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ERIC Number: EJ808942
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 14
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 15
ISSN: ISSN-1547-9714
Gender Differences in Students' Perceptions of Information Technology as a Career
Thomas, Theda; Allen, Alesha
Journal of Information Technology Education, v5 p165-178 2006
This paper reports on an investigation into first year students' perceptions of IT as a career. There are many stereotypes of the typical IT professional. These stereotypes are often depicted in the media and affect students' perceptions of the career and whether they should study IT or not. An exploratory study into male and female first year students' perceptions of the IT professional is presented. The participants included students studying the Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Information Systems degrees at ACU National in Melbourne, Australia. The study investigated the differences and similarities between the perceptions of males and females as well as where they came by those perceptions. The study found that the majority of students had chosen to drop IT as a subject at school by Year 10 of their schooling. Males and females differ in their reasons for giving up IT, with females listing computer illiteracy and dislike of being called a nerd as their main reasons and males listing boredom, teachers not being encouraging and little creativity as their main reasons for stopping. The students were then asked questions relating to the IT industry. A t-test showed that females were significantly more negative about the industry in their answers to three of the questions, namely "Is it "uncool" to be interested in computers?" "Does the IT industry offer good job prospects?" and "Are people working in the IT industry "nerds/computer geeks"?" The survey then went on to look at the technical versus non-technical issue in perceptions of an IT career. The majority of the participants believed that an IT job consists mainly of technical work and working at a computer. This was true for all the students across both genders. The majority of students did not know any females in the IT industry and could not name any female role models from real life or from TV or film. Some of the role models that they did mention were cartoon characters. The final part of the survey tried to determine where the students felt that their knowledge of an IT career came from. Both males and females choose schooling, friends and the media as their main sources of knowledge of the area. It is interesting to note that although there were no significant differences in where they gained their perceptions, the perceptions themselves were different. The research is explorative but, if the findings are found to be true, then there are some methods that might help to address the problem of females not choosing an IT career. The first recommendation is that the problem needs to be tackled in the early years--primary and lower secondary school. As students say that much of their knowledge of IT as a career comes from school, the school curriculum should be looked at to determine if it is suitable for both sexes. This could include the curriculum itself or the way in which it is taught and assessed. Another avenue that could be addressed is way in which computer personnel are depicted in the media. Girls' magazines that target the early teen market could be used by Computer Societies to raise the profile of girls seeing technology as fun, worthwhile and a job that they might consider. This could be done through sponsoring activities, advertisements or games. The research is limited in its generalizability and further research will need to be done to determine how to address the issues raised. (Contains 8 tables.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia