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Female Student Views About It Careers In High School And College

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Issues of Diversity

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.741.1 - 12.741.13



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Paper Authors


Carol Burger Virginia Tech

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Carol J. Burger, Associate Professor, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Virginia Tech, USA. She is the coordinator for the Science and Gender Equity Program at Virginia Tech. She is the founder and editor of the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, now in its 10th year of publication. She served as Senior Program Director, Program for Women and Girls, National Science Foundation in 1996. She has published over 50 immunology and SET equity research papers, book chapters, and monographs, and she is the co-investigator on several NSF-funded projects.

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Soyoung Lee Virginia Tech

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Soyoung Lee, Ph.D., Post-doctoral Fellow, Women in Information Technology project, Virginia Tech, USA. She has written and presented 13 papers and over 10 posters about Korean immigrants, women in information technology, decision making, community capacity, family life education, and parent-child relationships at national- and international- level conferences and symposia.

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Anne Laughlin Virginia Tech

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Anne Laughlin, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Virginia Tech, USA. Past roles include: Assistant Director for Virginia Tech’s Career Services Office, and Applications Analyst for Virginia Tech’s Web Application Research and Development group. Currently, she is a research assistant on two NSF funded projects examining gender equity issues in the science and technology fields. She has co-authored several presentations and papers related to women’s career decision making and women’s under-representation in IT.

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Peggy Meszaros

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Peggy S. Meszaros, William E. Lavery Professor of Human Development and Director, Center for Information Technology Impacts on Children, Youth and Families, Virginia Tech, USA. She has extensive teaching, research, and administrative experience including middle school and high school teaching of science and has been a faculty member and administrator for 28 years at private and public higher education research institutions. She has published over 80 scholarly articles and book chapters on topics such as academic benchmarking, mother and daughter communication, adolescent decision-making, and technology applications including ehealth, cell phone use, and parent education.

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Elizabeth Creamer Virginia Tech

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Elizabeth G. Creamer, Professor, Educational Policy and Leadership, Virginia Tech, USA. Dr. Creamer has expertise in the areas of qualitative research methodology, most specifically case study, grounded in teaching graduate courses and employing qualitative research methodologies in various settings. She is co-PI on several NSF funding projects related to women’s interest and choice in careers in information technology. Creamer has an extensive publication record, including three authored and co-authored books and 45 refereed journal articles and book chapters.

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

Female Student Views about IT Careers In High School and College Introduction

The low overall number of women engaged in computer-based college majors and occupations has been noted for decades. While programs and activities have been offered to remedy that inequality, systematic, theory-based studies of the influences on women’s choices of academic pathways that could lead to a technical career have only recently appeared. The dearth of specific information about the decision-making process along with the growing need for a technology-literate workforce1 led our research group to investigate the factors that influence and support information technology (IT) career choices for women.

Careers in IT encompass occupations that require designing and developing software and hardware systems, providing technical support for computer and peripheral systems, and creating and managing network systems and databases2. IT workers enter the field from traditional undergraduate majors, like computer science, as well as from nontraditional areas that heavily incorporate technology into their curriculum, including statistics, graphic design, and business management. While women make up about 46% of the U.S. workforce, they comprise only about 23% of the professional IT workforce – and fewer than 10% are in IT management positions3. Some have attributed this low participation rate to computer phobia but research findings present a different picture. A report by the American Association of University Women4 suggests that rather than being reluctant or unable to use computers, girls were critical of the computer culture and turned off by the violent nature of many computer games and the monotony of some computer applications. They saw little connection between computer work and other people or to meaningful, real world problems. Our goal was to drill down into the attitudes of these young women and discover the pivotal events and influential people that formed their opinions about IT and the suitability of an IT career for women.

We used as our theoretical framework the theory of self-authorship developed by Dr. Marcia Baxter Magolda. Self-authorship, according to Baxter Magolda5,6, is simultaneously a way of making meaning, an ability to create an identity that is separate from external influences, and an ability to engage in relationships without losing oneself5 (p. 12). Like the concepts of agency and self-efficacy7,8,9, it centers on the ability to make decisions without undue influence by others. It reflects an internalized sense of self. Research suggests that young girls, particularly white girls, often lose voice or agency by early adolescence and grow increasingly subject to the opinions of others10.

Self-authorship is fostered through activities that promote social interaction and teamwork, as well as through activities that make the tie to personal experience by creating settings where students solve or propose ways to solve real-life problems that are meaningful to them6. It also can be developed by activities that promote critical thinking, including critiquing software and evaluating web sites. We sought to identify activities in the home, school, and community that might promote self-authorship and to explore its relationship to choice of an IT career11.

Burger, C., & Lee, S., & Laughlin, A., & Meszaros, P., & Creamer, E. (2007, June), Female Student Views About It Careers In High School And College Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2373

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015