This post is a summation and response to “Gender-based occupational choices of adolescents,” a 2007 study, by Els Rommes, Geertjan Overbeek, Ron Scholte, Rutger Engels & Raymond de Kemp.

The study seeks to explore the following question: Which cultural factors offer an explanation for girls’ reluctance to choose technological subjects, such as computing science? In-depth interviews with 35 adolescents (29 female) were conducted along with nine focus group interviews with 51 other adolescents (23 female).  The following questions were asked in the interview: What were the adolescents’ images of technologists/computing scientists and computing science as a job? What were their own future career plans/hopes/fears? Which elements were decisive in their choice for a profession?

The researchers found that none of the girls had considered a career in computing science. Furthermore, they prefer working with people to working with things. [Although female computing scientists in Belgium described their job as ‘dealing with the needs of clients’.] Lastly, the masculine or feminine image of a profession is more important for a girl’s choice than whether these professions match her personal interests.

The following implications should be considered. Would more sexually attractive and glamorous female role models change the negative prototypes of computing scientists? [Though one attempt at this, the Screen Goddess IT calendar, wasn’t well received.] Why and how do some adolescents ignore or subvert prototypes? How do some professions gain or lose each heavily ‘sexed’ prototype?

This is a part of the continuing conversation I have with myself over the gender and computer science argument. The conversation that seems to have no good solutions, thus no ending. And when a solution is proposed, something goes horribly wrong with it (think: Screen Goddess calendar). One week before Spring Break and I want to throw my hands up and say, “I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know why/who has these stupid ideas about stereotypical careers. And why are they perpetuating them?”

[Ok, I’ll do my best not to rant anymore. But it does/is driving me crazy.]

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