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The under-representation of women in IT: a participatory research approach assessment of 14-year olds’ perceptions of IT/ICT as a school subject and possible future career

By Elizabeth E Ibegbulam


In Year 9, when boys and girls are expected to make choices regarding what they want to become when they grow up, many take a crucial decision to drop or side-line IT as an academic subject, which in turn steers them away from a possible future IT career. This thesis examines the reasons why IT careers are not well-imagined or popular amongst teenagers at this critical time of their lives. Taking the widely acknowledged ‘women in IT’ problem as a starting point, it focuses specifically on gender differences that exist in relation to how teenagers form their ideas about IT as an academic subject, as a possible career and in everyday life.\ud \ud 79 boys and 85 girls participated in this study from a mixture of 12 state-maintained and nine independent secondary schools (single-sex and co-educational) in Southeast London Borough. This research was exploratory and used an age-appropriate, participatory and mixed-methods framework incorporating: a questionnaire, a creativity map exercise, group and individual interviews, mini-focus groups, and observations. During the interviews, students were also provided with information and opportunities regarding IT careers. I argue this has been of benefit to the students as well as the research, as it has prompted them to think about a career they previously had not even considered.\ud \ud The findings of my study indicate boys were more likely than girls to say that they liked and enjoyed IT/ICT1 as a subject and would consider IT as a career choice for the future. Evidence throughout the study does not suggest girls lack confidence with regard to their general engagement with and use of technology, compared to the boys. Rather, the findings suggest more needs to be done in the area of role models, mentors and careers advice to inform more girls (and boys) about IT careers. The thesis concludes with recommendations for further research, especially in light of the new computing curriculum, which commenced in September 2014

Topics: LC0212.9
Year: 2016
OAI identifier:

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