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Women and computing

April 1991 reprint of an article from the Communications of the ACM Journal
There is much evidence that many women going into careers in
           computing drop out of academia or elect not to get advanced
           degrees and enter industry instead.  Statistics also show that
           there are disproportionately small numbers of women in the
           computer industry and in academic computer science.  Many
           researchers feel that girls and women are uncomfortable with the
           computer culture, which emphasizes almost obsessive, highly focused behavior as the key to success.  Other studies note that        the expectations and stereotypes of software designers are at the root of the male bias in software.  Observers contend that women  view computers as tools instead of toys.  Current computer science curricula place an emphasis on step-by-step division of functions        and women tend to lose interest. Software packages help women see the purpose of computers and allow them to perform functional tasks quickly.

***** Computer Select, April 1991 : Doc #23738 *****

Journal: Communications of the ACM Nov 1990 v33 n11 p34(13)
* Full Text COPYRIGHT Association for Computing Machinery 1990.
Title: Women and computing. (includes related article on a study of
gender-related studies of computing) (Cover Story)
Author: Frenkel, Karen A.

Summary: There is much evidence that many women going into careers in
computing drop out of academia or elect not to get advanced
degrees and enter industry instead. Statistics also show that
there are disproportionately small numbers of women in the
computer industry and in academic computer science. Many
researchers feel that girls and women are uncomfortable with the
computer culture, which emphasizes almost obsessive, highly
focused behavior as the key to success. Other studies note that
the expectations and stereotypes of software designers are at the
root of the male bias in software. Observers contend that women
view computers as tools instead of toys. Current computer science
curricula place an emphasis on step-by-step division of functions
and women tend to lose interest. Software packages help women see
the purpose of computers and allow them to perform functional
tasks quickly.
Topic: Computer science
Social Issues
Statistical Analysis
Computer industry
Computer Education.
Feature: illustration
Caption: Computer science degrees awarded in the United States. (table)
Bureau of Labor statistics on persons employed in computing.
1988-89 Taulbee survey data for all faculty. (table)

Record#: 09 594 043.
*Note* Only Text is presented here; see printed issues for graphics.
Full Text:


There is mounting evidence that many women opting for careers in computing
either drop out of the academic pipeline or choose not to get advanced
degrees and enter industry instead. Consequently, there are
disproportionately low numbers of women in academic computer science and the
computer industry. The situation may be perpetuated for several generations
since studies show that girls from grade school to high school are losing
interest in computing.

Statistics, descriptions offered by women in academic and industrial
computing, and the research findings reported later in this article indicate
that much is amiss. But the point of what follows is not to place
blame--rather it is to foster serious reflection and possibly instigate
action. It behooves the computer community to consider whether the
experiences of women in training are unique to computer science. We must ask
why the computer science laboratory or classroom is "chilly" for women and
girls. If it is demonstrated that the problems are particular to the field,
it is crucial to understand their origins. The field is young and flexible
enough to modify itself. These women are, of course, open to the charge that
they describe the problems of professional women everywhere. But even if the
juggling acts of female computer scientists in both academia and industry are
not particular to computing American society cannot afford to ignore or
dismiss their experiences; there is an indisputable brain drain from this
leading-edge discipline.

A look at statistics reveals a disquieting situation. Accordingly to Betty
M. Vetter, executive director of the Commission on Professionals in Science
and technology in Washington, DC, while the number of bachelor's and master's
degrees in computer science are dropping steadily for both men and women,
degrees awarded to women are dropping faster, so they are becomming a smaller
and smaller proportion of the total. Bachelor's degrees peacked at 35.7% in
1986, masters also peaked that year at 29.9%, and both are expected to
continue to decline. "We have expected the numbers to drop for both, due to
demographics such as fewer college students," says Vetter, "but degrees
awarded women are declining long before reaching parity." (See Table I.)
Vetter also would have expected computer science to be "a great field for
women," as undergraduate mathematics has been; female math majors have earned
45% of bachelor's degrees during the 1980s. On the other hand, math Ph.
D.'s awarded to women have gone from only 15.5% to 18.1% in this decade,
which is more in line with computer science Ph.D.'s earned by women. In
1987, 14.4% of all computer science Ph.D's went to women; this number
declined to 10.9% the following year. Although the number almost doubled
between 1988 and 1989 with women receiving 17.5% of Ph.D's, Vetter points out
that the number remains very small, at 107. Since these figures include
foreign students who are principally male, women constitute a smaller
percentage of that total than they do of Ph.D's awarded to Americans. But
while American women received 21.4% of Ph.D's awarded to Americans, that is
not encouraging either, says Vetter. Again, the number of American women
awarded computer science Ph.D.'s was minuscule, at 72. And taking a longer
view, the awarding of significantly fewer bachelor's and master's degrees to
women in the late 1980s will be felt in seven to eight years, when they would
be expected to receive their Ph.D.'s.

