Location-Wise: A Mobile Application That Displays Real-Time Traffic of Locations Using Geolocation Data; The Gender Gap in Computer Science: Why There Are So Few Women in Computer Science, and How This Gender Gap Leads to Gender Bias in Tech Products

Chu, Shannon, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Cohoon, Jim, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Skadron, Kevin, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Computer science has the ability to create powerful technologies that people interact with on a daily basis. The technical project focused on the development of LocationWise, a mobile application that displays real-time crowd-levels of indoor locations using the geolocation data of users, and serves as a solution to help people avoid crowded indoor locations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The science, technology, and society (STS) research dealt with the gender gap in computer science, focusing on the underlying reasons of this large gender gap, and how this gender gap results in gender bias in technology products. The loosely coupled technical and STS topics demonstrate the extensive powers of computer technology. These technologies can be solutions for people’s everyday problems, but can also have the ability to detrimentally affect people’s lives every day, with gender bias being programmed into technology.
The technical report details the development of LocationWise, a mobile application that displays real-time traffic of indoor locations in the form of a heat map. During the pandemic, people run into the problem of arriving at a particular location and discovering that it is busier than they expected. LocationWise solves this problem by providing four core features: a heat map, a bar graph displaying activity levels by hour, a filter to narrow down locations by type(s) and activity level(s), and a search bar to find specific places. By having these four core features in a centralized design, users can best determine when it is the safest time to go to a particular location and which locations are the safest to go to at a certain time. Ultimately, the goal of this application is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in indoor locations.
LocationWise had mostly positive feedback from potential users. They found the centralized design to be very useful in determining which places were the least and most populated. The key feature that they found to be the most useful was the ability to filter by crowd levels, because Google Maps does not have a feature for that yet. However, some individuals did note that while this application is useful in the context of the pandemic, people might drop their precautions as soon as they get vaccinated. Nonetheless, the functionalities of this application extend beyond the pandemic, and can be used in a normal setting to simply determine the best time to go somewhere.
The motivation for undergoing the STS research was to uncover the causes for the large gender gap in computer science. The research then developed into examining the repercussions of the gender gap, and focused on one – gender bias in technology. Thus, the research question is: what underlying issues in America cause this large gender gap, and how does this gender gap lead to gender bias in technology? Horst and Rittel’s Wicked Problem Framing Theory was used to frame the gender gap as a wicked problem. The gender gap is a societal problem that is difficult or impossible to solve, and is ultimately a symptom of these four problems: the lack of STEM encouragement in young girls, the discouragement in introductory computer science classes, gender discrimination in the workplace, and misconceptions surrounding the gender gap. Evidence for this framework were gathered from national data, news articles, journals, and blogs.
With the research gathered regarding the four main issues, it became clear that the gender gap in computer science was not because of women’s lack of interest in the topic, but because of the conglomeration of different societal issues. Girls have been disadvantaged from the start, beginning from the way they are raised, to facing gender discrimination in the industry as adults. Consequently, this gender gap leads to gender bias in technology, since women are so outnumbered that their voices are often overpowered. Decisions made during each stage of the software development cycle can send a product down a gender-biased path. Thus, to decrease gender bias in technology, companies must raise awareness surrounding the devastating repercussions of gender bias, along with diversify the workforce.
The power of computers has significantly advanced just over the past couple decades, to the point where computer technology governs people’s lives daily. While computer technology can make people’s lives more convenient, it also has the capacity to negatively affect their lives. Thus, software engineers must be careful and meticulous with the products they develop, and be aware that their actions and decisions can influence the outcome of products.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Women in Computer Science, Women in STEM, Gender Gap in Computer Science, COVID-19, Mobile Application

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Jim Cohoon
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Shannon Chu, Maxwell Lindquist

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