An Evaluation Tool for Extracurricular Activities to Reduce the Gender Gap in Computer Science




Gender gap, ICT education, evaluation tool, extracurricular activities, Implicit Association Test


In the last few years, workforce with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competencies has proved to be crucial for countries' innovative capacity and global competitiveness. Yet women are vastly underrepresented in STEM and, in particular, in ICT and computer science fields, both among workers and degree holders: this gap hinders the possibility for ICT employment to be strengthened and for women to take advantage of career opportunities, thus perpetuating gender inequalities in these disciplines. To counteract these effects and attract girls towards ICT-related fields of study and careers, several initiatives have been organised all around the world, such as summer camps and dedicated extracurricular activities. However, these initiatives are usually not supported by proper evaluation tools allowing researchers and practitioners to understand the actual benefits of the carried-out activities on girls' competencies and future attitudes. In this paper, we propose an evaluation tool for extracurricular activities aimed at reducing the gender gap in ICT. The proposed tool aims at capturing both a quantitative and a qualitative evaluation, including an Implicit Association Test (IAT) along with a more traditional questionnaire consisting of thematic sections designed to analyse various aspects of the activities' impact on girls. The tool has been applied in the context of two summer camps related to national and international projects aimed at attracting girls towards computer science and STEM disciplines: the ‘Digital Girls’ project, organised since 2014 by the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in collaboration with other universities and local institutions, and the “STEM for Future” Erasmus+ project. Based on the results obtained by the summer camp case studies, we discuss some critical elements that can hinder the efficacy of the evaluation tool, giving suggestions to overcome these potential issues.