How do these figures compare with those of other sciences and engineering?
In her 1989 report to the National Science Foundation, "Women and Computer
Science," Nancy Leveson, associate professor of information and computer
science at the University of California at Irvine, reports that in 1986,
women earned only 12% of computer science doctorates compared to 30% of all
doctorates awarded to women in the sciences. Leveson notes, however, that
this includes the social sciences and phychology, which have percentages as
high as 32 to 50. But the breakout for other fields is as follows: physical
sciences (16.4%), math (16.6%), eletrical engineering (4.9%), and other
engineering ranges from 0.8% for aeronautical to 13.9% for industrial.

Those women who do get computer science degrees ae not pursuing careers in
academic computer scinces. Leveson says women are either not being offered
or are not accepting faculty positions, or are dropping out of the faculty
ranks. Looking at data taken from the 1988-89 Taulbee Survey, which appeared
in Communications in September, Leveson points out that of the 158 computer
science and computer engineering departments in that survey, 6.5 percent of
the faculty are female. One third of the departments have no female faculty
at all. (See Tables III and IV.)

Regarding women in computing in the labor force, Vetter comments that the
statistics are very soft. The Bureau of Labor Statistics asks companies for
information on their workforce, and the NSF asks individuals for their
professional identification; therefore estimates vary. Table II shows that
this year, women comprise about 35% of computer scientists in industry. And
according to a 1988 NSF report on women and minorities, although women
represents 49% of all professionals, they make up only 30% of employed
computer scientists. "There is no reason whey women should not make up half
the labor force in computing," Betty Vetter says, "It's not as if computing
involves lifting 125 pound weights."

The sense of isolation and need for a community was so keen among women in
computing, that in 1987 several specialists in operating systems created
their own private forum and electronic mailing list called "Systers."
Founded and operated by Anita Borg, member of the research staff at DEC's
Western Research Lab, Systers consists of over 350 women representing many
fields within computing. They represent 43 companies and 55 universities
primarily in the United States, but with a few in Canada, the United Kingdom,
and France. Industry members are senior level and come from every major
research lab. University members range from computer science undergraduates
to department chairs. Says Borg, "Systers' purpose is to be a forum for
discussion of both the problems and joys of women in our field and to provide
a medium for networking and mentoring." The network prevents these women,
who are few and dispersed, from feeling that they alone experience certain
problems. Says Borg, "You can spit out what you want with this group and get
women's perspectives back. You get a sense of community." It is sexist to
have an all-women's forum? "Absolutely not," says Borg, "It's absolutely
necessary. We didn't want to include men because there is different way that
women talk when they're talking with other women, whether it be in person or
over the net. Knowing that we are all women is very important."
(Professional women in computer science who are interested in the Systers
mailing list may send email to

The burden from women in computing seems to be very heavy indeed.
Investigators in gender-related research, and women themselves, say females
experience cumulative disadvantages from grade school through graduate school
and beyond. Because statistical studies frequently come under fire and do
not always explain the entire picture, it is important to listen to how women
themselves tell their story. In the Sidebar entitled "Graduate School in the
Early 80s," women describe experiences of invisibility, patronizing behavior,
doubted qualifications, and so on. Given these experiences, it is not
surprising that many women find the academic climate inclement. But while
more women may choose to contribute to research in industry, is the computer
business really a haven for women, or just the only alternative? In the
Sidebar entitled "The Workplace in the late '80s," women in industry also
tell their story and describe dilemmas in a dialogue on academia versus
industry; this discussion erupted freely last Spring on Systers. In
addition, findings of scholars conducting gender-related research are
presented in a report of a workshop on women and computing. Finally,
Communications presents "Becoming a Computer Scientist: A Report by the ACM
Committee on the Status of Women in Computer Science." A draft was presented
at the workshop and the report appears in its entirety in this issue.

Report on a Meeting

To probe further into the reasons why girls and women are not pursuing
computing in the same numbers as boys and men, and to recommend ways to
reverse this trend, a workshop was held at the National Educational Computing
Conference last June. This year, this influential and decade-old conference
drew 2,414 authorities in computing and education and 1,500 people from
industry. Entitled "In Search of Gender-Free Paradigms for Computer Science
Education," the workshop was organized and chaired by C. Dianne Martin, an
assistant professor at George Washington University's Electrical Engineering
and Computer Science department. It's specific goal was to examine the
premise that the decline in the number of women selecting computer science
majors can be attributed to a male-oriented paradigm in the field. Martin
invited 12 scholars (See Workshop Participants, p.) conducting gender-related
research in computer science education to present their latest findings and
to participate in brainstorming sessions that resulted in recommendations.
Hightlights of the day-long workshop follow.

