Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In exploring different countries and how they perceive computer science, I've read a lot of different papers about the state of computer science. However, it didn't strike me until today while reading a paper about Australia that I realized how similar people around the world see this problem of participation. Eileen Trauth, Susan Nielsen, and Liisa von Hellens's paper "Explaining the IT Gender Gap: Australian Stories for The New Millennium," many of their insights into the world of IT professionals come to near identical to the attitudes we adopt.

In the beginning they identify the issue of low participation in computer science compounded with a substantial gender imbalance. However, they run into similar issues as we do with problems of gender difference. Trauth et. al. describe the collection of gender differences as flawed, in part as their case study identifies several women who upset the principles assumed by gender difference. Many of the approaches centering around gender differences ignore the countless women already participating in computer science and instead of focusing on improving this value they spend more time alienating the women already participating in computer science.

In interviewing women who are currently participating in the IT field they found a number of different factors that don't fall into the gender differences spectrum. For example, they found that imbalanced environments create hostile cultures for minorities. Crude jokes demeaning women and hostility are more likely to be present in male-dominated populations. Additionally, not seeing women regularly in the workplace creates false perceptions that women are somehow not qualified to participate in IT careers. Further, many of the women identified prominent female role models in their academic careers that helped to create or continue their interest in realizing that IT was an acceptable path for them.

So while we may be looking globally to operate on the US, these studies have implications globally outward as well. Many countries around the world suffer the same gender imbalances and are buried under the same gender differences suggestions that plague the United States.

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