What causes the scarcity of women in the field of computer science? While some pointed out that girls aren't attracted to math and science in high school, a new study by Sapna Cheryan of University of Washington revealed another factor: they're repulsed by geeks!
"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," said lead researcher Sapna Cheryan, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington. "That stereotype doesn't appeal to many women who don't like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes." [...]
In the first experiment, about 40 male and female students entered a small classroom that either contained objects stereotypically associated with computer science, such as Star Trek posters, video game boxes and Coke cans, or non-stereotypical items such as nature posters, art, a dictionary and coffee mugs. (The students were told to ignore these objects because the room was being shared with another class.)
Then, the students filled out questionnaires about their attitudes toward computer science.
In the geeky environment, women were significantly less interested than men in computer science, while there was no gender difference for the non-stereotypical classroom. Female students in the stereotypical environment said they felt less similar to computer-science majors than did those in the classroom that wasn't geeked out.