Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gender and Culture

A few weeks ago, Carol asked us to respond to a question about the distinctions between gender and culture. I know that Anthony and I both found it very difficult to come up with an answer to this question, even an incomplete answer. Before I answer that question, I need to sort out what is meant by gender and what is meant by culture.

When I first started thinking about gender, I thought of some experiences that my parents and grandparents have shared with me. I believe that these stories show what gender is - that it is a construct, an idea, a generalization of what women are supposed to be and do and what men are supposed to be and do.

When my parents moved to our current house in Rhode Island, they moved across the street from a family of four boys, the youngest of whom was named Evan, age 2. Their father was a very “macho” kind of guy and their mother did all the housekeeping and child-caring. My parents got to know Evan as he grew up and he would wander over at various times having escaped his hectic household without his parents knowledge. One day in the middle of summer when Evan was 5, he wandered over and found my mom building a lawn mower in the driveway. He thought this was very odd and asked, “Where's Ernie?” as if my mother must only have been building a lawn mower if my father was doing something even more important or macho. My mother replied, “He's inside baking a cake!” Evan could not believe this and shook his head incredulously, traipsed into our kitchen, and saw that my father was in fact, baking a cake. After that episode, my parents never saw Evan again. I guess he thought that the family across the street was too strange. A year later, Evan and his family moved out. I'm not sure if it's directly related to my parents' "strangeness," but it sure is a funny coincidence.

When my grandfather was little, growing up in France, he thought that French was the man's language and English was the woman's language because his father was French and his mother, American and they both spoke their respective native languages at home.

Both of these anecdotes show that even at such a young age, children can already have notions of what women are “supposed to do” and what men are “supposed to do.” And though many women may bake cakes, there are many men who bake cakes. Though there are many men who put lawn mowers together, there are also many women who put lawn mowers together! And I would bet that about 50% of the French-speaking population are women and 50% are men and the same with the English-speaking population. And that is what gender is: generalizations about what women do and how they act, and generalizations about what men do and how they act.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gender and Culture

One of the things we keep discussing during our meetings is the idea of gender versus culture. Many other studies considering the gender divide in computer science have always analyzed based on gender differences. By making a "pink" computer science, many people have claimed is the best way to solve the computer science problem.

Such presents the question of why we have decided to look at culture rather than gender. In truth, my belief stems from the understanding that gender is a product of culture. The not so well understood distinction between sex and gender grows out of the fact that sex is the set of biological differences. Gender on the other hand is the social construction of what makes men men and women women. I didn't feel I really understood the distinction myself until a couple years ago I read this piece by Kate Bornstein arguing that Wall-E is actually a lesbian love film.

When I had saw the film a couple weeks prior to the article I had left the movie, as I imagine many others did, assuming I just saw a male robot and a female robot love story. But what makes Wall-E a boy and Eve a girl? They don't have robo-genetalia. You can't calculate their hormone levels or whatever biological measure you believe separates men from women. How we see Wall-E and Eve are the superimposed impressions of what we expect from men and women.

As such, we can see gender as a construct but to see it as a real measure of how men and women behave we will only feed into and encourage stereotypes. Creating a "pink" computer science or a computer science targeting girls doesn't so much bridge a gender gap as it does reinforce gender constructs. By instead looking at culture, we can begin to ask more why questions. By looking at questions of culture we don't only bridge the gender gap but we diversify the computer science body. Any adjustments made when looking at culture will not only affect countless women, but countless men. By not narrowing ourselves to gender differences we can bridge other gaps along race and class lines.

The Faulty Human Development Index?

Long before this study started I had been a fan of the Human Development Index. The HDI is a collection of United Nations committees that investigate and rank most of the countries in the world in the quality of life according to different factors. There's a committee concerning the environment, access to health care, economic growth. It's a grand assortment and the reports they send out provide all kinds of neat graphs and charts describing the states of various countries. One committee/ranking worth noting specifically however, is the ranking of countries according to their gender equality.

A 12 megabyte behemoth of a PDF, the most recent report ranks every country in the world according to their gender equality based on a variety of factors including comparing male/female literacy rates, average income, and enrollment in education. Looking just at the tables on page 326 of the study, we find the United States at 12, with women earning 15,000 less than men. The top 20 on the chart are largely dominated by the richest countries in the world. Worth noting specifically for our study, Bulgaria, which graduates women and men relatively equally in engineering and computer science is down at 53. The top of the GDI contains Scandanavian countries like Sweden at 6 and Norway at number 2. From this I always believed that Norway and Sweden had approached or were approaching some sort of magical gender equality that I couldn't imagine.

