Human-Computer Interaction: Ergonomics and User Interfaces - Vol. 1

By Hans-Jörg Bullinger; Jürgen Ziegler | Go to book overview
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Gender and Computer Expertise

Laurel King
University of Hawai'i


There is an underlying social construction that defines technology as ,,masculine" and continues to act as a psychological and social barrier to females being interested in computers and other machines. This difference in expectations, in turn, encourages fewer women than men to enter into computer science and technology fields, despite the absence of any gender-based differences in intelligence. Various studies have shown that males continue to show higher computer proficiency levels and greater representation in computer-related fields than females. This tendency to exclude women from physical science and technology fields not only affects the women who are denied the higher pay and prestige associated with these areas, but also adversely affects the fields themselves ( Turkle and Papert, 1990).

Studies have found that girls learn better through cooperative rather than competitive activities (e.g., Scott et al., 1991). Software company Purple Moon's marketing research shows that girls favor ,,role-playing games with real-life characters, adventure games in which having new experiences -- not winning -- is the goal, and drawing, creative writing, and clue-based games." ( Yovovich, 1997). Joiner et al., 1996, found that software theme affected girls' computer performance but found no relationship between theme preference and performance for boys. Elkjaer, 1992, showed that despite any innate differences in ability, girls are often treated and act as ,,guests" and boys as ,,hosts" in computer related activities. Female teachers are often untrained in computers and reinforce gender expectations because they are usually dependent on male teachers that do have computer skills and male principals to help introduce computer skills in their classrooms ( Apple et al., 1990, Lee, 1997, or Reinen et al., 1997). There is also much evidence to support the claim that boys are getting preferential treatment in the classroom, particularly in subjects considered to be ,,masculine", such as math and physical science. Corston et al., 1996, found a


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