Introducing Young Females to Information Technology

Introducing Young Females to Information Technology

Michaele D. Laws (ETSU GIST, USA) and Kellie Price (ETSU GIST, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch129
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The difficulties in recruiting females into information technology and computer science (CS) have been well documented. Engineering disciplines have faced the same problem for many years. Some of the main underlying issues include unsupportive classroom environments (Hall & Sandler, 1982), gender-related perceptions of performance, a lack of role models, and inadequate peer communities (Zappert & Stansbury, 1984). Other contributing factors are the amount of positive computing experience gained prior to enrollment at the university level (Robers, Kassianidou, & Irani, 2002) and self-confidence. Research provides significant evidence to indicate that, even though females perform at the same levels as their male counterparts, they have less confidence in their abilities (Arnold, 1993; Fisher, Margolis, & Miller, 1997; Sax, 1994; Strenta, Elliot, Matier, Scott, & Adair, 1994). This lack of confidence keeps many females out of the technical classes. Finally, those females that do enter IT or CS courses may come to the discipline with multiple interests and, consequently, feel out of place at times among their more single-minded male counterparts (Widnell, 1988). While it is predicted that 8 of the 10 fastest growing occupations from 2000 to 2010 will be in the IT or CS fields, it is expected that women will not be equally represented within these occupations (; Camp, 1997). The underrepresentation of women in computer science was given priority in the June 2002 special issue of SIGCSE Bulletin dedicated to women and computing, bringing focus to previous and current research regarding this dilemma. One particular factor highlighted in this bulletin is that changing this male-dominant field requires the crucial step of targeting young females in an effort to dispel stereotypical ideations and gender bias associated with computer science, thus attracting more women to the profession (American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, 1999). Girls in Science and Technology (GIST) is a free science and technology camp at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) making efforts to change these trends. The primary goal of the girls-only GIST camp is to introduce females to the fields of information technology, computer science, and math by providing discipline-related activities, enhancing teamwork competency, connecting females with women mentors working in the field, and creating a challenging yet fun atmosphere free from male competition. The hope is that this exposure will instill technical confidence and aptitude in the young females that will last through their college careers, giving them a positive outlook on information technology.

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