Sail's Pedagogy

Sail's posts about her class, classes she is taking, and education.

Geeks and Girls

on August 20, 2010

“Women earned about half of the bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering in 2006 (the last year for which the National Science Foundation has data), but only 20 percent of the degrees in computer science. That figure is dropping.

Cheryan’s research offers an explanation: Women don’t identify with the archetypal image of computer scientists. Cheryan’s subjects describe this image as “nerdy, techie, stay up late coding, energy drinks, no social life.… They don’t frequently take showers.” The geek room conjures this picture in our minds, Cheryan says, based only on the stuff we find lying around.

“You can walk into someone’s house and immediately get a sense of whether you belong or not. You don’t even have to know the people,” she says. “It communicates a sense of who put together that environment, who is currently in that environment, and who should be in that environment.” Her research also provides a potential solution: Change the perceptions by changing the stuff.

Jennifer Crosby of Williams College Professor Sapna Cheryan from Stanford University is bring girls into Second Life to see how they react to classrooms, especially those in a computer science area.

“Environmental things send really strong messages about who belongs in a domain and who doesn’t.


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