We examined parental support, or lack of, as a possible reason for women leaving computer science. Based on the interviews, we found that the males parents were enthusiastically supportive for the most part while the females parents were not supportive, apathetic, supportive, or enthusiastically supportive.
All but one of the male interviewees responded that their parents were very supportive of their computer science pursuits. The one exception was a male PhD student who said that his parents preferred mathematics and physics to computer science at first, but once his parents realized that the EECS curriculum was heavy on both math and science, they stopped minding. In sum, all the male interviewees parents were supportive of their computer science pursuits, except for one whose parental support can at worst be characterized as apathetic.
In contrast, we found some interesting variations in the responses from our female interviewees. Most interesting was from a female undergraduate student who dropped computer science: while her parents were insistent on her pursuing computer science, they did tell me that I was probably not very good at it. While other factors might have caused this student to leave computer science, minimally her parents lack of support made it an easier decision for her to leave. A professor commented that while her parents were not unsupportive, they may have been disappointed in her decision pursue computer science but it is not clear why. Other responses ranged from apathetic to enthusiastic support from parents. The apathetic parental support responses basically covered either the parents not minding or the parents not caring one way or another. For example, one lecturer responded that her parents really did not try to influence her on anything. Another lecturer responded, I think they would have probably preferred I do something like CS rather than music. Finally, one of professors commented that her parents did not really care about what she did: They were not particularly supportive of the PhD program they were not familiar with idea of going to graduate school . . . they still dont understand why Im still in school. It has a lot to do with culture my parents very much cared about my brothers profession but did not care much about me. However, the professor concluded that her parents apathy gave her the chance to follow her own pursuits. The supportive parental support responses ranged from just plain supportive to enthusiastic support, which is more consistent with the males consensus on parental support.
In conclusion, the males parents were enthusiastically supportive for the most part while the females parents were not supportive, apathetic, supportive, or enthusiastically supportive. Therefore, it seems that parental support, or lack of, could be correlated with women leaving academic programs in computer science and we recommend further investigation or research into this topic.