In her opening statement, Martin noted that many researchers observe that the
computer culture is uncomfortable for girls and women. They are ill at ease
in a field that seems to encourage "highly focused, almost obsessive
behavior," as the key to success she said, summarizing comments by Eric
Roberts at a recent Washington student society (Pugwash) meeting. She also
alluded to perceived sex biases in the profession, citing two recent national
statistical studies of female engineering students engineering students by
Eleonor Baum, Dean of the School of Engineering at Cooper Union. Baum's
investigations showed that 70% of women felt they had to work harder than
their male counterparts to get comparable pay, 58% felt that harassment of
some sort was prevalent in the workplace, 50% felt that they viewed ethical
issues differently than did their male counterparts, 39% felt they would be
penalized if they took maternity leave, and a whopping 78% felt they received
comparable pay when they started, but were not promoted as rapidly. A third,
independent study supported the last belief; while women started out with
comparable pay, within 10 years they were 25% behind their male counterparts.
(Businessweek 8/28/89)

Chaos In Computer


Lesley S. Klein, instructor of information systems at Pace University and a
computer science teacher in middle school and high school, described the
chaotic state of computer science education throughout pre-college levels.
Working under the auspices of the Board of Cooperative Educational Services,
funded by New York State Department of Education, Klein observes upper middle
income schools of this public school system. Despit its relative wealth,
there is often a low budget for computer science and no curriculum, she said.
Computing is taught by teachers' aides or by media center administrators who
have had in-service training. "Occasionally students are fortunate to have a
classroom teacher who has an interest in computers as a hobby or has taken
some computer education courses," Klein reports in her paper, "Female
Students' Under-achievement in Computer Science and Mathematics: Reasons and
Recommendations." "Some more adventurous teachers have incorporated LOGO or
Lego Logo programming into the curriculum, but there is no apparent formal
plan nor carryover from one grade level to the next," Klwin continues. There
are neither goals nor minimum standards established for both teacher training
and the material to be covered. Not until the seventh and eight grades does
the study of computers, logic, or BASIC programming emerge. PASCAL and C
programming and introductions to data processing are offered in secondary
schools, but there is still great variation in instructors' backgrounds and
levels of competence. Some are math teachers, have master's degrees in
computer science, or have taken graduate courses, but others are industrial
arts teachers who have received minimal training. On the other hand,
sometimes industrial arts teachers are better qualified than math teachers.
Although high school curricula for computer literacy and computer science
courses do exists (ACM made several recommendations on curricula five years
ago and plans to revise them by 1991) there is little support to implement
them and there is no uniformity from state to state.

But one would expect this sorry state of affairs to affect boys and girls
equally. Not so. According to Klein, girls "demonstrate more insecurity and
lack of self-confidence in math and science during transition periods" like
entering middle school and entering high school. In middle school, for
example, boys use pirated software, she says, and the girls follow the school
rules and are in the boys' way. "The computers are always consumed by the
boys who rush in, desperate to continue where they left off the day before in
Oregon Trail, Karateka, or Carmen San Diego. An occasional girl wanders in,
but would practically need interference from the heavens to gain access to
these monopolized computers," Klein says. Given these different styles of
behavior, Klein sees the need for a formal computer science curriculum for
grades seven through twelve as well as mandatory requirement that every high
school student take an introduction to computer science. Because many in the
educational community are unaware that recommended curricula exist, Klein
stresses the need for support for the distribution and implementation of
curricula. In addition, there should be more uniform teacher training that
improves computer skills and lesson presentation while "specifically
addressing the motivation of female students."

Women and Girls of Color

The problems in computer science education for girls in well-to-do schools
are substantial, but they are mild in comparison to those that girls from
minority groups face in their schools. Carol E. Edwards, of the Southern
Coalition for Educational Equity, Atlanta, Georgia, addressed the
implications of the computer culture for girls and women of color. As the
director of Project Micro, Edwards runs a program devoted to making personal
computers available to minority children and to using those computers to
teach higher-order thinking skills. The educational opportunities for these
women and girls are so poor, she said, that they amount to racial, ethnic,
and class discrimination. Both boys and girls of color go to schools with
low teacher expectations, more substitute teachers, less experienced
teachers, and frequent relegation to lower educational tracks. In math, for
example, girls of color are disproportionately represented on slower tracks.

Tracking itself is part of systemic problems in minority schools; it is an
example of structural practices that remain instituted even though they have
been shown to benefit only the top one % of students, Edwards said. Besides
these educational barriers, both boys and girls of color face cultural
barriers such as lack of role models and lack of parental encouragement.
They lack science-related opportunities and often never see computers. But
if they do use computers, they are not likely to stay after school in the
computer lab. That is seen as scholarly and boys of color measure
self-esteem in nonacademic ways, she said. Girls are unlikely to stay after
school because they are usually responsible for younger siblings at home.
These barriers lead to disadvantages that are cumulative; the combination of
being poor, a member of a minority, and female lowers perceptions and
attitudes toward math and computers proportional to the level of
disadvantage, she said.

