Gender Differences in Students’ Perceptions of Information Technology as a Career

Theda Thomas, Alesha Allen
InSITE 2006  •  Volume 6  •  2006
This paper reports on an investigation into first year students’ perceptions of IT as a career. There are many stereotypes of the typical IT professional. These stereotypes are often depicted in the media and affect students’ perceptions of the career and whether they should study IT or not. An exploratory study into male and female first year students’ perceptions of the IT professional is presented. The participants included students studying the Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Information Systems degrees at ACU National in Melbourne, Australia. The study investigated the differences and similarities between the perceptions of males and females as well as where they came by those perceptions. The study found that the majority of students had chosen to drop IT as a subject at school by Year 10 of their schooling. Males and females differ in their reasons for giving up IT, with females listing computer illiteracy and dislike of being called a nerd as their main reasons and males listing boredom, teachers not being encouraging and little creativity as their main reasons for stopping. The students were then asked questions relating to the IT industry. A t-test showed that females were significantly more negative about the industry in their answers to three of the questions, namely “Is it ‘uncool’ to be interested in computers?” “Does the IT industry offer good job prospects?” and “Are people working in the IT industry ‘nerds/computer geeks’?” The survey then went on to look at the technical versus non-technical issue in perceptions of an IT career. The majority of the participants believed that an IT job consists mainly of technical work and working at a computer. This was true for all the students across both genders. The majority of students did not know any females in the IT industry and could not name any female role models from real life or from TV or film. Some of the role models that they did mention were cartoon characters.
gender issues in IT, perceptions of IT
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