Computer Science Stereotypes UF 100 Final Presentation

When people ask me what my major is, most
people don’t believe my response. I am a computer science major. There are many reasons why
people feel this way but a large reason is because I don’t look like what people think
a typical computer scientist looks like. One of the hardest things for most people to break
through is that I am a female. Out of all the STEM majors only 18% are female. What
Rosie the Riveter stood for during World War II still holds true today. During World War
II women did the jobs that were considered to be men’s work. Today, within STEM, women
are attempting to do the jobs that are perceived as masculine, and it isn’t always the easiest.
Women are just as capable of doing these jobs as men, but there are many things holding
them back. Women aren’t expected to succeed when they are in fields like computer science
or engineering. Because nobody expects them to succeed, they don’t expect themselves to
succeed either. This is just one of the barriers that women have to break through within STEM.
Another barrier that is equally as difficult is the label that is associated with STEM majors,
especially within computer science and engineering. Students at Stanford were asked to describe
what they thought a typical computer science major was like. Some of the most common responses
described them as nerdy, socially awkward, unattractive, that they wear glasses, and
that they have masculine interests. These interests were said to be video games and
computers. How hard would it be for a female who liked getting her nails done, going shopping,
and hanging out with her friends to go into a field like computer science when everyone
thought she should be the exact opposite of who she was? Pretty difficult right? But the
real question we need to ask ourselves is where did these perceptions come from?
When you think of computer scientists, engineers or mathematicians, what do you think they
look like? Perhaps you thought of someone like Bill Nye or maybe you thought of someone
completely different. But usually there is one common factor between these people, they
have been portrayed as the stereotypical nerdy and socially awkward character through social
media, books, movies, and television. Don’t get me wrong these, what are considered “stereotypical”
scientists do exist in the world but we have to figure out a way to remove the stereotypes
and include more people within STEM, both men AND women. In order to do this we need
to change how people perceive scientists. A study done here at Boise State showed exactly
what people remember of scientists in the past. When students were asked to name a famous
scientist 270 different males were named but only 22 different females were named. And
the females were named significantly less than the males. The top male scientists named
included people like Albert Einstein who developed the formula E=mc^2, Thomas Edison who invented
the light bulb and Sir Isaac Newton who discovered the laws of motion and gravity. Some of the
top females mentioned were Marie Curie who helped develop the theory of radioactivity,
Rosalind Franklin who discovered the structure of DNA and Florence Nightingale who helped
build the foundations of modern nursing. So then why was Marie Curie only mentioned 179
times compared to Albert Einstein’s 919? Even though these women made equally important discoveries,
they aren’t as well-known as men because people haven’t been educated about them and the important
things they did. By educating students about the discoveries both men AND women have made
in science this will take us one step closer to breaking the stereotype. So often now the
roles are changing, some men are stay at home fathers, some women are the bread winners,
some boys like to play with dolls, and some girls like to play with trucks, so why can’t
women be computer scientists or engineers too? Just because someone is good at math or science doesn’t mean they have to look a certain way
or like certain things. We need to encourage young students to join STEM by showing them
that they can have whatever hobbies they want and that you don’t have to look a specific
way to be a scientist. Whether you like to hike, dance, snowboard, play video games, or
just hang out with friends you could do it too.

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