IT courses need “radical” change to attract women

Computing courses need to change to make them more appealing to women, according to a computing science professor at the University of Alberta.

IT courses need

As we revealed in the latest issue of PC Pro (on sale now), women can excel in technology industries, but are still massively under represented in the industry and on university courses. In 2009, for example, male graduates in computer science and maths courses outnumbered women by 7,455 to 1,545.

“If you want more females in computing science, you need to radically change the curriculum,” said Mike Carbonaro of the university’s faculty of education. “You need to provide activities that are more gender neutral so that they’ll be attracted to the discipline.”

If you want more females in computing science, you need to radically change the curriculum

The researchers found that women were far more interested in designing and building games than they were in playing them, suggesting that systems that teach students how to make, rather than use, programs could be beneficial for female students.

In the study, students were taught a program called ScriptEase, which allowed them to develop and design their own games, with women working alongside men with more experience in game programming.

The findings suggested the female students enjoyed creating games as much as their male counterparts and preferred game construction to activities such as story writing. The researchers also claimed in the process the female students had gained and used practical skills that were crucial to understanding computing science.

“The female students built games that were every bit as good as the male students made, even though the male students had more experience with playing games,” said Carbonaro.

“In terms of the quality of the games developed and the abstraction skills that the students learned, which could translate to knowledge of competing science, there was no difference between the two groups.”

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