Moving Beyond the Toy Vs. Tool Hypothesis: An Examination of Gender Differences in Adolescents' Computer Activities, Attitudes, and Technology-Related Career Plans

Open Access
Bleeker, Martha M
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 03, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Janis Jacobs, Committee Chair
  • Ann Caverly Crouter, Committee Member
  • Eric Loken, Committee Member
  • William L Harkness, Committee Member
  • Lynette Marie Yarger, Committee Member
  • Dena Swanson, Committee Member
  • gender
  • adolescence
  • achievement
  • computers
  • technology
  • career plans
In order to provide some explanation for the gender gap within the IT workforce, the current study offers a detailed look into the evolving ways adolescents use computer technology. Guided by Eccles expectancy-value model of achievement motivation, the study examines associations between adolescents’ career attitudes and expectations for success, values, and activity-involvement. Student participants (n = 460) from two high schools in central Pennsylvania took a web-based survey that assessed their computer attitudes and activities. Results suggest that adolescent males and females spent about the same amount of time on computer activities each day. Gender differences, however, were found with respect to computer attitudes and career beliefs, and many of these gender differences were larger among 12th graders than 9th graders. Moreover, adolescents’ self-confidence, reports of troubleshooting, computer time with friends, gender beliefs, and enrollment in computer courses were significantly related to computer career interest and efficacy. Overall, results suggest that the original "toy vs. tool" hypothesis has become too simplistic and will not help researchers understand the current gender divide in the technology workforce.