Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


Computing-based Self-esteem: The Interplay of Competence and Worthiness

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Rachel Vannatta Reinhart (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Christopher Mruk (Other)

Third Advisor

Patrick Pauken (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Laura Leventhal (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Jodi Tims (Committee Member)


This concurrent mixed methods study examined how the experiences of being a woman in computing affects her self-esteem over the course of her undergraduate career and into professional employment. Self-esteem was measured using the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale that applies both competence and worthiness constructs. General (global) self-esteem was compared to self-esteem within the context of computing (computing-based self-esteem). Female attendees (N=546) of ACM-W celebrations of women in computing were invited to complete a Computing Experience Survey (CES). Quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed separately then mixed to validate findings. Quantitative results indicated that women reported significantly lower computing-based self-esteem than global self-esteem. Additionally, competence and worthiness significantly differed within computing-based self-esteem throughout one’s college progression and into the profession. All measures of self-esteem (global, computing-based, competence, and worthiness) improve for professionals. Analysis of open-ended questions illustrated that competence and worthiness are intertwined in computing experiences, and positive and negative experiences often contained a social component. The following conclusions were presented: (1) context matters when measuring self-esteem; (2) competence and worthiness are separate but related dimensions of self-esteem; (3) computing-based self-esteem changes throughout a student’s college career and into the profession; (4) experiences in computing provide explanations for these changes in computing-based self-esteem and shed light on persistence, career faithfulness, and leadership; and, (5) when worthiness is present, it is strongly tied to competence for women in computing.