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ICSE 2023
Sun 14 - Sat 20 May 2023 Melbourne, Australia

Context: Gender gap affects particularly the software engineering community, with both academia and industry being male dominated. Literature reports how the lack of women is a consequence of gender stereotypes around certain figures that begin in early stages of education, affecting children’s perception 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: Kids agreed on their representations of a software engineer: 51% drew a male software engineer and 44% of the children drew a female one, with a 5% of not recognizable representation. The main differences emerged when the data were grouped by age and gender: only 23% of eleven-year-olds girls drew a female software engineer, while 54% drew a male, and in 23% the gender was non-recognizable.

Conclusion: The findings revealed a favorable gender balance in children’s perception of software engineering. They seem more willing to recognize diversity, an improvement compared with what reported in previous studies. Children’s perception of technology has become more accessible, as a result of the COVID-19 situation. The findings may draw positive comparisons with the current gender gap in software engineering, encouraging future developments.