In 2003, Professor Tona Henderson and I received a $323,524 award from the NSF ITWF program to support our proposal to study gendered attrition in departments of information technology. Most research into women’s experiences in undergraduate computing programs had focused on Computer Science departments. While IT programs had cast themselves as qualitatively different from traditional CS, it is not clear whether women’s experiences in these programs were more positive than in CS, where retention of female students has been consistently problematic.
The study was done in two parts. The first was be a qualitative study of all women, and a sample of men, entering the IT and CS departments at RIT as freshmen. These women were interviewed upon entrance into the program, at the end of their first quarter, and at the end of the academic year. Based on the information gained in that study, key factors related to women’s persistence or attrition were identified. The second part of the study was the development of questionnaires for faculty and students intended to identify the presence and influence of those actors in academic departments. We had hoped to administer those questionnaires at departments of IT across the US, in order to determine whether the factors identified at RIT could be generalized across institutions. However, we encountered significant resistance from many of the schools we had targeted, which made it impossible to complete the second portion of the grant research.
Click on the thumbnail image below to open the PDF of our final report in a new window.