Group of courses: Engineering
Addressing gender issues in computer science degrees should make future computer scientists more sensitive to the role that gender plays in the research and development of computer systems. It should also make students aware that access to software and hardware at and outside of work is very varied between different (male and female) users. This also involves epistemological insights into the link between social context and software and the influence of gender issues on the historical development of computer science. Addressing such issues in degree courses aims to enable computer scientists to design their own working conditions in such a way that they are attractive for women and men. The main objective is to make future designers aware that software systems must be open for the needs of both men and women and that they should allow greater diversity in access and use.
I suggest the following five focal points:
A specific gender studies module could be suitable in the area of applications of computer science. This could be integrated into the curriculum of a Master's programme.
In Bachelor's courses, it appears more appropriate to integrate this content into existing modules. All the gender issues above are ideal for integration into courses on "Computer Science and Society". "Software development as Doing Gender" could become part of "Software Engineering". "The Information and Knowledge Society and Changes in Gender Relations" and "History of Computer Science and Basic Epistemology" should be covered in "Introduction to Computer Science". Questions of differing access and technology culture should play a role in applications-based modules such as eLearning, eBusiness, eGovernment etc.
Mixed-gender groups are not ideal for addressing the situation of women in a male domain at the beginning of the degree. This could instead be done in (temporary) single-sex groups. The visibility of gender is initially unsettling in such a context. However, an academic debate on changes in gender relations including globalisation, information technologies and the internet, and a clarification of the role of gender relations in the history of computer science should be part of a good introduction to computer science. This makes students aware of the breadth of development in the field and highlights the risks of a restriction of the discipline if gender issues are neglected.
Gender issues could form an independent module after the introductory phase.
The two-week "Informatica Feminale" takes place annually at the University of Bremen and the FH Furtwangen/University of Freiburg. This is a very successful and popular, compact programme that forms part of computer science degrees, and is offered for women only. Many universities recognise examinations from this programme as regular course modules in their examination regulations. This should be explicitly mentioned in all study regulations.