Feeds

Ladies put off tech careers by sci-fi posters, Coke cans

Coffee, books, pics of 'nature' or 'art' recommended

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

There's more research out this week on the vexed question of why there aren't more women in the field of computing and IT. According to the latest study, such seemingly harmless habits as putting up sci-fi posters or leaving cans of Coke about can be much more offputting than one might think.

"When people think of computer science the image that immediately pops into many of their minds is of the computer geek surrounded by such things as computer games, science fiction memorabilia and junk food," says Sapna Cheryan, a junior trick-cyclist at the university of Washington, America. "That stereotype doesn't appeal to many women who don't like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes."

Cheryan and her colleagues arranged multiple experiments and surveys among hundreds of non-computing-subjects students at Washington uni. Questionnaires were filled in in different rooms - one previously prepared with a science fiction poster, games kit and Coke cans; one instead with "nature" and "art" wall graphics, books and coffee cups. This stage dressing was ostensibly not part of the tests, but nonetheless it had a powerful effect on decisions by the ladies taking part.

Specifically, women filling in questionnaires in the stereotypically geeky room were significantly less likely to express interest in computer-science related studies or careers. having seen both environments, and then hypothetically offered a chance to work in an all female team in either kind of room, they still went for the non-geeky atmos.

Similarly, when it was postulated that they had received job offers from two different firms - one full of Chewbacca desk toys etc, the other "non-stereotypical" - the ladies went overwhelmingly for the less geeky option. So did the chaps, in fact, but among them the preference was distinctly less marked.

"We want to attract more people to computer science. The stereotype is not as alienating to men as women, but it still affects them as well," argues Cheryan. "A lot of men may also be choosing to not enter the field because of the stereotype ... It would be nice for computer scientists in movies and television to be typical people, not only computer geeks."

Of course, one should bear in mind that this study was done among students from non-computing courses, probably indicating a lack of interest in the subject and quite likely a lack of aptitude too. It may not be that brilliant an idea for IT firms to remake their corporate atmosphere to attract such people.

On the other hand, it's possible to argue along with Cheryan that more ladies in the techy workplace would not only widen the recruiting pool of itself; it would also attract a wider selection of chaps into the field, too.

Whether that would be sufficient to justify replacing the treasured posters with tasteful framed prints, relegating the dubious tins of pop in favour of an espresso machine etc - well, that's probably a matter for the comments.

Meanwhile, for those interested in the details, Cheryan and her colleagues' research is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.