Unlikely Source

I was reading a paper today, about mashups. It’s fairly interesting, and you can find it here (you’ll need an ACM account, sadly). It explores how end users feel about mashups. What kind of value do they see in them and would they create them if they had the knowledge?

I read something a long time ago about men and women having differing attitudes to applying for jobs. Men have a more “have a go” attitude, whereas women read the requirements and evaluate themselves against them (and are more willing to find themselves lacking). And yesterday, in our meetings about WISE we were talking about this – about how women judge themselves more harshly.

These sections of the paper struck me.

“When we examined users’ ratings as a function of the demographic and online activity measures summarized earlier, we found a relationship between Difficulty and Gender, with women judging mashup creation to be more difficult than men (3.38 for women; 3.04 for men, t(219)=2.60, p<.01). This relationship held even when self-reports of computer expertise were used as a covariate. In contrast, ratings of Usefulness were not related to demographic or online activities variables.

The gender effect on predicted difficulty of mashup creation is consistent with other reports of gender differences in EUP. Several studies have shown that women report lower self-efficacy for spreadsheet debugging and that this seems to inhibit their use of novel features [1]. Another study found that women had less confidence in their success on a web development project [10]. These researchers have theorized that males may be more likely to overestimate their ability to solve new problems, and that this may be one source of the differences in confidence and self-efficacy.”

“For instance, men rate themselves more highly than women in both Computer Experience (t(223) =7.09, p<.001) and Technology Initiative (t(222)=7.12, p<.001).”

“We found it particularly interesting that neither Gender nor Computer Experience played a role in predicted Mashup Frequency, although at the same time we must keep in mind that Difficulty judgments were strongly related to Gender”

“The observation that female users expect mashing up to be more difficult than males is consistent with other studies of gender effects in EUP. Unfortunately, the self-perceptions that promote these differences may also inhibit women from exploring new EUP technologies like mashups. Given the relation of hobby activities to likely mashup use, perhaps one direction for future work is to create data feeds and services that specifically support women’s hobbies and interests.”

So I guess this confirms what many of us know – women often underestimate their capabilities. In what other ways are we selling ourselves short?

I find this almost inspirational. Last week when my proposal got accepted they asked me if I could do it in French. I told my supervisor about this, this morning. He said I should have said yes and that he would help me. After reading this paper I emailed them saying I could present in French as well. I’ll be terrified, but underestimating myself also means I don’t push myself. So I’m going to make a conscious effort to push myself more, starting with this. Wish me luck!

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