Sex-Blased Software

Any computer science curriculum, whether implemented in a wealthy or
disadvantaged school must involve the selection of software. But studies
show sex bias in educational software. In an effort to understand why the
comouter "is more alluring to boys than it is to girls," Charles W. Huff and
Joel Cooper have found sex biases due to the stereotypes of software
designers. Huff, who was with Carnegie-Mellon University during this
research and is now an assistant professor of psychology at St. Olaf College,
Northfield, MN, briefly presented their findings to the workshop. Because
their results are far-reaching and possibly related to software use in the
workplace, Huff's comments as well as those from an interview with Cooper,
chairman of Princeton University's Department of Psychology, are presented

Beginning with sex differences in the impact of television violence on
children, Cooper is the author of many gender-related studies and has
collaborated with other researchers (including Joan Hall, Lori Nelson, Diane
Mackie, all from Princeton, and Gita Wilder of the Educational Testing
Service). Although the media has reported the general conclusion that
televised violence makes children act more aggressively, on closer inspection
of the data Cooper found this "true almost exclusively for boys, not girls."
Most investigators stopped studying girls because the early data showed no
effect so as they proceeded with their research they used only males. "It is
an important observation that boys become more aggressive when they watch
television, but it should be equally interesting that girls don't, Cooper
says. He and his collegues wondered whether the difference was due to
different processes in males and females or to a predominance of male TV
heroes and villains. They also decided to investigate the impact of
aggression via other media, particularly video games and middle school
children. At that time, the early 1980s, graphics were so primitive that
characters were neither male nor female. This allowed the researchers to
introduce aggressive and nonaggressive video games without concern for the
sex of the protagonists and antogonists. In that study, girls who played
aggressive video games became more aggressive than boys did. Says Cooper,
"the impact was greater on girls that on boys." But Cooper also observed
that when they told the children they were going to play a video game like
Missile Command, the boys got very excited but the girls were unenthusiastic.
They said either "I don't want to play that," "I can't play that," or "I'm
not good at that." In fact, the girls were quite good at playing such games.
"They were just as good at it as the boys were," said Cooper, "But what they
were telling us was quite significant. They were saying, 'This makes me
very, very nervous, especially to do it in front of you.'"

In another classroom in the same school, computerized learning had just begun
with educational software having a metaphor much like Missile Command. "In
order to motivate kids, educators were using a metaphor or fantasy that our
research showed was extremely exciting for boys and anxiety producing for
girls," Cooper explains. Next, he and Huff "hypothesized that the
expectations software designers hold about the users of software they design
are central in determining the way the user and the software interact."

To test this social psychological model--that expectations of one person
about another can shape their interaction--Huff and Cooper asked educators
with programming experience to design software for either boys, girls, or
students. The programs for both boys and students were the most game-like
whereas those intended for girls were classifiable as learning tools.
"Programs written for students are written, it seems, with only boys in
mind," Huff and Cooper Cooper write in "Sex Bias in Educational software: The
Effect of Designers' Stereotypes on the Software They Design." "...That is,
[male and female designers] may have been simply using "male" as the default
value of "student." Therefore, "It is not the computer, or even the
software, that is at the root of the sex bias in software, but the
expectations and stereotypes of the designers of the software," Huff and
Cooper conclude.

One obvious implication of this male bias is that educational software may be
designed to appeal to boys "without consideration of the effect on girls'
motivation to use them or on girls' educational profit from them. This
certainly cannot be a good thing." Children using software designed for the
opposite sex are more anxious after they interact with the program, and that
anxiety leads to lowered scores in the subject the program was intended to
teach. "However, this only occurs if the children are using the program in
public, that is, in a computer lab with other chilren present," say the
authors." When theprograms are used privately, these differences do not
emerge." Huff and Cooper conclude that not only is the software
sex-stereotyped due to designers' expectations, but that the situation in
which the software is presented is at fault.

Challenging Dijkstra:

Software Packages vs.



One exploratory idea proposed by Danielle Bernstein, associate professor of
computer science at Kean College, Union, NJ, was a new curriculum paradigm
for computer science education--using software packages instead of procedural
programming as an introduction to computer science. She has designed and
taught an advanced course, "Conceptual Understanding of Software Packages,"
which requires previous computing knowledge but which illustrates that
packages "have a place" in computer science education. Her next step is to
design a course introducing computer science fundamentals with packages.

According to Bernstein, researchers have shown that previous experience,
feelings of self-efficacy, and mathematically ability, are major predictors
of success in computer science courses. Defining self-efficacy as "the
feeling that one is in control of the machine and can make a difference in
the operation of the machine," Bernstein said that this factor, which differs
between men and women, may cause women's lower level of achievement in
computing. Previous experience often leads to feelings of self-efficacy, she
said, and much of that experience results from self-initiated investigations
outside of classes. "However can we offer women the same experience?" she
asked. Again, citing other researchers, she noted that while men may be
passionate about computers, women use computers as tools for solving
problems. When women do not see computers as efficient tools, they lose
interest, but when both sexes see computers as tools, they perform equally
well. But given the current computer science curriculum including BASIC,
Pascal, and the emphasis on step-by-step division of functions, and formal
planning in formal languages, women lose interest, she said.

