Gender Balance in Computing
Researching the best ways to encourage more women to study Computer Science.
Gender Balance in Computing is a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation; STEM Learning; BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT; the Behavioural Insights Team; Apps for Good; and WISE.
Why this research is important
Sadly, many young women do not see computing-related subjects as an option for their future career. Research suggests that a variety of factors are likely to be responsible, including feeling like they don’t belong in the subject or its community, a lack of sustained encouragement, and a lack of computing role models when they are learning about the subject.
The Gender Balance in Computing research programme aims to find out what works to encourage girls to develop an interest during their primary and secondary school years, and increase the number of young women who choose to study Computer Science at GCSE and A level. We are running a number of pilot studies and Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) to assess the impact of different types of intervention on female pupil's engagement in computing. We use standardised surveys measuring different aspects of engagement and attitudes towards computing, as well as intention to study GCSE computing, to measure the impact of the interventions.
Teaching Approach: Trialling pair programming, peer instruction and storytelling as approaches to teaching Computing.
Belonging: Encouraging a sense of belonging in the subject, including work with role models and involving parents and carers.
Informal learning: Making the link between non formal activities and future opportunities in computing.
Relevance: Supporting teachers to bring students interest and things they care about into their teaching.
Subject choice and options materials: Exploratory research into potential barriers to choosing to study the subject further.
What's currently happening with the programme?
Several interventions are close to completion and others are underway in schools now. Our independent evaluators will be reporting on the results of the trials as they are completed.
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Recently as part of Careers Week we spoke to women working in tech about their experiences with computer science.
“For me, the most interesting thing is understanding behaviours - I enjoy and learn more when we go above and beyond current technology and think more about everyday habits and general consumer behaviour.”
Senior UX Researcher
“The thing I love is when you read stories about how Alexa has helped people. The leader of a charity for blind people said how much Alexa has helped him, because its users are now able to access RNIB-verified information via voice commands.”
“I think computer science is super interesting and can help tackle all sorts of real-world problems. There are still so many open research questions and computer science is definitely a valuable skill in academia!”
British Antarctic Survey