Women equal men in computing skill, but are less confident: Study

In the workplace, women are as good as men in computing performance, but there is still a gender gap when it comes to confidence, according to new research.

Let’s just start by examining a statement that says, “Women just aren’t interested in computers.” Don’t you feel there is something wrong with the sentence that needs to be recognised. To dissect the problem, it is important to understand, why women are under-represented in the tech sector? Why do women avoid studying computer science?

According to a new research, women are as good as men when it comes to computing performance, but there is still a gender gap when it comes to confidence. Despite having the same abilities as men, many women fail to achieve as highly in the corporate world mainly due to the lack of confidence in their own abilities. 

The experiment and its findings:

During the experiment, the study participants were randomly assigned basic, intermediate, and advanced problems on laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. There was no difference in the performance between men and women in the total number of questions answered correctly or the time taken to answer the questions.

In only one scenario did men perform slightly better – while completing a basic task, on a tablet, while seated (76.3 percent correct for men versus 64 percent correct for women). Otherwise, women and men performed equally. There was also a statistically significant difference, in how men and women rated their own performance. Women were less confident of their answers in all scenarios – 3.5 for women versus 3.88 for men on a scale of 1 to 5.

Gender gap in STEM fields:

Technology companies recognise the significant gender imbalance in their workforce, and many are taking steps to recruit more women. But the unfortunate truth is that women’s participation is still dominantly invisible in the field.

With a rapid expansion of employment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) areas, the number of women professionals is still less. Lack of confidence is one of the elementary reasons for the well-known gender gap in STEM fields. The proportion of women contributors in STEM fields is around 24 percent even though women make up almost 50% of the overall workforce. 

No one knows for sure why women with demonstrably the same computing skills as men are less confident. This lack of confidence has been found in other STEM-related areas as well.

The existing stereotypes:

Women in computing do exist, but there are still certain stereotypes that are hard to overcome. For example, one study done on university students found that among men and women who performed equally well in mathematics courses, women perceived themselves to be significantly worse at maths than their male counterparts.

While some researchers also found that technical skills were more consistently stereotyped by both men and women than the non-technical skills. Studies also proved that women tend to lack confidence with technology and its learnings.

The pervasive bias against females:

Technology jobs are often viewed as populated by men. Women severely under-estimate their abilities in many areas, and the gender gap is often attributed to cultural and institutional bias against women, especially in the technology sector. Societal pressure for women to avoid computing begins at an extremely early age. It is sometimes predefined as to which jobs are for men and which jobs are for women.

The biasness that females face since childhood that it is hard for them to use computers or any other technology just because they belong to a particular gender. This behaviour makes them a technology handicap later in life, affecting their confidence. This lack of confidence often puts them on a backseat leading them to disregard their abilities.

Educators and administrators must work to identify and attack the unconscious bias that is impeding the success and eroding the confidence of most promising females. It is important to address gender issues in STEM areas to promote women’s participation.

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