Then I picked up "Occupational Ghettos." From the very intro on they take the countries at the top of this chart to task. They put forth the claim that countries like Sweden, hailed as pinnacles of gender egalitarianism were actually more segregated than countries lower in the list. Suffice to say this was a more than adequate shock to my preconceived notions. Maria Charles and David Grusky claim that in developed countries like Sweden, high paying jobs in the nonmanual sector are well integrated. Indeed, they can't afford not to be. Claims of discrimination come with a heavy cost and are well monitored to ensure the playing field is level.

However, entering the labor sector things get significantly fuzzier. Charles and Grubsky claim that the oversights that are so common to the office life are severely lacking outside that world. In the labor sector, employment is still heavily segregated with men occupying the more desirable jobs and women suffering from lower wages and less desirable jobs. This is continually covered up by the egalitarian status these countries have received. By ranking so high on the index, this segregation gets swept under the rug as people claim the problem is already solved. This is an argument I can already feel crossing boundaries beyond just looking at gender segregation. While this highlights a problem in the way analyzes of gender equity is calculated, I have yet to dive far enough into "Occupational Ghettos" to discover their solution. As such, I am quite excited for more as this has shaped my view of the world considerably in so few pages.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Challenging, What Shock!

Across the papers I read this week, there was one that really stuck out to me. Bettina Bair and Miranda Marcus's paper "Women's Interest in Information Technology: The Fun Factor." The paper takes to task the problem of careers available to computer science graduates have a perception of being fun. This grows out of the larger problem of computer science and scientists having a very stereotypical view as boring, tedious, or uninteresting.

Part of the study asked students to choose a job from IT related careers that they were most familiar. Then they had students choose adjectives to describe how they felt about the jobs. From these lists of adjectives they concluded that women don't see IT jobs as fun while many men do. The conclusion goes on to cite some examples of programs that encourage better perceptions of IT careers.

But everything isn't that simple. Looking at the lists that women chose, I'm not convinced that women feel IT jobs aren't fun. Citing one line specifically, "all students described work as a Web developer as 'creative,' 'interesting,' 'fun,' and 'complex'; but female students said that the job would be 'challenging,' while the male students said that it would be 'exciting.'"

When did challenging become a bad thing? I'm confused about when something hard became something not worth doing. We idolize the people who can do the difficult. People overcoming obstacles and challenging themselves are the stories we cherish everyday. I can't understand why in a list of "creative, interesting, and fun" why challenging would be a bad thing. Especially when compared to data entry jobs which both genders described as "easy" and "tedious." Moreover what are some jobs that are easy but aren't tedious? By describing a job as challenging I highly believe a job becomes more desirable rather than less.

In the end, this just feels like echos of the talking Barbie debacle. Sexist attitudes continue to resonate that women find certain fields difficult and I don't believe that assuming difficulty is isomorphic to uninteresting is valid. Just from attending classes at CMU I don't think very many students would hesitate to say that classes are challenging but I believe for most this is a positive, not a negative. Perhaps this is a question to keep in mind when we start performing surveys.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Contests Follow-Up

I have been doing some more research into high school and middle school CS / programming competitions. As Anthony found, the two really big ones are USACO and ACSL. I've been talking to a lot of people here at CMU and I've found that some of them have done USACO and fewer have participated in ACSL. One interesting thing that I've found is there are many, many local competitions hosted by local universities or organized by some other party. If ACSL or USACO was not offered at a student's high school, many were involved in local competitions.

A lot of the students I know who have been interested in programming from a young age participated in online contests like Google Code Jam or other programming competitions. Unfortunately, these competitions have a heavy focus on only programming rather than algorithms and other parts of Computer Science.

Other competitions that are not just CS competitions are Robotics competitions which are all over the United States. FIRST has Robotics competitions for students from elementary school through high school. While it is not strictly CS (a large portion of many of the contests in engineering, most do require problems solving and programming). One of our hypotheses was that if CS is associated with math instead of engineering, it will be more attractive to women. I would be interested in looking at whether participation in Robotics competitions which contain a major engineering component as well as a CS component had any effect on women's decisions to major in CS.

