Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2018

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Computer Science

Department Chair or Program Director

Davies, Stephen

First Advisor

Zeitz, Jessica

Second Advisor

Davies, Stephen

Third Advisor

Zacharski, Ron

Major or Concentration

Computer Science


There is a gender gap in technical fields that has persisted through generations. In my research, I focus on the gender gap within computer science (CS) undergraduate academics. Diversity in technical fields starts with diversity in academics. Studies have shown that girls who are exposed to CS in or before high school are more likely to study CS in college. [1] Other factors such as role models, life goals, and perception of CS also influence a girl’s decision. I surveyed UMW students in different stages of their CS degrees, in addition to students who only participated in an introductory CS class.

Most students entering introductory computer science classes today use smartphones, laptops, and tablets in their everyday lives. The intuitive user interfaces and natural comfort with technology could be shielding young people from considering how their devices work. Many young people use their devices for social media which could be shifting the perception of CS. A common opinion is that after a student finishes high school, their decision to take a CS class becomes less malleable. There may be steps that universities can take to increase exposure and encourage first year students to try a CS class. Biases from parents, other family members and non-familial figures (teachers, club leaders, etc.) can be passed through generations and change a student’s self-perception.

In my paper, I discuss factors that influence UMW students based on analysis of the data collected from an online survey of UMW undergraduates. I will be presenting my findings and attempt to describe the causes and possible solutions for the gender gap.