June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Women in Engineering
12.741.1 - 12.741.13
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
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