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How Cultural Messages Through Experiences Influence Occupational Pursuit of Muslim Female Computer Science Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Maral Kargarmoakhar Florida International University

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Maral Kargarmoakhar was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. She got her bachelors degree in computer engineering from Tehran University. She pursued her master's degree from Florida International University (FIU) in computer science. Currently, she is working on her Ph.D. program at FIU.

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Monique S. Ross Florida International University Orcid 16x16

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Monique Ross, Assistant Professor in the School of Computing and Information Science and STEM Transformation Institute, earned a doctoral degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Elizabethtown College, a Master’s degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering from Auburn University, eleven years of experience in industry as a software engineer. Her research focus is on broadening participation in engineering and computing through the exploration of: 1) race, gender, and identity and 2) computer science education research in order to inform pedagogical practices that garner interest and retain women and minorities in computer-related engineering fields. 

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Women are underrepresented in the field of computer science in the United States. However, this is not a new problem as female participation in computer science has been experiencing a steady decline of participation over last three decades. Current reporting on women’s participation in computer science has been published as steadying at 13-17% depending on the data source. However, there are varying levels of participation in other countries particularly, in Muslim majority countries. For example, women in Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan earned more than half of the total number of science degrees in their respective nations. This stark contrast between the United States and these other countries has prompted an exploration into the factors that contribute to women’s participation in computer science. This paper focuses on understanding how cultural environment can affect the participation of women in computer science, particularly with respect to individual, household, community, country, and global influences occupational pursuit. The research question guiding this study is: what cultural factors influence Muslim womens’ occupational pursuit of computer science? This qualitative study explores, through semi-structured interviews, the experiences and influences of Muslim female students currently pursuing graduate degrees in computer science. Leveraging snowball sampling, this research study seeks to better understand four Muslim women’s pathway to and through computer science to better understand how and why certain experiences or cultural influences impact womens’ choice of computer science. Through thematic analysis the findings shed light on how macro and micro cultural environmental factors are different for Muslim women students across different cultural groups as well as the influence these variables have on their participation and achievement in CS. Our findings suggest that cultural backgrounds may influence women in different ways. Understanding the pathways of Muslim women, given their high representation in computer science in their home nations might provide insight into ways to engage more women (Muslim or otherwise) in computer science in the United States. This study provides a counter-narrative to underrepresentation of women in computer science by presenting the pathways of those achieving or exceeding parity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields outside of the United States.

Kargarmoakhar, M., & Ross, M. S. (2019, June), How Cultural Messages Through Experiences Influence Occupational Pursuit of Muslim Female Computer Science Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32892

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