This article is published in the October 2014 issue.

Differential experiences of students in computing


We asked undergraduate students to indicate the degree to which receiving encouragement from family, friends and teachers led them to pursue a major in computing. Among women, race mattered, p < .05:  Hispanic women/Latinas were least likely to have reported their decision to major had been driven by encouragement from others;  Asian women were most likely to report their interest in majoring had been driven by encouragement from others, and Black and White women’s responses fell in the middle. Men’s level of encouragement did not differ by race, p > .05. Together, this finding highlights the differential experiences of students in computing as a function of gender as well as race.

Note: 366 women (40 Hispanic/Latina; 23 Black; 221 White; 82 Asian) and 1083 men (142 Hispanic/Latino; 54 Black; 716 White; 171 Asian) responded to the following: I selected computing as my major because… Family member(s) encouraged me to pursue computing; A friend(s) encouraged me to pursue computing; A former teacher encouraged me to pursue computing, using a scale of (1) Strongly disagree to (5) Strongly agree. Responses to the three types of encouragement questions were aggregated to form a single composite measure. Group means are presented in each bar; error bars indicate each group’s standard error value. Importantly, this analysis statistically controlled for whether or not students were first generation college students, as well as students’ age. Thus, the observed effects of gender and race on reported encouragement occurred above and beyond any effect of being a first generation college student, or one’s age on being encouraged to pursue computing.

This analysis brought to you by the CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP). Want CERP to do comparative evaluation for your program or intervention? Contact to learn more. Be sure to also visit our website at