Sociocultural Influences on Undergraduate Women's Entry Into a Computer Science Major
Lyon, Louise Ann
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Computer science not only displays the pattern of underrepresentation of many other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, but has actually experienced a decline in the number of women choosing the field over the past two decades. Broken out by gender and race, the picture becomes more nuanced, with the ratio of females to males receiving bachelor's degrees in computer science higher for non-White ethnic groups than for Whites. This dissertation explores the experiences of university women differing along the axis of race, class, and culture who are considering majoring in computer science in order to highlight how well-prepared women are persuaded that they belong (or not) in the field and how the confluence of social categories plays out in their decision. This study focuses on a university seminar entitled "Women in Computer Science and Engineering" open to women concurrently enrolled in introductory programming and uses an ethnographic approach including classroom participant observation, interviews with seminar students and instructors, observations of students in other classes, and interviews with parents of students. Three stand-alone but related articles explore various aspects of the experiences of women who participated in the study using Rom Harré's positioning theory as a theoretical framework. The first article uses data from twenty-two interviews to uncover how interactions with others and patterns in society position women in relation to a computer science major, and how these women have arrived at the point of considering the major despite messages that they do not belong. The second article more deeply explores the cases of three women who vary greatly along the axes of race, class, and culture in order to uncover pattern and interaction differences for women based on their ethnic background. The final article focuses on the attitudes and expectations of the mothers of three students of contrasting ethnicities and how reported interactions between mothers and daughters either constrain or afford opportunities for the daughters to choose a computer science major.
- Education - Seattle