The second survey was a small subset of the questions in the first, administered as a questionnaire to students in the EECS core subjects--230 men and 75 women--during the fall of 1994. (We refer to these groups as the "core course men" and the "core course women.") Here, the objective was to note differences in the responses of men versus women. While the responses of men and women were largely consistent, there are a few telling places where the differences are significant.
The complete surveys and responses are given in the appendices to this report. Here, we comment on some of results.
Although it is probably true that women, on the average, come to MIT with less experience in EE and CS than do men, it also seems true that such a difference in responses must be due partly to perception rather than reality. (For example, at least one women who rated her background in computer science as below average for MIT had taken the computer science advanced placement exam.)
Whether perception or reality, the difference in background is likely to be a significant factor in discouraging women from entering the department. When asked about the statement "It is difficult to succeed in Course 6 without having had previous EE or CS experience," 47% of the core course men, 52% of the core course women, and 55% of the transfer out women agreed. (For the transfer in women, 41% agreed, 48% disagreed, and 11% were neutral.)
It is not obvious that competitiveness in and of itself is a factor in deterring women. For the transfer out women, 56% said that this competitiveness was an unfavorable trait in their choice of a major while 16% considered it favorable. For the transfer in women, 40% considered it unfavorable and 27% considered it to be favorable. (We did not ask this question in the core course survey.)
Interestingly, when asked if other women (not oneself) find course 6 too competitive, the transfer in women largely agreed, while the transfer out women were neutral (a statistically significant difference). When asked if they themselves found course 6 too competitive, both groups were largely neutral. The same phenomenon (statistically significant differences between the two groups when asked about other women, but not when asked about themselves) occurred with the questions "Women find course 6 too intimidating," and "Women have less background in EE or CS than men." In each case it was the transfer in women, much more so than the transfer out women, who subscribed to this belief about other women.
In a similar vein, 81% of the core course men, 84% of the core course women, 78% of the transfer out women, and 92% of the transfer in women agreed with the statement "Course 6 requires more work than other majors." For the transfer out women, 37% said this was unfavorable and only 6% said this was favorable. For the transfer in women, 35% said this was unfavorable and 23% said this was favorable.
Regardless of the effect of these factors, it is sobering that Course 6 is uniformly viewed as such a competitive major.
There were statistically significant differences in the extent to which this group thought that 6.001 was more inspiring, better organized, and was an overall good experience. Both courses, however, were considered overwhelming, and for both courses, the transfer in women largely agreed with the statement "My background knowledge for this course was lower than my peers' (74% for 6.001 and 64% for 6.002). Worrisomely, the group largely disagreed with the statement that the subject "increased my confidence in my ability." (For 6.001, 37% agreed and 59% disagreed; for 6.002, 30% agreed and 66% percent disagreed.)
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