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Women feel less prepared for Course 6, report finds

A report based on results from the EECS Undergraduate Experience Survey revealed that women feel less prepared and are less confident than men in their ability to succeed in Course 6.

Across all surveyed class years, more women indicated that they doubted their EECS abilities. Among sophomores, 67 percent of women indicated they had doubts at some point, which is more than double the 28 percent of men who felt the same way.

Of these respondents, 41 percent of women claimed their lack of confidence was due to “something a Course 6 student said or did,” compared to only 16.4 percent of men.

Based on open-ended survey responses, factors that may have contributed to gender inequities and a general lack of confidence include student and department culture, which might promote one-upmanship and generally cause feelings of inadequacy. Some classes, often introductory classes, are structured such that less experienced programmers apparently feel discouraged, according to responses.

The report also proposed a set of recommendations to alleviate some of the perceived inequalities in Course 6. Teaching Assistants and Lab Assistants could be trained to address gender bias would help change the traditional gender roles of how students interact. Professors might provide self-assessments for their courses, helping students decide what to take and boosting the confidence of students who would otherwise be discouraged by their peers. Advisors could be instructed to correct false perceptions about the EECS department to give students a more realistic perspective of their abilities.

The survey was prompted by findings of the Undergraduate Student Advisory Group in EECS in 2014. The group found that a smaller proportion of women take classes that are considered more difficult.

—Ray Wang