Blog Post

How Can Encouragement Increase Persistence in Computing?

This post is being shared on behalf of the National Center for Women and Information Technology

Anyone who participates in sports or physical training knows the positive effects of encouragement. Research in sports medicine finds substantial improvements in effort and persistence result from frequent exhortations like, “Great job!” and “Keep going; I know you can do it!” This type of communication from trusted sources motivates people to work at a task harder and longer (Bandura, 1997). Not surprisingly, this type of encouragement can work in other areas as well. Research has shown that it can improve the retention of men and women in the computer science major, and can even increase women’s enrollment. Women more often than men say they entered computer science because a teacher, family member, or friend encouraged them to do it (Cohoon, 2006). Therefore, encouragement can be a powerful tool bringing gender balance to your computing classes.

Encouragement seems to work by increasing the recipient’s self-efficacy (belief in one’s competence to succeed at a particular task). Self-efficacy can be increased by experiencing success at the task. And it can also be increased by observing someone perceived to be similar to one’s self succeed at the task. The vicarious method and the verbal persuasion method (encouragement) seem to be particularly effective for increasing the likelihood that women will engage, persist, and put effort into tasks in domains like computing.


The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community of more than 1,100 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology. NCWIT equips change leaders with resources for taking action in recruiting, retaining, and advancing women from K–12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers.

The NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing (AiC) award program is designed to support young women in the pursuit of computing by providing recognition, encouragement, and opportunities for jobs, scholarships, and connections to the tech community. We’ve recognized over 10,000 young women in 9th-12th grade for their aspirations and passion in computing and built a supportive network in each of our 79 regional affiliates of industry professionals, community leaders, and educators all working together to increase the meaningful participation of women in computing and technology within their communities.

Applications for the Aspirations in Computing Award are open now and we need your help. You can encourage high school young women to apply. As Aspirations in Computing Award recipients, they will join the nationwide AiC Community and have exclusive opportunities available to them as they pursue computing and technology in their academic and professional careers. Aspirations is a research-based program that provides long term support to program participants, with 91% of past award recipients continuing on to study STEM in college as a major or minor -77% of those in computing or engineering.

We also need reviewers starting in November. It is inspirational to read how these young women build apps, create programs and learn skills related to technology. Reviewers say, “Great volunteer opportunity to review essays from some amazing young women with aspirations in computing and learn about their future plans and what they are doing.”

If you want to be inspired by the future, register to be a reviewer.

For applications or information visit NCWIT Aspirations in Computing or contact


How Can Encouragement Increase Persistence in Computing?

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Cohoon, J. and W. Aspray (Eds.) (2006) Women and Information Technology: Research on the Reasons for Under-Representation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.