In this study of computer courses in municipal adult education, 173 questionnaires from 10 Swedish adult education centres with students taking a basic computer education course were analyzed. The main findings were that men consistently reported greater computer competence, while computer interest or computer attitudes did not show gender differences. The gender differences in computer competence were significant even in the youngest age group. Young women were also the most distinctive group by being the most dissatisfied. The idea that gender issues in adult computer education mainly concern computer reticent middle aged women while young women attend computer courses on a more equal footing with men does not hold in this sample. The results raise some practical questions, particularly in assessing the differences in computer competence and women’s feelings of inadequacy, taking advantage of women’s computer interest, and coming into terms with young women’s expectations.
Background Of The Study
A gender gap in computing—a digital divide between women and men (Cooper & Weaver, 2003; Wilson et al, 2003), even in western society—has been troubling researchers and policymakers; firstly, because women are seen as being at risk of being left behind in the new citizenship, and, secondly, because computer competence is essential in a well-qualified workforce. However, today 60% of Swedish women and 69% of Swedish men use a computer daily, either at home or at work (Statistics Sweden, 2006). The picture of women as not being interested in computers and computer competence does not hold true any more. Women do use computers, and they also enrol on computer courses. But how are these courses functioning for the students—men and women? Do women and men come to the course with similar interests and similar knowledge? What about different age groups? These are the questions that this study tries to answer.
This is a study of computer students in Swedish municipal adult education centres. The main focus is on the differences between men and women, and between women of different ages when it comes to their interest in and experiences of computers and computer education.