Penn State Study Finds Girls Less Likely Than Boys to Be Encouraged by Parents to Study Computers

According to a study conducted by a scholar at the Lehigh Valley campus of Pennsylvania State University in Center Valleygirls and low-incomes students are less likely to be encouraged to study computers by their parents.

For this study, students were presented with a questionnaire that asked questions about their basic demographic profiles, use of computer technology, perceptions of computing and computing majors, and the influence of their parents and educators. The results found that while perception of women in STEM has improved over recent years, there is still a gender difference when it comes to parental support of academic studies in computing.

“There’s still a gender difference, which is a bit of a disappointment,” said author Jeffrey Stone, an assistant professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State Lehigh Valley. “Males were significantly more likely to agree that their parents stressed that computing skills were important. Females were less likely to agree that parents were stressing the importance of computer skills.”

Additionally, students from households with incomes less than $50,000 were less likely to agree that their parents stressed the importance of computing compared to their more well-off peers. However, on the bright side, nearly half of the participating students agreed that their high school teachers and counselors stressed the importance of computing skills.

Dr. Stone believes that his results demonstrate that universities need to take a broader approach at whom they target for outreach and recruitment programs for computer majors. He suggests that designing outreach programs specifically for parents could help encourage students from more diverse backgrounds to get involved with computing.

“The problem we’re encountering now is that, though students coming into the university may or may not have the skills that we expect them to have, they often have more skills and experience with computers than their parents,” said Dr. Stone. “How do we get past that? I think over time, that will change a bit. But, right now, I think the best thing a university can do is provide outreach programs to educate parents about different programs and different careers in the computing field.”

The full study, “Student Perceptions of Computing and Computing Majors,” was published in the Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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