I would definitely like to put some questions related to these competitions on some of our surveys. Find out how many people participated in CS / programming competitions and of what kind. ACSL / USACO, local competitions, online, Robotics, or some other kind?

I would also be interested in examining whether students participated in math competitions. Almost everyone I know in CS participated in some sort of math competition or math olympiad in high school. I would also like to look at it from a high school perspective. What percentage of students who participate in high school math competitions go on to major in CS? What percentage of students who participate in high school CS / programming competitions go on the major in CS? Robotics competitions?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Margolis and Fisher - Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing

Hmmm. That is my general sentiment after reading Unlocking the Clubhouse. I finally got my copy of Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing by Margolis and Fisher in from Amazon earlier this week and read and took notes on it. I have mixed feelings about it. A lot of the points the made were valid, but many of them... I disagree with.

One of the biggest things that I took issue with was inconsistency between claims and statistics. "The practice of grouping computer science with math and science, both informally and organizationally, may exacerbate the gender gap in computing." (Margolis and Fisher p. 37) Not even 20 pages later, they present a table of statistics and percentages of the attractions of programming to men and women according to a survey. 6% of men and 29% of women say that the fact that programming is math related is one reason it is attractive to them.

A more significant thing that I took issue with, is the implication that men and women are really, truly different. Margolis and Fisher discuss this at the beginning of Unlocking the Clubhouse:

"It's too easy to fall into thinking that 'women are this way and men are that way' – to simplify the categories and underplay all the contradictions and differences within each individual and within each gender. At the same time, it is misleading to see women as sharing no unifying experiences." (p. 9)

"Throughout our study, we have worked hard to capture both gender differences and also the wide range of often contradictory experiences women have." (p. 10)

But, I think that they do fall into thinking that "women are this way and men are that way." Much of the book is focused on gender differences rather than on how culture has led to women avoiding computer science. One of the claims they make is the following:

“To spark and engage girls' interest and engagement in computing, we believe that computer science must be viewed as a fully human discipline that, while highly technical, is linked to other arenas and people.” (p. 120)

When I was a freshman in the Freshman Immigration Course (FIC) which is discussed in Margolis and Fisher, we had a speaker come and talk to us. At the end of his talk he focused on getting women interested in CS and made the claim that most women go into CS because they want to apply it to another field. Every single woman and many of the men in that room was absolutely shocked and offended by this statement. Most of us wanted to pursue careers as Software Engineers because we like to code, not write software for hospitals because it helped people. And while it may be important to some people to know that what they study can be applied to the real world, it is not only women who feel that way, and it is certainly not the majority of women (at least at CMU).

This same sentiment is expressed in Margolis and Fisher, and I am offended by it. It seems very sexist and seems to imply that women can't or shouldn't pursue the traditional CS jobs at tech companies. All throughout the book I found this implication of gender differences being the cause of low female participation in CS and that is not what I believe is the main cause of women's low enrollment in CS.

Reading More Papers!

These past two weeks have consisted of me reading many more papers for background research. I have also been thinking long and hard about a question that Anthony and I are to answer about gender and culture and the distinctions between. But that will be addressed in a later post. This post is about the papers I've been reading. (I hope I don't misinterpret any of Carol's papers!)

For those of you who do not know what Women@SCS is, it is a student organization at Carnegie Mellon for women (and men) in Computer Science. It is mentioned in many of Carol Frieze's and Lenore Blum's papers. From the Women@SCS website: "The Women@SCS mission is to create, encourage, and support academic, social, and professional opportunities for women in computer science and to promote the breadth of the field and its diverse community."

  • In a More Balanced Computer Science Environment, Similarity is the Difference and Computer Science is the Winner by Lenore Blum and Carol Frieze

    This paper cautioned against the findings of Margolis and Fisher because new research and interviews had been conducted at Carnegie Mellon which led to significantly different findings than those of Margolis and Fisher. New studies showed that women and men had similar perceptions about Computer Science and attitudes towards computers being used as tools and towards programming and applications. In addition, women were excelling because of a gender balance and the creation of Women@SCS and no longer felt so isolated.

  • Building an Effective Computer Science Student Organization: The Carnegie Mellon Women@SCS Action Plan by Carol Frieze and Lenore Blum

    This paper is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It details what the Women@SCS organization was set up to do. As a member of Women@SCS, I saw that much of what the Council was set up to do is still part of what goes on at Women@SCS.

