Mission (im-)possible? Increasing the participation of female students in university computing courses

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Miliszewska, Iwona, Venables, Anne and Tan, Grace (2006) Mission (im-)possible? Increasing the participation of female students in university computing courses. In: Engagement and empowerment : new opportunities for growth in higher education : EDU-COM 2006 conference proceedings, 22nd - 24th November 2006. Renner, John, Cross, Jim and Bell, Catherine, eds. Edith Cowan Univesity, Perth, pp. 335-345.


In 1990 the Australian Federal government set a target for a 40% enrolment rate of females in all non-traditional areas of study including computer science. In view of this target, the low enrolment of females in computer science at Victoria University is a persisting concern: enrolment rates have continued to decline from 30% in the early 1990s to less than 20% in recent years, despite significant attempts to arrest the decline by introducing annual student recruitment events such as school visits, career nights, and University Open Days. This suggested that the issue of encouraging females to study computing needed to focus more directly on factors deterring females from pursuing computing courses. Misperceptions about the nature of computing studies have long been regarded as such a factor. Accordingly, last year a different initiative was launched. Focusing on girls from the neighbouring high schools, it aimed to dispel the misperceptions, and encourage girls to pursue computing studies, by demonstrating how interesting, easy, and female-friendly computing is at Victoria University. The girls were invited to spend a day in the shoes of a computing student at the University by participating in specially designed classroom activities, interacting with female university students, and lunching at the student cafeteria. While the event proved a winner on the day, it remains to be seen if it will translate into improved female enrolments in the future. However, the effort involved in organising the event and the difficulties encountered in the process revealed the extent and complexity of the struggle for increased participation of females in computing studies. The following questions arose: Who is interested in pursuing the cause? Who is prepared to support it? What would it take to make a change? This paper reflects on these issues.

Item type Book Section
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/6108
Official URL http://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1...
ISBN 0729806383
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Engineering and Science
Keywords ResPubID11811, career choices, decisions, career exploration, development, gender stereotypes, misconceptions, secondary school students, student attitudes, student beliefs, student interests, university bound students, impossible, computer, IT, Victoria University, Melbourne
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