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'I'M NOT INTERESTED IN COMPUTERS': Gender-based occupational choices of adolescents

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Which cultural factors offer an explanation for girls' reluctance to choose technological subjects, such as computing science? This question is explored by critically analysing data from individual interviews and focus-group interviews with 86 Dutch adolescents. According to what the authors call the 'self-to-profession matching' theory, adolescents systematically compare what they are good at, what they want from a job, and what activities they like, with their (in)correct expectations of a particular profession. Examples are given of how this process can lead to gender-based segregation in computing science. The interviews illustrate this tendency when girls say, for instance, 'I'd rather work with people than with computers'. However, by analysing the interview material 'against the grain', the authors argue that the so-called 'self-to-prototype matching' theory may offer a better description of how a choice of profession is made. Adolescents tend to choose based on a prototype of someone working in a profession, even when they know this prototype is incorrect, and even when this prototype includes characteristics that are irrelevant for that profession, such as sexual attractiveness.
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Keywords: Gender segregation of occupations; adolescent; choice of profession; computing science; reading against the grain; self-to-prototype matching

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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