Ask a Geek Feminist: the definitive “women in CS/STEM” resource thread

Both rounds of “Ask a Geek Feminist” so far have contained some variant of “why are there so few women in computer science or software development, should we fix this, and how should we fix it?” I didn’t post it last time, but I suspect that it will keep coming up, and it would be good to have a link for this.

This is your thread for pointing out research articles, books and other literature on this issue and I’ll link to it from future ask a geek feminist rounds and from the wiki’s Resources page. Note, this is not a thread for your personal theories unless you have unusual expertise in the area (having read most of the stuff other people are suggesting would be a good start), it’s a thread to gather in one place a reasonable list of the accessible literature.

Related stuff on women in engineering, women in science (particularly sciences where they are a smallish minority), women in mathematics also welcome.

Update: There are comments in moderation recommending blog articles and pieces of journalism. I’m really looking for serious research here, such as books, journal articles and reports from studies, either academic or by industry groups. Nothing wrong with a good blog entry (ahem!) but the point here is that there’s plenty of research to turn to before you fire up the ol’ blogging engine.

15 thoughts on “Ask a Geek Feminist: the definitive “women in CS/STEM” resource thread

  1. Dorothea Salo

    Well, I’ll start with a dash of the obvious:

    Margolis, Jane, and Allan Fisher. Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. MIT Press: 2001.

    Light, Jennifer S. “When Computers Were Women.” Technology and Culture 40:3 (1999).

    1. Alice

      I do love Unlocking the Clubhouse. I can’t remember who I lent my copy to, but if I ever get it back I might write a review/synopsis of its findings to track back to this post. Everyone who’s interested in this topic should read that book.

  2. Restructure!

    Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (2010)

    I thought this report was well-written and well-organized, and it’s available online and free. However, they make you jump a few hoops to get to the pdf and they broke the previous pdf link, which is silly.

    I’m glad you explicitly disallowed personal theories in this thread, as even when there is a thread about a particular study, I find that male geeks tend to espouse their personal theories without even reading the effing article. You know that they didn’t, because their (sexist and/or gender essentialist) theories were debunked in the article.

  3. Alexis

    Women’s math performance affected by theories on sex differences: UBC researchers

    Implicit stereotypes and gender identification may affect female math performance

    Stereotype-induced math anxiety undermines girls’ ability to perform in other academic areas

    Boys not better than girls at maths, study finds

    Tracking the reasons many girls avoid science and math

    Culture, not biology, underpins math gender gap

    Citizens in 34 countries show implicit bias linking males more than females with science

    Worldwide study finds few gender differences in math abilities

    Elementary school women teachers transfer their fear of doing math to girls

    (Sorry for any duplicates; sometimes the same study has multiple press releases taking different angles.)

  4. Alan Bell

    This page tracks the number of women involved in Ubuntu and yes, I was involved in writing it so it may fail the “no original research” test.
    I don’t know why it is what it is and I don’t know what it should be or what it could be. I am aware of lots of plausible sounding reasons that don’t stand up to logical examination. I have a feeling that the solution is to measure, set targets, achieve them, rinse and repeat but I am as yet unable to confirm this works. I also have a suspicion that it will be easier to get to 20% from 10% than to get to 10% from 5%, but that is once again an uniformed personal theory.

  5. SM

    Stumbled upon this paper while doing a google search –

    Source –

  6. Michael Hewner

    This paper is about how CS professors can create a climate that is inhospitable to new CS learners (as opposed to learners who already are confident about their skills and fit with CS culture). In particular it points out ways experienced students emphasize their own superiority and how the professor can contribute to this.

    Definitely opened my eyes to how my simplistic ideas about including and motivating students might actually do the opposite.

    Defensive climate in the computer science classroom (pdf)

  7. Ingrid Jakobsen

    I have to include a shout-out for Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Her 1977 work isn’t about working in STEM, but in a way that makes it more powerful. Being a token is tough no matter the field.

    Some Effects of Proportions on Group Life: Skewed Sex Ratios and Responses to Token Women
    Rosabeth Moss Kanter
    The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 82, No. 5. (Mar., 1977), pp. 965-990

    And I find it really frustrating that I had to re-discover all that through personal experience, rather than it being generally known by workplaces.

  8. Mary Post author

    For women in Free/Libre/Open Source Software, the major work still seems to be FLOSSPOLS Deliverable D 16 Gender: Integrated Report of Findings and FLOSSPOLS Deliverable D 17 Gender: Policy Recommendations.

    Yuwei Lin has also published articles, but I haven’t read them:
    (2006) “Women in the Free/Libre Open Source Software Development’ in E. M. Trauth (ed) Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology
    (2006) ‘A Techno-feminist perspective on the Free/Libre Open Source Software Development’ in E. M. Trauth (ed) Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology
    There are pre-prints on her webpage at

Comments are closed.