Lack of Self-Confidence
We examined lack of self-confidence as a possible reason for women leaving computer science. Based on the interviews, we found that lower self-confidence among females in computer science is a very real, serious and relevant issue, as supported by a study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley.
One female lecturer suggested that graduate study is harder for women because she senses more honesty and insecurity among females. She gives the following examples: if one asks all students how prepared they are for an exam, it is more likely that a woman will admit that she does not feel prepared enough; similarly, if a male and female student were sick during an exam, the female would take it as a personal failing whereas the male would just shrug it off. Another female Masters student agreed, What I see is that women are not nearly as confident or aggressive in pursuing opportunities. Finally, another female Masters student claims that her lack of self-confidence is the most difficult challenge she faces in her pursuit of graduate study in computer science.
A study, titled "Ph.D. Student Attrition in the EECS Department at the University of California, Berkeley" and conducted by female graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, found that women view the entire graduate school experience as a cause for lost confidence. Fifty-six percent of the women they interviewed cited did not have enough confidence as a major or secondary factor in their decision to leave their graduate program in computer science. The study found that women tend to have more problems with self-confidence than men, even when their academic performance and preparation are comparable to, or better than, mens. Another study by Strenta et al. found that women in the sciences were significantly less confident and more depressed about their academic progress than their male peers, even when their grades were the same as the mens.
Lack of self-confidence is a serious issue causing women to leave their program of study in computer science. It must be dealt with quickly by the department offering more positive feedback (to all students) and by affording more support networks for females.