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Topic: Response to a Posting - Re: Computers and Women
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Response to a Posting - Re: Computers and Women
Posted: Sep 2, 1998 3:41 PM
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[Sent with permission of Prof. Leone Burton (from the UK).]

Jerry: The colleague, Cynthia (Lanius), who wrote:

> So are computers going to be the newest impediment to women's equity in
> science and mathematics?

might like to have a little anecdote from across the Pond. In
English universities, students groups studying computing/computer
science, etc. 15-20 years ago were almost 50% female. As a result of
this (in part?), when I did an audit of females teaching maths.,
stats., and computer science in UK universities in 1989, there were
women in post teaching computer science (not highly placed but they
existed) but they all were complaining of the fact that their classes
were becoming more and more male. One, for example, told me that the
ratio had gone from almost equal numbers to almost completely male
classes over the period which she had been teaching.

My conjecture is that when a discipline is new and untried (not yet
clearly socially defined), women applicants feel more comfortable and
are more acceptable. Once a discipline has achieved definition as a
male culture, both of these conditions change. But I believe that in
maths classrooms there are other factors in play such as transmissive
pedagogy, the dependency culture and the competition thus generated.
In other words, a masculine culture of learning, together with a
masculinist societal definition of the discipline is pretty
devastating for those who don't identify themselves or are not so
identified by the powerful group. In particular, with respect to
computers, they achieve scarce resource status in most of our
classrooms. So power and competition in their use go hand in hand.

All the best, leone

Leone Burton
Professor of Education (Mathematics and Science)
The University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT
tel: (44) 121 414 4812
fax: (44) 121 414 7845
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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