How high school contributes to the “impression of incompetence” of girls in computer science

High school “is not a neutral space”he “produces inequalities between girls and boys, particularly in orientation”. This is the conclusion of the study “The obstacles to girls’ access to computer and digital sectors” led by the Hubertine-Auclert centre. This Ile-de-France center for gender equality, associated with the Ile-de-France region, conducted a field survey for three years in five Ile-de-France high schools and carried out more than three hundred interviews there with pupils, the second at the terminal.

The survey more particularly followed those who chose the “computing and digital creation” option in second and the specialty education “digital and computer science” (NSI) in first and final year. An education that has 82% boys. “Computing reflects what is happening for all scientific fields. It acts as a magnifying lens revealing gender inequalities in orientation”notes Amandine Berton-Schmitt, director of the Hubertine-Auclert center, while the debates on the place of mathematics in high school – and the number of girls in this discipline – have created controversy in recent months.

First observation: for twenty years, the choices of orientation have hardly evolved. Although the students “massively adhere to a discourse defending equality between girls and boys”they remain marked by gendered representations of professions that they hardly question. “The orientation support provided by the school will not modify the choices perceived as natural”, remarks Gaëlle Perrin, in charge of education for equality at the Hubertine-Auclert center. Students who develop orientation projects out of step with choices “traditional” fall under the exception.

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Only 2.5% of girls compared to 15% of boys opt for NSI specialty education at the end of the second year. However, if girls are under-represented in these sectors, they express the same reasons as boys for accessing them, such as the practice of video games or the presence in their entourage of initiating figures.

Feeling of being “nearby”

But “compliance trajectories”, as the Hubertine-Auclert center calls them, will operate throughout high school. Girls are thus more likely than boys to abandon NSI education when moving from three to two specialties, between the first and the final year. The study cites several examples. While she wanted to be a computer engineer, Amandine would have realized that she was ” nothing “ on computers. Nouara, who wanted to be a data manager in second year, is heading towards graphic design at the end of her final year. A way to keep IT, but at the service of a more creative field. Amel, Soufia and Meriem give up computing in final year to go to the sectors of law, accounting and notary. The three high school girls also justify this development by “the discovery of their computer incompetence”notes the study.

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How high school contributes to the “impression of incompetence” of girls in computer science


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