader in this field.

“There hasn’t been a lot of research in this area,” Master said. In a previous publication, she and her research team examined K-12 students’ approach to STEM studies, and in this new study they take a deeper look by surveying first-, second-, and third-grade students’ motivations for computer coding. Their findings reveal two main trends: equality and widening gaps. The youngest girls and boys prove to be equally interested in learning the skills needed to coding and confident in the lessons.

“The really nice thing about this research is that we found that girls in grades one through three feel very welcome about coding and computer science. They think they’ll start coding and they’ll enjoy learning it,” Master said.

The shift in girls’ interest in computer programming and their lower confidence in learning begins around the third grade. Boys’ interest and confidence continue to grow over the years. But among older girls, negative stereotypes creep in.

“By the time girls are in middle school and they look around who benefits from computer science activities — after-school clubs, summer camps — it’s mostly boys. And when adults talk about these areas, negative stereotypes are communicated even more.” Years, coding camp opportunities and science-related birthday gifts tend to go more often to sons than to many girls.”

What causes a facial change in the third grade? “It is no coincidence that this is around the age that children begin to notice things like social media, as well as books and television shows that usually portray intelligent scientists as white or Asian men, and rarely as women of any description. This is a sign,” she says. said the teacher.

To counter these stereotypes, Master and her colleagues share their findings with educators via their open-access article, “Gender Equity and Motivational Predisposition to Computational Thinking in Early Childhood” (Early Childhood Research Quarterly). They are reaching out to middle school girls and boys to determine what might inspire them to enroll in more computer science classes.

“Right now, we’re interviewing middle school students and getting their video testimonials about what they love about coding,” said Master. “We hope to build some materials that can inspire interested students, including more girls, to be excited about diving into foundational computer science classes.”

They also communicate with younger grades, where stereotypes have not yet emerged. “Our research supports this great time to give lessons to girls. And if you start early and give them these positive experiences, they will want to continue doing so when they are older.”

The potential benefits spread far beyond the demographics of the classroom, Master sees it.

“Because technology and computer science have so many important influences in our society and the ways we can help each other, I think it’s important that we open the doors to broader participation in computer science. We need diversity of ideas and a full range of perspectives from the larger community.”

more information:
Allison Master et al., Gender and motivational predisposition to computational reasoning in early childhood, Available here. Early Childhood Research Quarterly (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2023.03.004

Provided by the University of Houston

the quoteWhen did the gender gap begin in the field of computer science? (2023, May 16) Retrieved May 16, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-gender-gap-science-field.html

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