I am lecturing on gender and computer science and have found plenty of material outlining factors that impact female access to computer science courses. I stumbled across this paper: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2920173 which shows significant attainment differences at the highest degree level in UK universities. This raises questions about male focused course material and assessment methodologies. I wondered if there were many other papers on gender and attainment in CS? Google scholar has lots of generic studies, but few focused on CS.

Attainment here could be at any level, including compulsory education and work based assessments

  • $\begingroup$ When you say attainment, do you mean degree attainment? Job attainment? Can you add a little more description? $\endgroup$ – nova Nov 7 '17 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ have updated, I'm interested in any studie saround attainment $\endgroup$ – pluke Nov 7 '17 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ I associate the word attainment with highest degree achieved (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_attainment). That might be a U.S. quirk. Is your question about any sort of measure of achievement or performance? $\endgroup$ – nova Nov 7 '17 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ any sort of measure would do, this might be AP or some general programming proficiency test. The reference above uses UK degree levels $\endgroup$ – pluke Nov 7 '17 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @pluke Have you uncovered anything additional in the intervening time? If so, I would encourage you to also create an answer here, if only to help others in the future. $\endgroup$ – Ben I. Jan 12 '18 at 23:41

Failing to find an answer, I wrote this with Billy and Miles: https://dlnext.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3366016

From the abstract:

The change in the English computing curriculum and the shift towards computer science (CS) has been closely observed by other countries. Female participation remains a concern in most jurisdictions, but female attainment in CS is relatively unstudied. Using the English national pupil database, we analyzed all exam results (n = 5,370,064) for students taking secondary school exams in 2016, focusing on those students taking GCSE CS (n = 60,736), contrasting this against ICT (n = 67,359).

Combining gender with ethnicity and the IDACI poverty indicator, we find that females from the poorest areas were more likely to take CS than those from the richest areas and that CS was more popular among ethnic minority females than white females. ICT was far more equitable for females and poorer students than CS.

CS females typically got better grades than their male peers. However, when controlling for average attainment in other subjects, males got 0.31 of a grade higher. Female relative underperformance in CS was most acute among large female cohorts and with girls studying in mixed-gender schools. Girls did significantly better than boys in English when controlling for CS scores, supporting theories around female relative strengths lying outside STEM subjects.

The move to introduce CS into the English curriculum and the removal of the ICT qualifications look to be having a negative impact on female participation and attainment in computing. Using the theory of self-efficacy, we argue that the shift towards CS might decrease the number of girls choosing further computing qualifications or pursuing computing as a career. Computing curriculum designers and teachers need to carefully consider the inclusive nature of their computing courses.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for posting this! $\endgroup$ – Ben I. Nov 26 at 17:54

There is some interesting stuff in “After the reboot: computing education in UK schools”. It shows that a lot of the differences is girls/boys and background differences are mostly social constructs, e.g. by comparing all girl, all boy, and mixed schools.

It is not a research paper, but it does cite other work.

Figure from the report

Image taken with permission from the report (CC-BY).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sadly it doesn't appear to touch on attainment. I (being one of the authors), note that girls do better at GCSE CS, but they all outperform boys at most things: researchgate.net/publication/… p47 $\endgroup$ – pluke Nov 20 '17 at 9:32

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