  • Diversifying the Images of Computer Science: Undergraduate Women take on the Challenge! by Carol Frieze

    The Women@SCS Roadshow is discussed at length in this paper - why and how it was created and how effective it has been. Again, a fairly straightforward paper.

  • Culture and Environment as Determinants of Women’s Participation in Computing: Revealing the “Women-CS Fit” by Carol Frieze, Orit Hazzan, Lenore Blum, and M. Bernardine Dias

    This paper focuses on the cultural impacts on women's participation in Computer Science. The authors argue that many of the studies done in the U.S. which conclude that we need "female-friendly" curriculum are done in places where women are a significant minority. When women are better represented, women participate right along with men and the findings of past studies (studies done where women are a significant minority) do not hold. The second part of this paper focuses on Israeli Jewish and Arab high schools and the authors find that encouragement from friends, family, and teachers led to high participation of women in CS in the Arab sector as opposed to the lower participation rates in the Jewish sector associated with less encouragement from friends, family, and teachers.

  • Women in Computer Science: NO SHORTAGE HERE! by Mazliza Othman and Rodziah Latih

    This paper was based on a study of Malaysian male and female students at the University of Malaya. The study found that there were plenty of female mentors and role models for students and that while men had more prior experience with computers, women's performance did not suffer from this. Something of interest is that more women than men said that they liked math which is the opposite of some past findings in the U.S. and one of the hypotheses that we are investigating.

  • The Incredible Shrinking Pipeline by Tracy Camp

    This paper is cited in many other of the papers that I have encountered. It talks about the decreasing number of women in CS and how this number is decreasing at a steeper rate than the number of men in CS. Camp calls attention to the need to address this problem. Camp also addresses the differences in percentages of women in CS programs in Engineering colleges and non-Engineering colleges, which is definitely something that is of interest to our research. Like in Malaysia, perhaps having CS associated with math instead of Engineering will increase the number of women in CS.
I have read most of the papers in Frontiers: Volume 26, Number 1, 2005 at this point and found many of them interesting. I will be making a post similar to this one about the papers in that journal. I have also read Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing by Margolis and Fisher which I will devote an entire separate post to.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Contests Follow-Up

This week has been a bit more preparation work. We've been discussing the surveys a lot as we hope to have that finalized sooner rather than later. Especially since September is slipping away oh so quickly. I imagine we'll at least have a prototype done within the next two weeks. Anybody willing to do a delightful fall survey?

That being said, a lot of my focus this week has been on the state of computer science contests in the United States. I found five specifically targeting middle or high school students that I found of note and will enumerate below.

SuperQuest: Not to be confused with the group that presented at CS4HS. SuperQuest was a competition for high school students. Teams were tasked with conceiving of a computational problem they found interesting. They'd create a proposal and submit it where a panel would pick out the most interesting proposals. The winners were then given the opportunity to model their problem on a supercomputer and in some cases the results were presented at various conferences.

Unfortunately, information on the SuperQuest program is rather scarce. Outside of an old paper linked on the Wikipedia page. I can't find any official information on the program suggesting it may have gone extinct at this point. That said, I feel like this program is interesting for a couple of reasons. For one, it makes the math/computer science relationship concrete. Students can use their already verbose backgrounds in mathematics and transform it into a computer science project giving them a readily available in. Additionally, it fosters teamwork, creating the proposal wasn't a solo activity. Further there is plenty of room for interdisciplinary projects. Just off the top of my head I can imagine modeling biological, chemical, and economic systems as being viable projects. It's a shame that information on this program is so scarce as I find this to be a fascinating idea.

A second contest I looked at was the USA Computer Olympiad. A contest running since at least 1992, this contest prepares and selects high school students for the International Olympiad of Informatics. The qualification contests are conducted over the Internet. A practice I think I like given that it offers more students the ability to compete as traveling to a central location isn't always feasible. However, the contest appears to be purely a test of programming. I investigated the online training website and the problems seem to be in the vein of, here's some input data, some output data, make 'em match. While it's everybody can participate nature is beneficial and online training materials are valuable, I feel this contest doesn't help us to move away from the computer science == programming paradigm. Additionally, skimming over quickly it looks like only 2 out of 68 students sent to the international competition from the USACO were women.

The ultimate goal of the USACO of course is the International Olympiad for Informatics which has apparently been operating since 1989. A skim shows quite a few women dotted amongst the crowds of competitors although without official designation of the competitiors I'm unsure just how prevalent they are.

