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Stereotypes steer women away from computer science

Surroundings can ‘communicate a sense of belonging’ or ‘exclusion’

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8:09am, December 15, 2009

The gender gap in computer science may have been widened by Star Trek, a new study suggests — but it could be bridged with a less geeky image.

New research published in the December Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that the stereotype of computer scientists as unwashed nerds may be partially responsible for the dearth of women in the field, as shown by National Science Foundation statistics.

“What this research shows is that the image of computer science — this geeky, masculine image — can make women feel like they don’t belong,” says lead author Sapna Cheryan of the University of Washington.

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