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"Trek" to Blame for Gender Gap in Comp. Sci.?


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Report this Dec. 23 2009, 11:39 am

The fan site reported yesterday on a new study, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which suggests that shows like Star Trek "may be partly responsible for the widening gender gap in computer science careers." The study's findings imply that women may be dissuaded from such careers by "the nerdy stereotypes associated with Star Trek and computer science."

Poll question: Do you agree with the study's findings? Why or why not?


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Report this Dec. 24 2009, 1:00 pm

No way ladies are better at it than we are most times :eyesroll:


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Report this Dec. 24 2009, 5:00 pm

As someone in the software industry from mid 1980s to now, I can vouch for the severe decline in female as software professionals. In mid 1980s, tier I/II computer science classes in major American universities have about 1/3 women. (This cannot be said for Electrical Engineering or other engineering programs where the ratio seemed like 1/10 women.) In software companies, women were well presented in management as well during 1980s and early 1990s.

But all these changed drastically this decade. I see less and less qualified women as software engineers and managers. It's now at the ratio similar to electrical engineering back in the late 80s, and that's 1 in 10 approximately.

Now, the question is did Star Trek caused it with it's rising popularity in the 1990s, which recruited new fans from TNG era. It's possible. The active fans promoted the geek image, which is obviously not popular and frequently ridiculed by the general public. While I dated several (intelligent) women during that time, not one liked Star Trek and all thought people are bunch of stiffs (Picard, Data, Worf and even Troi) and language was incomprehensible (techno-babbling).

Granted, there are women who love science and their passion did not get persuaded by peers. But bulk of the general public are not that strong willed and will go with flow of popularity, or at least stay away to avoid being lumped as geeks and labeled "uncool".


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Report this Dec. 24 2009, 8:25 pm

I would have to disagree. Besides which, anyone who is really so petty as to be put off by some silly "image" is probably too stupid for a career in the sciences anyway.


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Report this Dec. 25 2009, 11:31 pm

Quote (OtakuJo @ Dec. 24 2009, 8:25 pm)
I would have to disagree. Besides which, anyone who is really so petty as to be put off by some silly "image" is probably too stupid for a career in the sciences anyway.

AMAN :honorable:


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Report this Dec. 26 2009, 5:10 am

Not having read the actual study, I'm curious about what the hypothesis actually was, and how the socialogical experiment supports such a conclusion. It seems like someone wanted to prove something and he/she did, more or less.

Even assuming that the test subjects were a fair representation of social realities, and that's a big assumption, there's still no basis for the nerdy image conclusion. Is Star Trek necessarily associated with nerdiness? That, as well, needs support.

I'm a software developer and, believe it or not, I've worked with male developers who are not big fans. I do not believe that Trek appeals significantly more to men than women in the general population.

While I'm worried that XI's return to mini-dress uniforms and, even worse, a male adolescent's view of women conveyed, may lessen the appeal for women. If there's any validity whatsoever in this socialogical experiment, which I question in general, then a recency effect of XI on current students, men and women, should be considered for scewing its results.


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Report this Dec. 26 2009, 10:37 am

if females don't want to be in technical fields it's their choice. I mean they can buy into the geek image if they want but as long as I get paid to do something that's good who gives a hoot.


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Report this Dec. 28 2009, 2:01 pm

The more I read about this study, the more dubious it seems. According to Wired magazine's analysis, the study's author, Sapna Cheryan, tested his hypothesis "by alternately decorating a computer science classroom with objects that earlier surveys pegged as stereotypically geeky--Star Trek posters, videogames and comic books--or with objects that the surveys found to be neutral--coffee mugs, plants and art posters. Thirty-nine college students spent a few minutes in the room, then filled out a questionnaire on their attitudes toward computer science."

There are at least two problems with Cheryan's methodology. First, thirty-nine students doesn't seem like a large-enough sampling to draw any meaningful conclusions. Second, as someone who has worked in the computer-science industry for over 15 years, I have yet to see a single office space decorated with any of the "stereotypically geeky" objects described in the article.

Another interesting take on the Cheryan study appeared last week at According to author Latoya Paterson, "focusing on the internal motivations for why women avoid stereotypical or gendered areas...obscures the nature of societal norms to influence women away from engaging in the maths and sciences." In other words, to the degree that there is a gender gap in mathematical and scientific professions, it probably has less to do with how office spaces are decorated, and more to do with "societal idea(s) of what girls are 'supposed' to do and where they 'belong'."


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Report this Dec. 28 2009, 2:22 pm

That's utter idiocy dripping in foolishness.


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Report this Dec. 30 2009, 9:50 am

I disagree.  For the test to be even slightly accurate every person who went into computers and chose not to would have had to have seen trek and be fully aware of the series and the label it brings to fans.  Believe it or not, there are folks out there that have never seen an episode or movie.  (I am betting that it's a very large number too.)

Dan NJ

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