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Case study: Lowering (not only female) Drop out in Computer Sciences, 2008-2011

Susanne Schwanzer

GEMIS – Gender Mainstreaming in Computer Sciences
Details and background related with female drop out in computer sciences can be find here in a resumé on the GEMIS-project, written by Susanne Schwanzer, published in Zeitschrift Soziale Technik, 4/2010.
One practical outcome of the project was the Gender Toolkit for lectors in computer sciences (so far available only in German). The paper of the project’s total outcomes at the EdiNEB-conference in London 2011 won the best paper award.

Project Goals:
Analyse the causes of (esp. female) drop out at the Tech College of Vienna
2. Develop measures and actions against it –to lower the drop out quotas in the computer sciences at the Tech-College
3. Attract a larger no. of female students in the future & enable them to graduate in time

Data in Focus: The drop out quota above the 4 studies involved in the project, lay by 7-23%. Drop out in the fresh(wo)men semesters showed a significant corelation with gender.

Research & Consulting Approach: Projektteam consisting of  1 Head of dep., 2-3 Lectors and assistants from Computer Science/Informatics (Bac.), Business Informatics (Bac.&MSc), Software Engineering (MSc), Information Security (MSc)

Im Bild: Mit dem Gender Toolkit in der Hand die Projektleiterin, die Studiengangsleiter und LektorInnen sowie die GFin der FH Technikum Wien mit Susanne Schwanzer

Presenting the Gender Toolkit: members of the GEMIS-project team, heads of dep., lectors, project manager Ulrike Neubauer (3rd f.t.l.), Angelika Ott, co-president of the tech college of Vienna (right), together with the author and project coordinator Susanne Schwanzer (3rd f.t.r.)

Stage 1:

  • Raising awareness among the heads of dep., lectors & administration staff
    Research among all female students who started and dropped out from Viennas Tech College since the bachelor had been introduced in 2005
  • Research among all male Bachelor-students who started and dropped out
  • Research among those female studens who – despite troubles and difficulties in the beginning – graduated successfully and finished a Master degree in Business Informatics, Software Engineering or Software Security: How did they manage to get over non-successful tests? Overcome crises – and n o t  dropping out? What are the strategies for success and crucial factors of influence due to their experience?

Stage 2:

  • Research on national & international Good Practices

Phase 3:

  • Co-Developping measures to redesign curricula & teaching concepts together with the heads of department
  • Co-Designing alternative didactic concepts & specific tools for specific lectures
  • Designing a Gender Toolkit within the project team
  • Putting-to practice the concepts and tools, accompanied by workshops & trainings

Phase 4:

  • Evaluation

 Results /Lessons learnt:

  • Learning Peer-Partnerships & Mentorings for students at the beginning
  • Improved tutorials, tailored to specific needs of not-so experienced programers
  • Road Map for a pre-studies entrance phase for those students who are lacking any knowledge in programming
  • Spreading the Gender Toolkit among lectors outside the project team

Lessons learnt:

Gender-aware didactic concepts create benefit not only for women, but for all those groups besides the so called „nerds“, who begin to study computer science without having learnt programing and worked in a trial-and-error approach ever since they can remember.

Gender-aware didactics – as described e.g. in the gender toolkit or by more tailored and modularized curricula – since they represent a powerful approach to raise the interest among pupils who tend to stay away from MINT-subjects and engineering – due to prejudices and clichées about them or afraid of too much theory and too high levels of pre-knowledge.

gdi-Expert involved:
Susanne Schwanzer, MMSc did the research, co-designed the measures and actions and supported the project team putting them into practice at the Tech College of Vienna.
Susanne Schwanzer has for many years been a trainer in a number of different projects, which aimed at raising awareness among girls for professions in IT, , elektronics, informatics – e.g. in „Robina“ & „Roberta“ courses, conducted by zimd – Centre for Social Interaction and Diversity in Vienna.
Furthermore Susanne Schwanzer consults companies and coordinates projects that support companies to target new groups and win them over for apprendiceships and studies in engineering and IT: e.g. by public private summer schools, internships, gender-sensitive marketing and employer branding.
If you like to know more about the project described above or if you are willing to adress women to enter your workforce, please contact her by phone or mail:
+43 699 195 85 944 oder