Close to home, Slippery Rock University hosts an annual programming contest modeled off of the official ACM Intercollegiate Programming contest. Specifically, this targets the team programming disciplines that is touted by Meszaros and Kahle '07, Hazzan and Dubinsky '06, and many others. Unfortunately, it is a PROGRAMMING contest meaning the importance of the actual algorithms and analysis sometimes gets lost. The fact that the strategies page has a humongous section on I/O and a couple bullets about worrying about the actual problems suggests that algorithms isn't necessarily where the focus lies.

One final competition I looked at was the American Computer Science League competition. The first thing I have to mention about this is the fact that they include a short answer portion. If nothing else this contest I feel is valuable because it gets computer science off of the computer. That may have something to do with the fact that this is the only competition for "computer science" as the others have been for programming/informatics but I don't think this is a trivial difference. The problems featured in the sample problems aren't the most fascinating questions in the world (e.g. what does this program do?) but it's a start. The competition also includes a programming portion although with much misfortune the programming portion seems to be a solo exercise.

So none of these programming contests perfectly fit the ideal model I had in my head for a computer science competition but the fact that something exists I do feel is something positive and each of the contests offers a little bit of insight. I appreciate that there are competitions taking advantage of the agile programming and teamwork models to show how computer science is a team building exercise. I appreciate that there are contests that offer a written portion to show the idea that computer science can happen just as easily away from the computer as it can on it. I appreciate the ability to model interdiscplinary problems to promote a computer science way of thinking. If there is someplace we can combine all three in a way that is interesting, fun, and valuable to college applications is a question I'm going to continue asking.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Math Contests -> CS Contests?

This week I dived into a couple papers included in the book "Reconfiguring the Firewall" by Burger, Cremer, and Meszaros.

The first paper "Revisiting Culture, Time, and Information Processing Factors in Connecting to Girls' Interest and Choice of an Information Technology Career at the Secondary Level" by Meszaros and Kahle helped to really set the tone for my entire thought process this week. Specifically the line that reached out the strongest to me was concerning young women's decision not to take CS in high school was"computer science was either not offered or not considered necessary for acceptance to highly selective colleges." (45) The reason this line speaks out so strongly is the consistent narrative present in a significant portion of college computer science students. Specifically, the computer science courses at the high school level are few and the courses that are robust or go beyond programming are even fewer. Competition for positions in elite collge programs are getting worse all the time. No longer is a 4.0 GPA enough, you have to go above and beyond and GPAs start to approach 4.5. You can't just be valedictorian of your school you have to be valedictorian of the state. At some point the top of the class starts to look like a monolithic block and it becomes difficult enough to tell anybody apart as it is.

In such an environment, the high school computer science curriculum has no place. Too many narratives of inadequate cs courses abound. Much credit is due to the computer science teachers who are working to change that and make the coursework a valuable part of a college application. At times this argument feels like a backlash to Margolis-Fisher due to the removal of computer science background from admissions criteria but at the same time, the high school computer science courses that were being offered before Margolis-Fisher weren't any more gender balanced. I don't believe reversing the critiera is going to suddenly raise the national quality of computer science courses. What this does make me wonder though is how we can make computer science a valuable part of high school student's college applications?

From this springs one item which is undoubtedly present on countless members of CMU's computer science class. The heralded math competition permeates many college students applications and are well regarded across the nation. From the school to the state to the national level math contests continue to shape primary through high school education. In 4th to 6th grade I personally competed in math olympiads, 7th to 9th I was invested in Math Counts, of which the national competition is broadcast on ESPN. 10th to 12th I was a regular top finisher in the state math contest. Not a year of my adolescence when by when I wasn't competing in some form of math competition.

That being said, what exists in the same vein for computer science? Certainly they're not as apparent as the math competitions for a variety of reasons but what is out there and what can we do to increase their visibility? By establishing competitions we get around the "full schedules" Meszaros and Kahle cite as a reason students don't take computer science, give students something they can do to beef up their college applications, and most importantly increase the visibility of computer science in those critical pre-college years.

