Edith Cowan University, Western Australia in association with Khon Kaen University, Thailand and Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University, Thailand.
In 1990 the Australian Federal government set a target for a 40% enrolment rate of females in all non-traditional areas of study including computer science. In view of this target, the low enrolment of females in computer science at Victoria University is a persisting concern: enrolment rates have continued to decline from 30% in the early 1990s to less than 20% in recent years, despite significant attempts to arrest the decline by introducing annual student recruitment events such as school visits, career nights, and University Open Days. This suggested that the issue of encouraging females to study computing needed to focus more directly on factors deterring females from pursuing computing courses. Misperceptions about the nature of computing studies have long been regarded as such a factor. Accordingly, last year a different initiative was launched. Focusing on girls from the neighbouring high schools, it aimed to dispel the misperceptions, and encourage girls to pursue computing studies, by demonstrating how interesting, easy, and female-friendly computing is at Victoria University. The girls were invited to spend a day in the shoes of a computing student at the University by participating in specially designed classroom activities, interacting with female university students, and lunching at the student cafeteria. While the event proved a winner on the day, it remains to be seen if it will translate into improved female enrolments in the future. However, the effort involved in organising the event and the difficulties encountered in the process revealed the extent and complexity of the struggle for increased participation of females in computing studies. The following questions arose: Who is interested in pursuing the cause? Who is prepared to support it? What would it take to make a change? This paper reflects on these issues.