Gender and Computer Science Debate at Indian Institutes of Technology

Pooja Saxena


This ethnographic study, which spanned seven months, aims to produce a nuanced understanding of the experiences of Indian women students in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) programs at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IITK). The study explores early experiences that motivated the women to enroll in CSE as well as their future aspirations. It also analyzes the barriers to achieving the goals that they expect to encounter. Drawing on 30 life histories of female students in the CSE programs, 40 semi-structured interviews with both men and women professors, deans, and directors, more than 100 informal conversations with men and women scholars, and observational field notes compiled at both IITM and IITK, the major findings from this study of Indian women and their participation in computing are as follows: (1) women do not experience masculinity in the Computer Science (CS) field; (2) CS is considered female-friendly, and women do not report having low self-concept in the field; (3) the CS field in India does not have the stereotypical image of the antisocial geek male, like in the U.S.; and, (4) in most cases, women’s elite educational qualifications do not allow them to avoid the orthodoxy of marriage.


Gender; Eccles et al. General Expectancy-Value Model of Achievement Choices; sciences; technology; engineering; mathematics, STEM; computer science

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