Why Females Do Not Choose Computing? A Lesson Learned from China

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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The declining participation of young American females in computing fields negatively impacts diversity in the computing-related workforce. While computing in China is also dominated by men, career prospects are positively perceived by Chinese women. The purpose of this paper is to investigate both countries' female gender perceptions toward computing and two influencing psychological factors, computer anxiety and computer self-efficacy (CSE). To better understand American females' perception toward computing, these factors are compared to those of Chinese women. The paper tried to understand gender perception toward computing, which is believed to be one factor influencing female participation in computing. The paper examined 137 American female students and 145 Chinese female students. All students were non-IT-related business majors. The survey contained the following scales: gender typing scale, CSE scale, and computer anxiety rating scale. The paper used the model comparison technique in structural equation modeling to develop the proposed model demonstrating the relationship among the three psychological factors. It is found that American females perceive that computing is for females, but Chinese females perceive that computing is for both males and females. Computer anxiety has a direct influence on gender perception toward computing for both groups. CSE, however, does not have a direct influence on gender perception toward computing for both groups. CSE also has a direct relationship with computer anxiety. The extent to which each factor influences other factors is different between both groups and this reveals interesting implications. The authors believe that to properly encourage female participation in computing, it is important to emphasize two areas in education. In order to lower computer anxiety and increase CSE, educators need to promote basic computer skills and provide a fundamental knowledge of computers and information technologies. A more positive perception by females could be created through a stronger awareness of female roles in computing. Classroom discussions including more examples of positive female role models in computing is necessary. Female professionals need to support each other and encourage young females to pursue computing-related education fields and careers. There is an important need to understand the decline of American female participation in computing. Few researchers have investigated gender perception toward computing with computer anxiety and CSE. Furthermore, a model explaining the relationship of the three factors previously had not been presented. This paper not only investigated how computer anxiety and CSE influences gender perception toward computing, but also compared these results between American and Chinese females. A suggested guideline to improve gender perception of American females was developed.