Gallup Survey: Gender Bias Persists in Computer Science Education


A Google and Gallup survey on how students, parents and educators perceive Computer Science (CS) reveals that girls continue to be less confident about their CS skills in relation to boys. More importantly, the report reveals that apart from girls, ethnic minority students and those from low-income backgrounds also believe that CS is not meant for them, revealing just how ingrained CS stereotypes are among students and educators.

The latest report, “Images of Computer Science: Perceptions Among Students, Parents and Educators in the US” shows that the lack of gender and racial diversity in CS is reflected and nurtured in perceptions not just of students, but also their parents and teachers.

Asked how confident a student is about learning CS if they wanted to, 62 percent of male students said were very confident compared to just 46 percent of girls. In terms of intention to learn CS, boys outnumbered girls with only 18 percent of female students saying they’re very likely to study CS in the future as opposed to 36 percent of boys.

42 percent of boys said they’re very likely to get a job in the future that requires some knowledge of CS. Only 33 percent of the female respondents had the same confidence. The findings reveal that there continues to be a prevalent perception that CS is more suitable for men rather than women.

“This [conclusion] adds to the concern that females will not pursue computer science and will miss opportunities to build related skills,” the study authors emphasize.

Parents, educators, and teachers were asked: “Who do you think is more likely to be successful in learning computer science?”

Among all students, only 30 percent said girls as opposed to 44 percent who said boys.

Teachers seemed to have the least confidence in female students. According to the study, 19 percent of educators said girls are more likely to be successful in studying CS compared to 36 percent of teachers who said boys are.

Other key findings reveal another misconception about CS: that only smart people can engage with CS, which could act as a deterrent for many students that do not believe in their skills or consider the discipline to be too hard. The study reveals this is a belief shared by more than half of teachers who say that students doing well in math and science are more likely to succeed in CS.

One of the positive findings of the study was that many students, teachers and parents are aware of CS’s role in a students’ future careers. Again, female and Hispanic students were less likely to believe that CS knowledge can lead to a stable, well-paying job. The study reveals that 6 in 10 Hispanic students agree that those working in CS have well-paying jobs as opposed to seven in 10 White and Black students who believe that. Only 63 percent of girls believe Computer Science careers provide high earnings.

The majority of students (96 percent), teachers (89 percent), parents (96 percent), superintendents (81 percent) and principals (89 percent) said they agree or strongly agree that computer science knowledge can be applied in a number of jobs.

Gallup’s survey for Google is the second following a report published in August that focused on who has access to CS, with the chief finding being that low-income students have the fewest opportunities to learn.