Study participants were randomly assigned basic, intermediate or advanced problems on laptops, tablets or mobile devices, while seated, standing or walking slowly.
We found no difference in the performance between men and women in the total number of questions answered correctly or the time taken to answer the questions. In only one scenario did men perform slightly better – while completing a basic task, on a tablet, while seated (76.3% correct for men versus 64% correct for women). Otherwise, women and men performed equally.
There was a statistically significant difference, however, in how men and women rated their own performance. Women were less confident of their answers in all scenarios – 3.5 for women versus 3.88 for men on a scale of 1 to 5 – despite having performed equally to men in all but one.
The gender gap in computing performance has dramatically narrowed, but a confidence gap remains.
Many have made the case that companies need better participation of women in the STEM workforce for greater innovation and productivity. These efforts have had some success, but other avenues are needed to promote STEM careers to women and help them to believe in their abilities.
To address this issue, secondary schools and universities are promoting computing careers to young women, while tech companies have made concerted efforts to promote and hire more women for high-profile jobs involving technology.
We will continue to work on understanding how to narrow the gender gap and explore ways to increase female participation in computer fields.