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Addressing Gender Disparities in Computing Majors and Careers: Development and Effects of a Community Support Structure

Abstract

This paper presents the results of a comprehensive effort to inspire women to choose computing careers. In 2016, 57% of bachelor’s degree recipients were female; however, only 19% of computer and information science bachelor’s degrees were earned by females. This gender gap in computer science education also translates into the professional world where women hold 57% of professional occupations, yet less than half are in computing professions. Stereotypes of the field, a lack of role models, and a desire to help others have been cited as contributing to these statistics. It is clear that attracting and retaining women in the field is challenging; yet, it is crucial to push the discipline forward.

The program outlined in this paper aims to address these disparities through a focus on recruiting women in their undergraduate years by prioritizing relationships, mentorship, and hands-on experience. At the core of the program are an intensive summer internship with partner corporations, cohousing of subsets of students living together in housing provided by the program, and targeted matching with a mentor from a technology field. In addition, the program coordinates a variety of networking, professional development, cultural, and social events throughout the summer and academic year, designed to facilitate exposure to professional opportunities.

In this paper, we discuss the program as well as evaluation processes and findings from a mixed-methods evaluation focused on activities from the 2018-2019 cohort. This evaluation includes program administrative data, baseline and post-program survey data from three program sites and focus group data. We focus on the effect of program activities on educational and career trajectories of women in computing, as well as methodological strategies used. As our data depict, this program had clear and positive effects on participants’ self-efficacy, interpersonal and professional skills, mentor relationships, and exposure to career opportunities.

 

Citation

Daily, S. B., & Sperling, J., & Gray, M., & Gupta, M., & Arnold, A., & Perri, K. (2020, June), Addressing Gender Disparities in Computing Majors and Careers: Development and Effects of a Community Support Structure Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34094


Categories

Diversity, Equity, Gender, Identity, Inclusion, Publications, STEM