Arguing for her new approach, Bernstein said that software packages are less
tied to mathematics and allow students to do something functional quickly.
Because software packages "do real work real soon," she said, "women, who
perceive computers as tools rather than toys, would see the purpose of
computer." Initial success and accomplishing work bring immediate
gratification; exploration is easier and more natural, and mistakes are less
costly and visible with databases. Group work, which women prefer, occurs
more spontaneously with packages, Bernstein added.

But is this computer science? Yes, according to Bernstein. Software
packages can provide a superior introduction to computer science compared to
procedural languages. Teaching sophisticated applications can illustrate and
reinforce computer concepts like files, records, fields, memory, secondary
storage, Boolean operations, and the format versus content of variables, she
said. Packages involve data structures, word processing deals with string
data, and spreadsheets have implied structures. In database management
systems, the user actually defines the data structure, whereas with Cobal and
Pascal the data structures are contained in the programs. "These topics
(files, records, etc.) can be examined without the overhead of extensive
program planning or syntax problems that can get in the way for a beginner,"
said Bernstein. "Students may then be able to transfer these concepts to
procedural programming successfully."

Referring to a debate on teaching computer science, which appeared in the
December 1989 issue of this publication, and specifically to Edsger
Dijkstra's article, "On the Cruelty of Really Teaching Computing Science,"
Bernstein challenged his proposal to turn an introdutory programming course
into one on formal mathematics. Such a course would use an unimplemented
programming language "so that students are protected from the temptation to
test their programs," she said, quoting Dijkstra. Bernstein disagrees with
this approach because it would discourage those who wan to "see, tinker,
experiment, and interact" with computers in order to understand principles.
And so, she says, Dijkstra's approach would cause computer science majors to
further dwindle.

In concluding her paper, Bernstein wrote: "The teaching of software concepts
has parallel the advances in software development. Each time functional
software has gotten further away from the details of the hardware, there has
been a cry that computer science is being watered down. But each step has
encouraged more diverse people to deal with computers. Serious conceptual
understanding of application packages will continue this trend." At the
workshop, she stated, "To me, (Dijkstra's approach) means, 'Computer science
is getting too easy. Let's keep the riff-raff out.'"

Academia vs. Industry

Thos women with an interest in computer science who do begin preparing for
advanced degrees face enormous barriers, according to Henry Etzkowitz,
associate professor of sociology at SUNY Purchase and visiting scientist at
Columbia University's Computer Science Department. Funded by the NSF, his
study, co-authored by Carol Kemelgor and Michael Neuschatz, is titled "The
Final Disadvantage: Barriers to Women in Academic Science and Engineering."
The study encompasses women in computer science, electrical engineering,
chemistry and physics. At a leading research university 350 students and 76
dropouts were identified; they and their faculty were inteviewed; and data
were collected from academic records to determine the receptivity of their
cultures to women graduate students and faculty. "Our specific aim was to
determine whether national background of faculty members was associated with
bias toward women graduate students," said Etzkowitz. He found that while
fewer women had nonwestern faculty advisors, those who did reported less bias
toward women as scientists. This was particularly true when the faculty
advisors were Chinese and Indian. For these faculty, women clearly held
secondary social status, yet sexual identity was viewed as separate from
work, Etzkowitz explained. "This separation allowed them to view women as
scientists without confusion among sexual identity, occupational, and social
status." Male faculty members from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern
countries, on the other hand, were most often reported to be prejudiced
against women. Etzkowitz also found "sexual separation of scientists," that
is, certain areas of science are labelled as peculiarly male or female, which
leads both sexes to avoid certain areas. Computer science theory, for
example, is de facto off limits to women, in much the same way as particle
physics. But natural language is assumed by some male faculty to be more
suited to women because it is closer to traditional sex and work roles--like
women's "traditional expressive role and typing skills in software."

Etzkowitz found mismatched expectations between make faculty members and
female graduate students; female students want to be taught the strategies
needed to compete and bolster self-confidence, which male faculty presume
means wanting "explicit direction in the conduct of research." These faculty
thought female students wanted to do it, whereas the students how to do it,
whereas the students reported that they wanted "guidance on how to succeed in
the profession."

Female students in computer science reported both overt and subtle
discrimination with "acute consequences," said Etzkowitz. Their
self-confidence, ability to perform, and career advancement suffered. Not
surprisingly, women seek out female faculty. But unlike men, who sign up
with a female faculty member only after she has distinguished herself in the
field, female students sign up because they want a sympathetic mentor. One
solution found by electrical engineering female graduate students was to
undertake research in industry, where they were often able to find women

Another factor pushing women from academia to industry is the "tenure clock
versus the biological clock." One woman in Etzkowitz's study went to work
for IBM immediately upon graduating and did not even consider getting a Ph.D.
until after her chilren were born. For her, as for most women, the academic
route and tenure were incompatible with having a family. In computer
science, "pregnancy is discouraged and graduate women who have children are
encouraged to take leaves of absence that tend to become permanent
withdrawals." Women expect this and it creates anxiety. Once they have
their degrees, going into academia part-time is infeasible and leaves of
absence often result in permanent attrition. According to Etzkovitz, these
women find they must choose between two approaches: they can either follow
the "male model" for success in academia, which demands driven, if not
obsessive devotion before tenure, and the publish-or-perish pressures that
can lead to exploiting as many students as possible. Or they can go into
industry, where their jobs are more nine-to-five and it is a little easier to
balance their career and family needs. Relatively few women adopt the first
model and more adopt the second, he said.

