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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
UNIVERSITY PROSPECTUSES FOR COMPUTING: IS THERE A HIDDEN MESSAGE FOR WOMEN?
Department of Computer Science, Keele University, Keele, N Staffs, United Kingdom, ST5 5BG
Critical discourse analysis is a technique for analyzing power relations within texts and against the backgrounds of other texts, spoken and written. Given the low proportions of women entering computing in many countries, this study uses this technique to analyze one of the first formative points of contact between prospective female students of computing, on the one hand, and computing departments on the othernamely, university prospectuses. The backdrop to this is the common view of computing as a scientific/engineering/mathematical subject, which also requires the use of technology. All these are traditionally male-dominated fields of expertise. The analysis of two departmental prospectuses uncovers the interweaving of these preconceptions with the text, which is distributed to prospective students; this includes the influence of "prestigious" scientific research. These and other aspects seem to be likely deterrents to many women. Some suggestions are offered as to how our understanding of the situation might be improved. For example, we particularly need more work on the influence of the science/engineering paradigm in computing on women.
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