Few Women in Computer Science? Blame the Geeks!

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.


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I am a girl, has a BS in math and minor in CS. I taught myself how to build iPhone apps and I created a personal clothing app for the iPhone and iPod touch. Computer science requires sitting in front of a computer for a long period of time alone either coding or reading documentation, and that may seem boring and lonely. Most girls enjoy being around other people, learn and do things together. I think CS lacks the social aspect. I am sure guys appreciate girls who keep a good visual presentation and vice versa. Looking geeky is not a validation of one's ability to master a machine. Girls should not need to feel they have to dress nerdy or appreciate nerdy things to fit in. Star Trek Star Wars alike were created by men and for men to fulfil their fantasies, it's annoying people assume you have to like these sci fi stories if you are in CS. Nerds don't need a makeover, the field in general needs one badly.
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My son almost never plays video games but he lives and breaths computers. It is how his mind works. I love to use the internet and use the computer but that is as far as my interest goes. I want to do things related to human beings. If I was college age and loves computers as my son does I would major in computer programming no matter how many geeky guys are around. I took photography and joined the bike club even though there were no more than a couple of other women in each. The guys were great and helped me on many occasions. Do what you love and love what you do and stop worrying so much. Don't major in computer science unless you love it with a burning passion because it will get old fast.
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I am a woman, a hot one I hear and most people thing that I am in business. During my first day at Comp Sci grad class someone asked if I was lost. Till i crushed them during tests and presentations.

I agree with the premise of this study, that CS and 'Nerds' are a daunting group. there is a definite group mentality but its based more on show boating and fear of people realizing just how little you do know that it is about any actual women being intimidated by a physical environment. As Necronomoc recoversy said;...post from the 50's. The study misses its mark by making a stupid physical space argument.

No doubt its an intimidating environment. But for human reasons. I always felt this field is about showing off and he/she who shows off the most is considered the expert when we should use measures that other industries use like licenses for doctors or law or engineering. Maybe then we would be less needing to be closed off and engage other non tech people more..
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Sorry, but woman have no one but themselves to blame. The truth is, computer science is a difficult major. CompSci majors have to work all-nighters while the business majors are out "networking" in the bars. This is the real reason women stay out of CompSci.
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