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Comparing Gender Differences in Computer Science and Management Information Systems Majors

Comparing Gender Differences in Computer Science and Management Information Systems Majors
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Author(s): Sylvia Beyer (University of Wisconsin – Parkside, USA)
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Eileen M. Trauth (Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch018

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Abstract

Why do so few women major in computer science (CS) or management information systems (MIS)? Are the reasons for women’s underrepresentation in these two disciplines the same? I will address these issues by reporting on my research on female and male undergraduates majoring in CS or MIS. I hypothesize that results from one area of information technology (IT), such as CS, do not necessarily generalize to other areas of IT, such as MIS. Structural barriers exist that keep women from advancement in IT careers (cf. Ahuja, 2002). However, an examination of these is beyond the scope of this article, which focuses on gender differences in IT students. In 2002 only 27.6% of U.S. Bachelor’s degrees in CS and 36.8% in MIS were conferred on women (U.S. Department of Education, 2002), limiting the number of women qualified to enter into the IT workforce. The problem of women’s under representation in IT is not limited to the U.S. Women are underrepresented in CS majors in other Western countries such as Canada (Gadalla, 2001), Germany (Huber, Reiff, Ben, & Schinzel, 2001), Norway (Berg, Gansmo, Hestflatt, Lie, Nordli, & Sorenson, 2002), and Ireland (MacKeogh, 2003). IT cannot afford to underutilize such a valuable and significant part of the workforce. Increasing the representation of women is imperative because “greater diversity among those who create computing technology ensures that those technologies are relevant to and usable by a wider range of people” (Roberts, 2003).

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