This little light bulb has highlighted some questions I intend to look at in the upcoming weeks. What content would be on such an exam for middle schoolers? What about high schoolers? Can we insert the agile programming and pair programming methods cited repeatedly as instances of the need for teamwork in computer science into the competition? What computer science contests already exist locally? Nationally? Internationally? What is the interest level for such a competition? Should we set quotas to ensure teams are gender diverse? What about the current student body, have they participated in computer science competitions? Moreover, did they participate in math competitions? Are these competitions remembered fondly? Are they part of the reason they became computer scientists?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Progress on Background Research

Since our first research team meeting, last Thursday, I have been constructing a reading list and reading / taking notes on some papers for background research. I will post some thoughts on my readings in this blog, but maintain more detailed notes on copies of the papers. Here are some of my thoughts on some of the papers I have read over the past week.

I read "An Expanding Pipeline: Gender in Mauritius" by Adams, Bauer, and Baichoo in which the authors examine the trend of increasing percentages of women in CS at the University of Mauritius and hypothesize about cultural differences between Mauritius and other countries like the U.S. which have a trend of decreasing percentages of women in CS. I thought that one of the most interesting quotes from the paper was the following: "The growing percentage of female CSE students plus the low and declining percentage of female CSE instructors contradicts the hypothesis that women require female academic role models to be attracted to computer science." At our last meeting, we discussed the possible influence of role models in attracting students to computer science. The paper only discuss professors at the University of Mauritius as potential role models and not any women or men in industry who may be role models to pre-college students which may influence students' decisions to study CS. I would be interested to learn if there were any cultural role models in the field of CS in Mauritius.

Another paper that I read was "Gender Gap in Computer Science Does Not Exist in One Former Soviet Union Republic: Results of a Study" by Gharibyan and Gunsaulus which examined women's involvement in CS in Armenia. I did not find this paper as informative as other papers, but this may be due to the fact that this paper was based on only one part of a study with several parts left to be conducted.

The paper seemed very informal and not terribly scientific when analyzing cultural influences. For example, one sentence from the paper reads, "Armenians are very realistic and reasonable in almost all aspects of their lives, including the planning of their future." Besides quotations like that, there were interesting conclusions drawn from the research done by Gharibyan and Gunsaulus which support some of our hypotheses such as "CS is viewed as more closely related to Math than Engineering in countries where women's representation is higher in the field." Other interesting observations the authors had were that women and men had similar motivations and influences when choosing a major and absence of role models and male dominated fields are not intimidating to women.

One thing that I found very interesting was the fact that for all of the 1980's and 1990's the percentage of women in Computer Science never fell below 75% at Yerevan State University in Armenia. However, it has fallen to 44% in recent years. The authors attribute this to growing popularity with men and not falling interest with women. But my question is, why isn't Computer Science growing in popularity with women as well?

I have been reading various papers in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Volume 26, Number 1, 2006. It is a special issue on gender, race, and information technology. I have started reading "Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing" by Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher on Google books, but there is only a limited preview, so I am waiting for my copy to come in from Amazon to finish it! I have also been constructing a reading list (of more papers / books that I need to read), which I hope to put up here in my next post.

In addition to reading papers, I have been thinking a lot about the questions that we will want to put on our survey. We don't want the survey to be too long because it might discourage participation, but we also want it long enough that we can gain useful information.

At our meeting last week, we also discussed having a separate survey for freshmen. At this point in the school year, freshmen have only 2 weeks of experience to answer questions like, "Do you feel that you fit in at CMU, specifically within the CS department?" While they have limited experience with living / fitting in at college, freshmen can answer certain questions that will benefit our study. For example, in studying cultural attitudes towards computer science, a natural question to ask people in computer science is, "Why did you decide to major in Computer Science?" A freshman may provide a more unbiased answer to this question than a senior - while the senior may know why he or she has remained in the field, he or she may not remember as clearly as the freshman, exactly why he or she had initially decided to study computer science.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

About the Project and About the Blog

Anthony and I are doing a year-long independent study / research project on the culture of computing specifically on how cultural attitudes towards Computer Science affect women's representation in the field. Our full proposal is detailed in an earlier post. Our advisor is Dr. Carol Frieze who has done a great deal of research in the area of the culture of computing.

We are able to do this research through the Collaborative Research Experience for Undergraduates (CREU) program which is a program designed to provide positive research experience for teams of undergraduate students. The CREU program is a joint program of the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing (CRA-W) and the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC). The goal of the CREU program is to increase the numbers of women and minorities who continue on to graduate school in computing related fields.

Part of the CREU program is maintaining a weekly journal and website, documenting progress on the project, by the students involved in the project. So, Anthony and I will be using this blog to give (at least) weekly updates. We also have a separate web page that currently has bios and a copy of our proposal that we may use to document progress.