Native American Women in Computing

Native American Women in Computing

Roli Varma (University of New Mexico, USA) and Vanessa Galindo-Sanchez (University of New Mexico, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch144
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In the 1990s, a number of efforts had been made to increase the representation of women in computer science (CS) and computer engineering (CE) education, mostly to compensate for the expected shortfall of candidates from the traditional source: 18-year-old non-Hispanic white males. Yet, women remain underrepresented in the CS and CE disciplines. The underrepresentation of minority women is especially conspicuous and is absolutely glaring among Native American women. Though there are studies on the underrepresentation of women in CS and CE education, there are very few studies on minority women, and there is very little scholarly work on Native American women. Because Native Americans—officially classified as American Indians and/or Alaska Natives—are relatively small in number (1.5% of the U.S. population), they are seldom represented in assessments of gender and/or racial disparities in CS and CE education. The educational attainment levels of Native American women have improved significantly over the last two decades. Despite these advances, the education level of Native American women remains considerably below the levels of the total population. They are less likely than the total population to graduate from high school, to enroll in college, and to graduate from college (Madrid, 1997). Native American women who do enroll in and graduate from college are less likely to be in science or engineering disciplines. Native American women who do graduate in science or engineering disciplines are less likely to be in CS or CE. For instance, in 2001, Native Americans earned only 271 bachelor’s degrees in CS. Of these, Native American men earned 193 and women earned 78. Of incoming freshmen in 2002, only 4% of Native American men and 0.5% of Native American women intended to major in CS (National Science Foundation [NSF], 2004). This article discusses why so few Native American women pursue education in CS or CE disciplines after high school.

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