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2 years ago

COPING STRATEGIES FOR WOMEN IN COMPUTER SCIENCE*

COPING STRATEGIES FOR WOMEN IN COMPUTER SCIENCE*

CCSC: Rocky Mountain

CCSC: Rocky Mountain ConferenceRhonda:Experience:I’m pursuing computer science as a second bachelor’s degree. When I graduatedfrom high school 12 years ago, I originally planned on pursuing my computer sciencedegree then, but ended up shifting my focus to getting a History degree instead. Afterreceiving my History degree, I decided to go back to school. It was then that those whoknew me best encouraged me to put my computer skills to good use. At the time,however, the Information Systems degree seemed more appealing to me. While I wasvery knowledgeable about computers in high school, and took some programming classesthen, I wasn’t sure how much of my knowledge would apply when I returned to school.I felt that I would be less prepared than most students, because of that large gap of time.I assumed that many of my classmates would be male, and recent high school graduates,and that they would have certain advantages over me. I felt that most of my knowledgewas rather dated, but I soon found out that by applying myself, I was able to get betterthan most of my male classmates.Coping Strategy:My first term back at school, I wasn’t on campus much, except to go to class. Ipretty much kept to myself, but during my second term, I befriended another femaleclassmate during a computer lab. We worked together each week on our assignments,and it really helped us both learn to write code, because if one of us didn’t understandsomething, the other usually would. That partnership only lasted that one term, and it wasa year later before befriended any other female students. What helped me get throughthat year was creating a friendly rivalry between some of my male classmates. I strivedto be among the top students in my classes, and I usually was. But, as the classes gotharder, I was fortunate to form a relationship with some more of my female classmates,because there were times when I began to question if I really did know as much as mymale classmates and I usually felt stupid asking them for help. It was much morecomfortable working with other female students, for it felt good to ask questions and notfeel embarrassed.Bernadene:Experience:I took an aptitude test to find out what I could do with the things I was good at.Computer Science came up and the job market was still good, so I thought I would giveit a shot. The most experience I had with computers was writing papers for school,playing computer games, solitaire and emailing friends. When I heard some of the guystalking about classes they took in high school and having taken apart and put together alot of computers I was really intimidated by their knowledge.Coping Strategy:I tended to stay off by myself and try to study hard so I could “catch up” to everyoneelse. By the end of my first year I met Jacque and Debbie. Jacque and I were able tocommunicate well. I discovered that I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did. We have79

JCSC 21, 3 (February 2006)helped each other get through classes and terms with study groups and going over thematerial until we understood it.Jacque:Experience:During my first year at Western Oregon University, I felt much less prepared thanmy male counterparts within the department. In classes, questions were often asked andanswered by the male students that I didn’t understand. I also realized that many of mymale counterparts had grown up building computers as well as programming them,something my generation had not. This led me to question whether I belonged in this fieldof study. I was entirely prepared to change majors to Information Science, as it isconsidered an easier course of study, even though what drew me to Computer Science inthe first place was a love of programming.Coping Strategy:At the end of my first year, I talked to one of the professors about my feelings thatI wasn’t going to succeed in the Computer Science curriculum. Luckily, this professorwas well-versed on research regarding the obstacles that women face pursuing thisdegree. He shared his knowledge about the MIT study that documented the similarphenomenon that I was encountering. He reassured me that what I was experiencing wasfairly common among women. He also advised me to continue with my course of study.His opinion was that I would be able to complete the curriculum if I continued workingas hard as I had been. I left his office that day with his assurance that he would give mea pep-talk every term if that was what I needed to get through the program.SELF-ESTEEM IN WOMEN PURSUING COMPUTER SCIENCE DEGREESDROPS DURING THEIR COLLEGE YEARS.Literature Review:Female computer science students lose self-esteem during their college years whiletheir male counterparts gain self-esteem. A group of college valedictorians, both male andfemale, were asked to rate their intelligence relative to that of their peers prior to enteringcollege. Prior to college, 20% of each group placed themselves in the highest category.By their senior year, not a single woman rated herself in the highest category while 25%of the male students did. [2]Rhonda:Experience:When I first came back to school, my grades were very important to me, and I feltthat anything less than an A was a failure on my part. While I have been able to maintainan A average in the computer science curriculum, there are definitely times when I feelthat I just can’t make it through one of my classes. Twice I just panicked and droppedthe class, but for the most part, I stick with it and end up making it through it. After I80

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