Journal Article — The Experiences of Women in Computer Science: The Importance of Awareness and Communication — by Mia L. Parviainen




For years, researchers have been discussing why there are fewer women than men enrolled in computer science programs. By comparing previous studies with a new set of data, in the form of interviews, this study examines the effects of a variety of influences, including parents, educators, and stereotypes. This project is a part of a combined directed study in writing and undergraduate honors thesis, which began in the spring of 2006, and ended in December. The final product is a document that is over 80 pages in length. This is an abridged form of the original document, summarizing some of the more prominent sections. Women studying computer science are affected by a number of factors that influence their decision making and retention in programs. Some factors, such as initial programming classes, have had the same effect from the past decade to the present. Other factors have changed over the course of time. Interaction with classmates has become a factor that is more commonly cited as important to women. Perceptions of computer science were another changing factor, mainly because the field has changed dramatically within a short period of time. By openly and honestly exploring how a variety of factors affect women in computer science, this study reaches a number of conclusions. First, it highlights the need for continued research. As time passes, these factors will change in function and importance. Additionally, there is a need for awareness and communication in the computer science field. Awareness comes in the form of making sure that everyone who is connected with the computer science field understands what is going on in the field itself and with women in that field. Without awareness, little can change. Communication requires increased interaction between faculty and students so that a better learning environment can be fostered. In the end, greater awareness and communication will not only benefit women; they will make the computer science field a more inclusive environment for all who are involved.

Recommended Citation

Parviainen, Mia L. 2008. “The Experiences of Women in Computer Science: The Importance of Awareness and Communication.” Pp. 87-94 in Microcosms of Hope: Celebrating Student Scholars (Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Volume VI, Issue 4, 2008.) Belmont, MA: Okcir Press (an imprint of Ahead Publishing House).

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