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INFORMATICS IN EDUCATION, 2006, Vol. 5, No. 1, 47-62
© Institute of Mathematics and Informatics,

ISSN 1648-5831

Gender and Programming Contests: Mitigating Exclusionary Practices

Maryanne FISHERa, Anthony COXb

aDepartment of Psychology, Saint Mary's University 923 Robie Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 3C3, Canada E-mail:

bFaculty of Computer Science, Dalhousie University 6050 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 1W5, Canada E-mail:


Individuals vary across many dimensions due to the effects of gender-based, personality, and cultural differences. Consequently, programming contests with a limited and restrictive structure (e.g., scoring system, questioning style) are most favourable and attractive to a specific set of individuals with the characteristics that best match this structure. We suggest that a more inclusive and flexible structure will allow contests to be more appealing to a wider range of participants by being less biased towards specific traits. As well, by making contests more broadly appealing, they become better post secondary recruiting tools that can potentially be used to attract under-represented populations to the discipline of computer science. In this paper, we focus on gender-based differences and the effect of a competition's structure on female participants.


programming contests, scoring systems, gender bias

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