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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/18333

Title: 'Women in Computing' as Problematic: Gender, Ethics and Identity in University Computer Science Education
Authors: Sturman, Susan Michele
Advisor: Boler, Megan
Department: Sociology and Equity Studies in Education
Keywords: women in computing
computer science education
graduate students
women and computer science
gender equity
women and science
women and technology
gender and science
gender and technology
gender and technoscience
higher education
university restructuring
student experience
graduate education
Rae Review
feminism and science
feminism and technology
Institutional Ethnography
Issue Date: 25-Jan-2010
Abstract: My study is focused on women in graduate Computer Science programs at two universities in Ontario, Canada. My research problem emerges from earlier feminist research addressing the low numbers of women in university Computer Science programs, particularly at the graduate level. After over twenty years of active feminist representation of this problem, mostly through large survey-based studies, there has been little change. I argue that rather than continuing to focus on the rising and falling numbers of women studying Computer Science, it is critical to analyze the specific socio-economic and socio-cultural conditions which produce gendered and racialized exclusion in the field. Informed by Institutional Ethnography – a method of inquiry developed by Dorothy Smith – and by Foucault’s work on governmentality, I examine how specific institutional processes shape the everyday lives of women students. Through on-site observation and interviews with women in graduate Computer Science studies, Computer Science professors and university administrators, I investigate how the participants’ everyday institutional work is coordinated through external textual practices such as evaluation, reporting and accounting. I argue that the university’s institutional practices produce ‘women in computing’ as a ‘problem’ group in ways that re-inscribe women’s outsider status in the field. At the same time, I show that professionalized feminist educational projects may contradict their progressive and inclusive intentions, contributing to the ‘institutional capture’ (Smith) of women as an administrative ‘problem’. Through ethnographic research that follows women students through a range of experiences, I demonstrate how they variously endorse, subvert and exploit the contradictory subject positions produced for them. I illustrate how a North American-based institutional feminist representation of ‘women in computing’ ignores the everyday experiences of ethnoculturally diverse female student participants in graduate Computer Science studies. I argue that rather than accepting the organization of universal characteristics which reproduce conditions of exclusion, North American feminist scholars need to consider the specificity of social relations and forms of knowledge transnationally. Finally, I revisit how women in the study engage with ‘women in computing’ discourse through their lived experiences. I suggest the need for ongoing analysis of the gender effects and changing socio-cultural conditions of new technologies.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/18333
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education - Doctoral theses

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