Gender and Belonging in Undergraduate Computer Science

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Wisconsin Center for Education Research

While women’s overall participation across the sciences has been increasing, their participation in computer science has been decreasing. In this article, the authors qualitatively analyze local educational settings to better understand this tendency, focusing on student experiences in the kinds of gateway courses that have been shown to play such an important role in women’s decisions to leave the sciences (e.g., PCAST, 2012; Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). By using a theoretical framework that emphasizes the influence of contextualized interactions on student feelings of belonging, the authors address the following questions in reference to two gateway computer science courses at two universities: First, which characteristics and interactions in each gateway course context—including local classroom, departmental, institutional, or disciplinary characteristics—influence whether students in general and women in particular feel they belong in computer science? Second, how do local gateway course settings compare and contrast, and how does this analysis help us better understand women’s persistence in computer science?

careers in computer science, academic achievement, women in higher education, STEM careers