Etzkowitz concluded that structural barriers could be reduced with the
development of a critical mass of women faculty and graduate students in
computer science departments. He proposed changing the tenure structure to
allow a more flexible timeclock and involving students and faculty in the
faculty-recruiting process. He suggested that aggressive intervention was
needed on the part of funding agencies to ensure these changes.


After the presentations, the workshop divided into working groups that
recommended ways to expose, attract, and retain females in computing.
Valerie Clarke, a social psychologist at Deakin University, Australia, spoke
for the exposure group, which focused on precollege computer experiences and
opportunities. Although this group thought it should address the entire
curriculum through 12th grade, for practical purposes, it focused on middle
schools only. This stage is crucial because from ages 11 to 14, "children of
both sexes tend to turn away from computers," Clarke said. "Most children at
the primary level have an interest in computers, if given the opportunity,
but in the middle school peer pressure tends to direct more girls away from
computers." In addition, at this age girls' preferences for working in
groups and their needs for demonstrated relevance are especially great.

The group stressed the need for a more ambitious, comprehensive curriculum
through twelfth grade bearing in mind resources. "It's fairly useless to
devise a curriculum that assumes you'll have one computer per two or three
children when schools have nothing of the sort," said Clarke. Noting
inadequate educational software and teacher training, Clarke said that as a
result many teachers may lack confidence and self-esteem. In turn, they fear
that their students know more than they do. So while it is very important to
provide teachers with curriculum that is not enough; measures must be taken
build teachers' confidence so that they use the curriculum and feel
sufficiently in control.

Alluding to studies indicating that a girl's potential depends to some extent
on her mother's level of education, Clarke said we must address the more
general education of the public through advertising and the media. Good will
and a first-class curriculum cannot counter mothers who want to withdraw
their children from classes or even schools if their daughters do poorly in
computers, said Clarke.

As presented by Danielle Bernstein, the retention group noted that women and
disadvantaged groups, find computing courses more time-consuming than other
courses and feel they do not receive the right number of credits for the
number of hours worked. "They can get the same three credits for a marketing
course, where they just read a book and understand it," she explained. And
chemistry and physics labs do not demand indefinite periods of time for
problem solving. To motivate these credit- and time-conscious students, the
group suggested structured labs with exercises that can be finished before
leaving class. Such labs could also reduce the computer culture brand of
competitiveness that arises when people brag about the many hours they have
spent on a system in order to get the best solution.

Looking at how students are taught to write code, this group suggested
encouraging students to read programs. To learn most subjects, especially
foreign languages, students do not just write, they also learn how to read,
said Bernstein. "Computing seems to be the only subject where we teach
people how to write without giving them any kind of mental model. A better
way is [to include] reading programs," Bernstein said.

This group also addressed computer access. Since students perform better in
private, the group sought ways to help all students afford their own
computers for use in dorm rooms. It was suggested that colleges bury the
price of computers in tuition so they would fall within expenses covered by
student loans. Computers in dorm rooms would also give each student a sense
of control; the student alone would know and have access to his or her hard
disc's contents, for example. "When you control the environment, you have
more self-confidence. Otherwise it's like cooking in somebody else's
kitchen; you don't know where anything is," Bernstein said.

To encourage high school students to pursue computing in college, the group
recommended that college computer science departments "adopt" high schools.
Also suggested was cascading pairing; graduate students would pair up with
college students, college students with high school students, and so on.
This cascading effect at lower levels would decrease dependence on those
female computer science professors who are role models, said Bernstein.

Industry should also provide role models: there should be a large-scale
program for guest lecturers from industry to speak to high school students.
In addition, industry should bring in not just college but high school
students to work on projects. To attract industry employees and prevent them
from regarding this as mandatory drudge work that siphons time away from
their jobs, the group recommended that companies be responsible for rewards
systems, but did not specify what kinds.

To widen students' perspectives on career choices, the group suggested
inviting not just alumnae who had been A+ students, but those who got Bs and
Cs. Through their visits, the current student body would learn that many
people with less-than-perfect academic records are very successful in the job
market, Bernstein said. Dianne Martin then commented, "We will know we have
arrived when it's OK for women to get Cs in science, math, engineering, and
computer science. Right now, if you're not an A or B student, you don't even
think of going into those fields." The women currently in the field are the
high achievers only, she said. "We're not reaching the middle and average
achievers. Yet there are average-achieving men going into those fields."

