Images of self and others as computer users: the role of gender and experience


Emma M. Mercier, School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA. E-mail


Abstract Gender differences in the pursuit of technology careers are a current issue of concern. We report on two studies that use surveys, drawings and interviews to examine sixth- and eighth-grade students' perceptions of knowledgeable computer users and their self-perception as a computer-type person. In Study 1, participants were asked to generate representations of computer users in pictures or words. The results indicate that the majority of representations were of male users and they frequently wore glasses. Students of both genders were more likely to draw males. Eighth-grade students' representations included more stereotypical features than those of sixth-grade students. In Study 2, students were asked whether they believed that there was such a thing as a computer-type person and whether they perceived themselves to be one. Eighty per cent of students rejected this characterization. They differed from students who accepted it in their levels of past experience, their confidence, and the probability that they shared their knowledge with others. The results of both studies suggest that while there is a male image of computer science in general, it is not overly negative and students' self-perception is not governed by their own gender as much as by other variables.