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Diverse Global Entryways: How Young Men and Women from China, India, and the United States Make the Decision to Enter Computer Science


Most sociological research on STEM focuses on the experiences of racial-ethnic and gender minorities and point to the unfriendly culture of STEM as a main factor for their underrepresentation. This study explores the segregation of STEM from a different vantage point by comparing the motivations that graduate students from different ethnic and immigrant backgrounds ascribe to their decisions to study and work in computer science (CS)-related fields. Interviews with twenty-nine CS graduate students from China, India, and the United States reveal differences by gender and country of origin in motivations for entering the field of CS in three areas: ideas about the purposes of work, perceptions of the CS field, and perceptions of self. This study illustrates how individual decision-making may be conditioned by larger cultural and structural forces to produce complex patterns of gender and racial segregation in the US and beyond. Results suggest that an expressive orientation to work and the masculine framing of the field may account for the higher levels of sex segregation in CS in the United States than in China and India.

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