Adding to that group's recommendations, Carol Edwards called for more
financial aid, particularly in the form of grants. "When Reagan switched
from grants to loans, it hurt the poorest people. It didn't hurt the people
that he said were using the money to buy stereos when they go to college,"
she said. The poorest people--women of color who might have small
children--just did not see themselves going into that much debt and being
able in the end to pay it off, she said. Edwards also called for tenure and
promotion for superior teaching. "Just as we have people who at this point
get tenure because of their research," she said, "we also have to look at
superior teaching as a criterion for the tenure track."

In his summary of the attraction workgroup's recommendations, Robin Kay
echoed the need for parent education. We see stereotyping in the kinds of
toys parents encourage their children to play with, and parents often assume
that little boys should have more access to computers. "Parents are more
inclined to buy boys computers, and if you have a computer at home when
you're young, you get used to it." To ensure that girls are not excluded, we
should encourage the tool approach to computers, he said. The advent of
microcomputers allows this now because, unlike the late '70s and early '80s
when you had to know programming in order to use computers, with personal
computers "we have become more individualistic. You can do lots more
tool-oriented [tasks] with computers and you don't need to program."

And finally, regarding sex biases in software, Kay commented that companies
believe their market is male. Further, they think that if they start
advertising to females, they may discourage the males, Kay said. He
suggested trying to convince companies that there is a viable female market
they are cutting off. "If they accept that, they'll think they can make more
money. Money does make things happen."

In closing, Martin commented that the "most astounding two words today were
'cumulative disadvantage.'" They indicate priorities as to where energy and
resources should be allocated. "It turns out, that if you're a woman, and
you're poor, and you're a minority, the disadvantage is cumulative. That's
where we have to put cumulative resources. The research shows, without a
doubt, that there is this cumulative effect."

If the issues discussed here are not addressed, everyone stands to lose. The
profession could find itself asking uncomfortable questions too late in the
game. As it is, one wonders how many ideas, that could have been contributed
by female talent, will never surface to enrich academic computer science.
More broadly, what are the repercussions to our increasingly
computer-oriented society, if women--about half the population and
professional workforce--are not as prepared in this discipline as are men?
Perhaps we will not have to find out.

Workshop Participants

Unless otherwise indicated, papers based on workshop presentations are as yet


C. Dianne Martin, assistant professor, George Washington University
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Washington, D.C.

"The Power of Paradigms."

Presenters and Attendees:

Danielle R. Bernstein, associate professor, Department of Mathematics and
Computer Science, Kean College of New Jersey, Union, N.J.

"A New Introduction for Computer Science."

Sharon Burrowes Yoder, School of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene,

Valerie Clarke, associate professor, Department of Psychology, Deakin
University, Victoria, Australia.

"Girls and Computing: Dispelling Myths and Finding Directions."

Carol E. Edwards, director of Project Micro, Southern Coalition for
Educational Equity, Atlanta, Georgia.

Henry Etzkowitz, associate professor of Sociology at SUNY Purchase, and
visiting scientist, Department of Computer Science, Columbia University.

Co-author with Carol Kemelgor and Michael Neuschatz, "The Final Disadvantage:
Barriers to Women in Academic Science and Engineering." NSF Sociology
Program Grant #SES-8913525.

Cindy Meyer Hanchey, associate professor, Computer Science Department,
Oklahoman Baptish University, Shawnee, Okla.

"Gender Equity--A Partial List of Resources," reprinted here, in part.

Charles W. Huff, assistant professor, Department of Psychology, St. Olaf
College, Northfield, Minn.

Co-author with Joel Cooper, "Sex Bias in Educational Software: The Effect of
Designers' Stereotypes on the Software They Design." Journal of Applied
Social Psychology, 17, (June 1987), 6. pp. 519-532.

Robin Kay, research assistant, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

"Understanding Gender Differences in Computer Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Use:
An Analysis of Method." Parts I and II.

Lesley S. Klein, instructor of information systems, Computer Science
Department, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY.

"Female Students' Underachievement in Computer Science and Mathematics:
Reasons and Recommendations."

Jenelle Leonard, computer coordinator, District of Columbia Public Schools,
Washington, DC.

Carol Wolf, chair, Computer Science Department, Pace University, New York,

Elizabeth Wolf, representing ACM Committee on the Status of Women in Computer
Science, graduate student, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.

Additional Reading

Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, "Special Issue: Women, Girls, and
Computers," 13, 3/4, (August 1985).

Kiesler S., Sproull L., and Eccles, J. S. Pool halls, chips, and war games:
Women in the culture of computing. Psych. Women Q. 9, (1985) 451-465.

Turkle, S., and Papert, S. Epistemological pluralism: Styles and voices
within the computer culture, unpublished manuscript.


