Female computer science students not in favour of women’s-only degree programmes
It appears that many IT posts will remain unfilled again this year. One reason is the lack of emerging female talent. Women currently account for 21 per cent of all IT students at German higher education institutions. A survey of computer science students conducted by the CHE Centre for Higher Education investigates the reasons for this disparity, and ways to counteract it. The results show: only a small proportion of female students wish to see women’s-only programmes. More promising approaches are the introduction of more practical elements into the programme, and good supervision.
Women are a minority in many Computer Science degree programmes in Germany. This is due not only to prevailing gender stereotypes, but also to how the degree programmes are designed, and the fact that there is a lack of role models in academic and professional settings.
A survey of 2,600 computer science students conducted by CHE revealed that the majority of female students are in favour of examples and exercises that appeal to both genders, but not women’s-only options.
Only 3.4 per cent of the female respondents were in favour of separate degree programmes for women. One in eight female IT students would like to have single-sex programming courses, and only around eight per cent wanted to see study groups or tutorials for women.
Isabel Roessler explained: “Women on computer science degree programmes do not want to be perceived as a minority with special needs. They want good support and good concepts, but do not want special treatment.” For this reason, supervisory options, particularly at the start of the programme, should not be presented as actions targeted at women, advised the author of the study and Senior Project Manager at CHE.
In addition, experts involved in the project outlined three fields of action to make IT degree programmes more appealing to women. These include
attractive advertising that brings out the special features of IT programmes, such as their interdisciplinary content, an
appealing concept, with elements such as flexible and interdisciplinary programmes with a high degree of practical relevance, and
good supervision and support, for instance, in the form of tutorials or data-driven feedback on performance.
Isabel Roessler, leader of the study, believes that there are realistic opportunities for improvement in that area: “We do not need new degree programmes to make computer science more appealing to women as a subject; instead, we require better conditions in aspects such as supervision and student marketing.”
A total of 14 recommendations for action developed within the project were presented at the final conference of the FRUIT project, entitled “If in doubt – do IT: Women in Computer Science”. This event was hold in the Berliner Stadtmission Grand Chamber on 24/25 January.
About the publication A working paper entitled “Frauen in IT: Handlungsempfehlungen zur Gewinnung von Frauen für Informatik” (Women in IT: recommendations for action for recruiting women to computer science) was published in January 2019, in parallel with the final conference of the FRUIT research project. The publication was written by Julius-David Friedrich, Cort-Denis Hachmeister, Sigrun Nickel, Sude Peksen, Isabel Roessler and Saskia Ulrich. The recommendations were based primarily on expert workshops, as well as an analysis of a survey of 2,600 students on Bachelor’s programmes in Computer Science at German higher education institutions. This is equivalent to around 9 per cent of the entire student population in this department.
The publication is part of the project “Erhöhung des Frauenanteils im Studienbereich Informationstechnologie durch flexible, praxisorientierte und interdisziplinäre Studienganggestaltung” (FRUIT) (Increasing the proportion of women in IT subjects by designing degree programmes to be flexible, practice-oriented and interdisciplinary). The project receives funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the funding ID 01FP1635. For more information, visit www.che.de/fruit
Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.