CS in the "College of Arts and Crafts": How Discourses of Gender and Prestige Shape Career Goals for Women in Computing

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-0882-9935
Lapan, Julia, Higher Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Pusser, Brian, ED-EDLF, University of Virginia

For decades, women have been underrepresented in computer science (CS) majors and careers. Existing research points to several structural and cultural barriers that prevent women from entering or persisting in the field. CS pathways through college must be better understood to fully support diverse participation in computing careers. Much of the literature to date has focused on individual-level factors, rather than on cultural and contextual variables that influence student participation in computing. Using a cultural-organizational approach combined with feminist theory, I conducted a qualitative case study in a Bachelor of Arts in CS program to learn how women’s career aspirations were shaped by computing culture and the college environment. Findings reveal that the organizational structure of college computing, discourses around gender and prestige, and competitive norms influenced students’ college experiences and career goals. Furthermore, the findings illustrate the ways that women/nonbinary students developed career goals in the male-dominated and prestige-laden environment of college computing. Implications for policy and practice around broadening participation in computing majors and careers are presented, and directions for future research are discussed.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
women in computing, cultural-organizational framework, feminist theory, computing career pathways, gender in higher education
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