Brecher, D. the Woman's Computer Literacy Handbook, New American Library,

Damarin, S. K. Rethinking equity: An imperative for educational computing.
The Computing Teacher 16, 7 (April 1989), 16-18, 55.

Do your female students say 'No, Thanks' to the Computer? Women's Action
Alliance and Apple Computer Company, 1987. (See Women's Action Alliance for

Does Your Daughter Say 'No, Thanks' to the Computer? Women's Action Alliance
and Apple Computer Company, 1989. (See Women's Action Alliance for ordering)

Fox, L. H., Brody, L., and Tobin, D. Eds. Women and the Mathematical
Mystique. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.

Frazier, N. and Sadker, M. Sexism in School and Society. Harper and Row,

Kiesler, S., Sproull, L., and Eccles, J. S. Second-class citizens?
Psychology Today, (March 1983), 40-48.

Klein, S. S., Ed. Handbook for Achieving Sex Equity Through Education. The
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

Kolata, G. Equal Time for women. Discover (January 1984), 24-27.

Lytle, V. From Marie Curie . . . To Sally Ride . . . To . . . .
NEA Today, (March 1990), 4-5.

Making the Case for Math. A Special Report on Elementary Mathematics in the
1990s. D.C. Health and Company. (1-800-235-3565)

Marcoulides, G. A. The relationship between computer anxiety and computer
achievement, J. Educational Comput. Res. 4, 2, (1988), 151-158.

McCarthy, R., Behind the scenes at Bank Street College. Electronic Learning.
(October 1989), 30-34.

Not jsut for nerds. Newsweek, (April 9, 1990), 52-54.

Ogilvie, M. B. Women in Science Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century: A
Biographical Dictionary, MIT Press, 1986.

Ogozalek, V. Z. A comparison of Male and Female Computer Science Students'
Attitudes Toward Computers. SIGCSE Bulletin 21, 2 (June 1989), 8-14.

Rx for Learning. Newsweek, (April 9, 1990), 55-64.

Sadker, D. and Sadker, M. Sex Equity Handbook for Schools, 2 ed. Longman
Inc., reprinted by The Carnegie Corporation, 1982.

Sanders. J. Developing software for gender equity: A review of Breaking the
Barriers. The Computing Teacher, (March 1990), 54-55.

Sanders, J. and Stone, A. Equal Play; The Neuter Computer: Computers for
Girls and Boys. Neal-Schuman, 1986. (See Women's Action Alliance for

Shapiro, L. Guns and dolls. Newsweek, (May 28, 1990), 56-65.

Siegel, M. The best inventions by women since 1900. Good Housekeeping,
(February 1990), 140-143.

Stallings, S. Computer equality for women. PC Magazine, (April 3, 1984),

Stern, M., Ed. Changing Sexist Practices in the Classroom. Women's Rights
Committee, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, publication #600, nd.

Stone, A. Action for Equity column, adapted from an address to The National
Education Technology Leadership Conference, The Computing Teacher (November
1986), 54-55.

Women in Science and Technology: Careers for Today and Tomorrow. The
American College Testing Program, (ACT Publications; Box 168; Iowa City, Iowa
52240), 1976.

Modeling Equitable Behavior in the Classroom (12 technical assistance and
training modules). Desegregation Assistance Center--South Central
Collaborative, Intercultural Development Research Association; 5835 Callaghan
Rd., Suite 350; San Antonio, TX 78228 ($7.50 each ro $75.00 for the entire

Technical Assistance Modules:

--Federal Statutes and Directives

Regarding National Origin


--Federal Statutes and Directives

Regarding Title IX


--Civil Rights Compliance: An Update

Training Modules:

I First and Second Language Acquisition Processes

II Integrating the ESD Student into the Content Area Classroom

III Recognizing Cultural Differences in the Classroom

IV Sex Stereotyping and Bias: Their Origin and Effects

V Modeling Equitable Behavior in the Classroom

VI Avoiding Sex Bias in Counseling

VII Equity in Counseling and Advising Students: Keeping Options Open

VIII Interpersonal Communications: A Human Relations Practicum

IX It's a Matter of Race: Race Relations int eh Desegregated Setting

The following are publications of the National Science Foundation
(202-357-3619 for NSF Forms & Publications):

Achieving Full Participation of Women in Science and Engineering, October 25,

Leveson, Nancy. Women in computer Science, December 1989.

Profiles--Computer Sciences: Human Resources and Funding, November 1988 (NSF

Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, January 1990. (NSF 90-301).

The following are publications of the Teachers College Press; Teachers
College; Columbia University; New York, NY 10027:

Baroody, A. J. Children's Mathematical Thinking, A Development Framework for
Preschool, Primary, and Special Education Teachers, 1987.

Bowers, C. A. The Cultural Dimensions of Educational Computing,
Understanding the Non-Neutrality of Technology, 1988.

Davis, B. G. and Humphreys, S. Evaluating Intervention Programs, Applications
from Women's Programs in Math and Science, 1985.

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