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Choosing Computer Science: Women At The Start Of The Undergraduate Pipeline

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Women in IT Fields

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.303.1 - 10.303.11



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Paper Authors

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Ken Yasuhara

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Choosing Computer Science: Women at the Start of the Undergraduate Pipeline

Ken Yasuhara Department of Computer Science and Engineering University of Washington Seattle, WA

1 Introduction

The “shrinking pipeline” is a common metaphor for the underrepresentation of women in computer science (CS), an increasingly well-known (if not well-understood) phenomenon. The further one progresses in CS academia—from undergraduate study to graduate study to faculty rank—the fewer women there are. (For a comprehensive discussion of the underrepresentation of women in CS, see G¨ rer and Camp. 13 ) At the undergraduate level in the U.S., CS is the only science, u technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field whose gender gap has widened during the last two decades. 11 In the U.S., only 28% of Bachelor’s degrees in computer and information sciences went to women in 2002, down from a high of nearly 40% in the mid 1980s (Figure 1). As in past years, research departments are faring worse; in U.S. and Canadian Ph.D.-granting departments, 18% of Bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering went to women in 2003. 25

This paper reports early results of a survey- and interview-based study focusing on the beginning of the undergraduate pipeline in CS. Employing a grounded theory-style method, we investigate gender differences in how pre-major undergraduates are attracted to (or repelled by) the CS major. By also investigating how students conceive of CS as a discipline, culture, and career area, we not only ask the students the question, Why or why not computer science?, but also discover how they understand the question.

We begin by discussing relevant underrepresentation research in Section 2. Section 3 presents research questions and our methods. Survey analysis results in Section 4 are interpreted and dis- cussed in Section 5, and the paper concludes with a discussion of future work.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright c 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Yasuhara, K. (2005, June), Choosing Computer Science: Women At The Start Of The Undergraduate Pipeline Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14733

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