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A Faculty Role in Women's Participating in Computing

A Faculty Role in Women's Participating in Computing
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Author(s): J. McGrath Cohoon (University of Virginia, USA) and Holly Lord (University of Virginia, 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.ch046


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The success of efforts to attract and retain more women in computing is influenced by many factors that are beyond the control of academic departments. Industry downturns, public perception about job opportunities and the desirability of a computing career, and gender stereotypes about interests and abilities are only a few contextual features that are likely to be relevant but over which computer science programs have little or no control. Nevertheless, there are ways that departments can have a measurable influence over women’s representation, and several of those ways depend on faculty. Women’s portion of undergraduate enrollment in computing majors is low on average, but it varies across institutions (Cohoon, 2006). Likewise, women’s portion of attrition from computer science (CS) is a disproportionately high rate—32% annual attrition of women from the major. Comparing women’s attrition rate to men’s attrition rate in the same department shows that on average, undergraduate women switched out of the CS major at a rate six points higher than their male classmates. However, just as some departments enroll higher proportions of women, there are also some undergraduate computing departments that retain men and women at comparable rates. The first part of our discussion examines the faculty behaviors that distinguish undergraduate departments that retain women. Women’s portion of graduate enrollment in computer science and computer engineering (CSE) is also low, but similar to undergraduate programs, it varies by department—from 8% to 33%. The second part of our discussion examines the faculty behaviors that distinguish graduate departments that enroll women. In this article, we take a department-level approach to identifying factors that are related to the gender-balance of post-secondary computing. We examine the considerable role that members of a department’s faculty play in bringing about similar outcomes for men and women. First, we discuss faculty actions that can affect retention in undergraduate computer science programs, and secondly, we discuss faculty recruitment of women into graduate CSE programs.

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