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women and computers??

Jennifer Steinbach steinbaj at mast.mast.queensu.ca
Mon Dec 7 15:38:53 EST 1992

When I did my undergrad (in Biology and Math), I found that most of
my classmates in biology were there because they didn't want to take
math.  Surprise, surprise - in their first year, they were required
to take an introductory statistics course.  Nine students completed
an undergraduate thesis in my final year; of those nine, two didn't
require any form of statistics - myself and another highly competent
student who didn't let anything "frighten" her.  One of the students
developed an intense dislike for computers in first year (we were
required to take an introductory Fortran course).  In our final year,
she pronounced that this first year course had been a waste of time.
After all, if she wanted software, she would buy it.  If she wanted
specialized software, she would get a programmer to write it.  Needless
to say, she hadn't been exposed to anything other than research in
the field (I don't believe that she did any of the followup 
data analysis on her summer jobs).  

My classmates in math were also required to take the same Fortran
course.  Those that followed pure math courses never touched a
computer ever again.  Those that took primarily stats courses used
big stats packages on the mainframe.  Some people even used their
knowledge of Fortran in the numerical analysis course.  But I believe
that there were the same percentage of people (male and female)
who didn't like the computer or who couldn't be bothered with

I am practically inseparable from my computer.  For my TA money
I maintain the PCs in the department and in a micro lab.  And I
only get my computer experience in my fourth year of my undergrad.
Now I rip apart old XTs to upgrade them to something more 

I think that a certain attitude is required before one can be
comfortable with a computer.  Until the average computer-phobe 
realizes that the computer is just a bunch of wires and that the user
is really in charge, I think that there will still be a big fear
of using the computer.  Unfortunately, these people are the same
ones who want to know what to type instead of what to look up in
the manual.  (eg. What keys do I hit to print this? vs. Where
do I find help for printing in the manual?)  I don't think that
computer courses can modify this kind of attitude.

Back to my simulations!

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