A stereotype common in the USA (and many other nations) is that women are not technical.

Talks from Tapestry Workshops

Speaker Tile Workshop Material
Cohoon, Joanne McGrath Gender and Computing Virginia 2013 Slides (ppt) Slides (pdf)
Handouts (ppt) Handouts (pdf)
Cohoon, Joanne McGrath Gender and computing Various 2012 VA: Slides (pptx) Slides (pdf)
NC: Slides (pptx) Slides (pdf)
MI: Slides (pptx)
MN: Slides (pptx)
Powell, Rita Stereotype Threats Pennsylvania 2012 Slides (pptx) Slides (pdf)
Siraj, Ambareen Teaching ALL! Tennessee 2011 Slides (pptx) Slides (pdf)

External Resources

Results of Brainstorming Sessions


  • Emphasize the growth of intelligence. Praise work, strategy, progress rather than intelligence or skill.
  • Give constructive feedback without invoking fears of biases or unfair focus: “I am holding you to a very high standard. In order to meet that standard, you need to do . I know you can do this.”

In Class

  • Have students write about their own values at the beginning of each course (in general, not restricted to the course itself). This affirms them and their sense of belonging whether or not their values have anything to do with the course or computing.
  • Normalize expectations. Help them expect that it will take work and that success will not be immediate.
  • Group work (Logic Groups, Pair Programming, etc.) often appeals to females
  • It can be good for students to raise their concerns, but dangerous for them to do so in class. Explain what is not permitted (e.g., “no sexualized language”) and give students invitation to raise their own concerns to you in private or by email.
  • Redecorate your classroom to be gender-neutral (not “girly,” that often appears fake).


  • Hang posters near/in the girls' bathroom.
  • Many boys just need to hear the word “robots,” but explaining how rewarding computing careers are to girls.
  • Use the word “flexible” and the phrase “change the world”
  • Ask classes with lots of girls to help with projects in class.
  • Ask existing students to bring girls to you.
  • Recruit girls in groups (ask them to come in groups, invite them to bring their friends, etc.)

Preparing for a Biassed World

  • Emphasize (and help find) mentors, role-models, womens' organisations (e.g., ACM-W, SWE, AAUW).
  • Tell students to ask, during campus visits, “is there a group for women in computing here?”
  • Have students brainstorm problems they expect to face; then brainstorm ways to handle them; then role-play their solutions; then have a class discussion about the experience.


The techniques that help one group often help all groups. See in particular Recruiting.

Do not bring up stereotypes, in any way, with your students. Mentioning it, even to refute it, tends to backfire. Do correct them if they come up, but in general the less air-time a stereotype gets the better. You can't say “This stereotype is true” without saying “this is a stereotype”—that is, “a lot of people believe this.”

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