Draw a Software Engineer Test -An Investigation into Children’s Perception of Software Engineering Profession
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionProceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering. 2023, 1-11. 10.1109/ICSE-SEIS58686.2023.00010
Context: The gender gap is particularly affecting the software engineering community, as both academia and industry are dominated by men. Literature reports how the lack of women is a consequence of gender stereotypes around certain figures that begin in the early stages of education, affecting children’s perceptions of the role they can play across scientific fields.Objective: In this study, we asked children to draw a software engineer in order to collect their perceptions and let us check whether gender stereotypes still persist.Methods: We asked a total of 371 children to draw a person who works in the software engineering field. We analyzed the drawings based on a set of parameters extracted from literature and inspected the results through a cross-sectional study.Results: Children agreed on their representations of a software engineer: 51% drew a man and 44% drew a woman, while 5% a non-recognizable figure. The main differences emerged when the data were grouped by age and gender: only 23% of eleven-year-old girls drew a woman software engineer, while 54% drew a man, and in 23% gender was non-recognizable.Conclusion: The findings revealed a favorable gender balance in children’s perceptions of software engineering. They seem more willing to recognize diversity, an improvement compared with what was reported in previous studies. Children’s perceptions of technology may have become more accessible as a result of the COVID-19 situation. These findings may draw positive comparisons with the current gender gap in software engineering, encouraging future developments.