Thursday, December 17, 2009

Star Trek turns women away from computer science

Thanks to Derek Rayside for sending me this article about how Star Trek decor "stops women from becoming computer scientists. Prof. Sapna Cheryan at University of Washington reports on a study where they surveyed the impressions of college students on computer science after spending time in a room decorated with Star Trek and other "geek" paraphernalia and after spending time in a "neutral" room. They report that women were less desiring of joining the "geeky room" after graduation while men did not express a similar bias. While the results of this study seem somewhat "well, duh" and the experimental setup may seem a bit cheesy*, this sort of research is probably important for helping institutions identify what is driving underrepresented minorities away from fields like computer science.

* It seems like a cleaner way to arrive at the same conclusion is to test whether women express stronger preference for room decor than men do. The current setup (and the current reporting) makes all sorts of assumptions about the gendering of geek culture and women's interest in Star Trek and comic books. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it perpetuates gender roles which 1) may be societal constructions and 2) may be harmful.

No comments: