Female students in computer science education: Understanding stereotypes, negative impacts, and positive motivation

Bernadette Spieler*, Libora Oates-Indruchovà, Wolfgang Slany

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although female students engage in coding courses, only a small percentage of them plan to pursue computer science (CS) as a major when choosing a career path. Gender differences in interests, sense-of belonging, self-efficacy, and engagement in CS are already present at an early age. This article presents an overview of gender stereotypes in CS and summarizes negative impressions female students between 12 and 15 experience during CS classes, as well as influences that may be preventing girls from taking an interest in CS. The study herein draws on a systematic review of 28 peer-reviewed articles published since 2006. The findings of the review point to the existence of the stereotypical image of a helpless, uninter-ested, and unhappy “Girl in Computer Science.” It may be even more troubling a construct than that of the geeky, nerdy male counterpart, as it is rooted in the notion that women are technologically inept and ill-suited for CS careers. Thus, girls think they must be naturally hyper-intelligent in order to pursue studies in CS, as opposed to motivated, interested, and focused to succeed in those fields. Second, based on the review, suggestions for inclusive CS education were summarized. The authors argue that in order to make CS more inclusive for girls, cultural implications, as well as stereotypization in CS classrooms and CS education, need to be recognized as harmful. These stereotypes and cultural ideas should be eliminated by empowering female students through direct encouragement, mentoring programs, or girls-only initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-510
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Adolescent girls
  • Coding
  • Computer science education
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Gender-inclusive motivation strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)

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