Investigation into Gender Perception toward Computing: A Comparison between the U.S. and India

Investigation into Gender Perception toward Computing: A Comparison between the U.S. and India

Kittipong Laosethakul, Thaweephan Leingpibul, Thomas Coe
DOI: 10.4018/jicte.2010100103
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A potential explanation for the decline of female participation in computing-related education and careers in the United States is the perception that computing is for males. In this regard, declining participation limits diversity in the IT workforce. Therefore, this paper investigates the impact of two psychological factors, computer anxiety and computer self-efficacy, on gender perception toward computing between American male and female students. The authors also investigate whether the same relationship is found in India, where, while computing is dominated by males, female participation is rapidly increasing due to global IT outsourcing.
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Computing has been perceived as a male domain for some time. When perceived as a specific gender domain, it can discourage the other gender from participating in computing-related activities, which impacts diversity and work productivity between male and female employees in computing-related activities. In recent years, female participation in computing-related education and careers has declined in the U.S. One explanation for this problem is the female perception that computing is a male domain (Nobel, 2007; Leventman et al., 2004; Tahmincioglu, 2008). When computing is perceived as a male domain, it means that computing is perceived as an occupation-stereotyped male, males have higher computer self-efficacy than females, and males have lower computer anxiety than females (Rainer et al., 2003, p. 108). Tahmincioglu (2008, paragraph 12) reported that American females perceive computing as a male activity and a “geeky and nerdy” profession. According to Collis (1985), females tend to stereotype computer users – people who like computers are not socially or athletically-inclined. The decline of female participation reinforces male domination. When males dominate computing, they may be able to control computing-related activities by establishing behaviors that cause negative experiences for females, such as discrimination and the “glass ceiling” phenomenon (Rainer et al., 2003). This, in turn, discourages female participation even further.

Studies show that computer self-efficacy and computer anxiety are closely related to gender perception toward computing. However, no model has previously demonstrated the relationship between these three constructs. We believe that there is a relationship among these constructs which explains differences in perception between males and females. This study intends to develop a model that demonstrates these relationships.

Additionally, this study investigates whether our model holds across the U.S. and India; where, as in the U.S., computing is dominated by men (Dasgupta, 2004). Due to global IT outsourcing, computing has presented increased opportunities for both Indian men and women. Consequently, the number of Indian females in computing has been rising (Agarwal, 2005). We attempt to understand whether our model, which identifies the potential differences between American males and females, holds across both countries and also if the relationships among the psychological factors for Indian males and females offer insights toward decreasing gender stereotyping and/or increasing female participation in computing in the U.S.

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