Inclusive Representation/alx

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Inclusive Representation
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

Your institution is preparing advertising material for your computer science programs and your goal is a diverse student population. You want to apply Applicability Highlighting (Applicability Highlighting) and also want to use pictures of students for this material.


The masculine image of computer science is reproduced if mainly—or only—pictures of male students are shown in the advertising material, especially if they’re performing stereotypical male-gendered activities. The perception of computer science will be confirmed through the reproduction of the male gendered image. This will mainly further attract men as they can easily identify themselves with this image, while on the other hand women are likely to get a message of “you do not belong here". In this way the exclusion of women will continue.

How we gender a discipline is—among other factors—dependent on the role models that we associate with this discipline. The typical computer scientist is often seen as a nerdy male (besides being young and white) and many pictures of typical computer scientists show males. Reproducing this masculine image contributes to preserving the status quo of gender disparity in computer science.

However, if female students are shown then sometimes their being female is emphasized, e.g. by using stereotypical colors like pink in the advertisements or by showing them in an obviously non-technical environment. This often happens unconsciously or even with good intentions, but also is counter-productive as it reproduces the segregation into male and female students.


Therefore: Display male and female students in pictures, videos, on web-pages and other representations. Show them both equally while representing different aspects of computer science, hereby creating inclusive representations instead of stereotypical ones.

It is not only that females are underrepresented in computing-related jobs, it is also that this picture is even made stronger by not showing the present ones. There’s therefore a need to not only increase diversity, but also to increase visibility of the current diversity[3]

This means that pictures of female students should also be included in the advertising material. Include them in a way that shows both male and female students equally, doing a variety of computer science activities. It is important to avoid stereotypical representations or showing female and male students in a stereotypical way. For example, avoid using only male students for showing coding or only female students for showing collaborative or creative activities. Also avoid approaches where women will be a complement to male students because of their communication skills and being people-oriented.

Presenting an obviously unrealistic picture where mainly female students are shown can be counter-productive, as described in the evaluations of the advertisement campaign of the Norwegian NTNU for the Women and Computing Inititiative (WCI)[4]. The main idea of the advertising campaign, as part of the whole WCI, was to converse stereotypes and deficits by redefining computer science as a feminine and non-technical discipline. According to the interviews taken later the (female) students “did not appreciate the gender essentialist messages; in general these were ignored"[4]. Female students want to be valued by their individual and professional qualities and not by their being female.

This pattern has been deducted from research findings only which mainly describe approaches with less or no success. We therefore cannot describe a known example here. Ideas of the concrete application would be to e.g. show a female student behind a screen full of source code or showing a group of male and female students in a lively discussion.


  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. Friedman, A. (2014). Tech women are busy building their own networks. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 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.