Inclusive Approach/alx

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Inclusive Approach
Contributors Christian Köppe, Anne Bartilla
Last modification May 17, 2017
Source Köppe & Bartilla (2014)[1]; Bartilla & Köppe (2016)[2]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

You want to set up extra-curricular activities or initiatives that help to increase the feeling in female students of “being at home" at your institution.


It often increases the unwanted feeling in female CS students of being handled different from the rest of the students if the activities, even with good intentions, address them mainly as female students and not as CS students.

Having activities that explicitly address females with the goal of creating a kind of “being at home" feeling is good, as this feeling isn’t likely to evolve in such a male-dominated environment by itself. But advertising such activities using a stereotypical and gendered way, e.g. using pink as main color for flyers or offering a baking workshop instead of an interesting CS-related activity, only intensifies the stereotypes. This also seems to explicitly exclude male students and therefore increases and reproduces the segregation of male and female students.

On the other hand, female students are very aware of that they are seen as different from the majority of male CS students—the ‘in/visibility paradox’ where women are simultaneously visible as women and invisible as (CS) engineers[3]. Always being seen and treated as someone special—e.g. by having special activities aimed at female students—only increases this feeling, while they actually just want to be someone who studies computer science.


Therefore: Design extra-curricular activities that are inclusive and fit the needs of both female and male students. Address the female students mainly based on their interests and not by their being female.

Female students often need to position themselves in the male dominated CS student population. They don’t want to be treated special just because they’re girls, so they often use the strategy of trying to avoid being to “girly". This is one of the reasons why they often dislike activities that explicitly address them mainly as females and not as CS students.

They also experience it as unfair for the men if activities or initiatives are exclusive for female students, as can be seen with the introduction of an all-women lab at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) within the “Women and Computing Initiative". According to the women informants of the study, none of them had used the lab much, mainly because they experienced it as unfair for the men (to not being able to have their own lab), but also because they did work together in groups with male students and these weren’t allowed in the lab[3].

It is important to note that this pattern is only about activities initiated by an institution. It is not relevant for activities that are self-organized by female students in a bottom-up approach. These activities, as e.g. networking groups for programming like RailsGirls3 or PyLadies4 are shown to be successful in many ways, but are nearly always initiated by the female participants themselves.

At the HAN University in the Netherlands, there is an event where all students of the computer science institute (together with students of communication) can present results of their student projects (without getting extra credits for it) and win prices in different categories. As these categories also include e.g. creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship, this event also attracts female students.


  1. Pattern published in Köppe, C., & Bartilla, A. (2014). Towards a pattern approach for improving enrollment and retention of female students in computer science education. In Proceedings of the 19th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2014) (p. 18). New York:ACM.
  2. Patlet mentioned in Bartilla, A., & Köppe, C. (2016). Organizational Patterns for Increasing Gender Diversity in Computer Science Education. In Proceedings of the 10th Travelling Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (VikingPLoP 2016). New York:ACM.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lagesen, V. A. (2011). Getting women into computer science. In Technologies of Inclusion. Gender in the Information Society, K. H. Sorensen, W. Faulkner, and E. Rommes, Eds. Tapir Academic Press, Trondheim, Norway, Chapter 7, 147-169.