How Harvey Mudd got more women into computer science
- Harvey Mudd College in California began a concerted effort to get more women into computer science when Maria Klawe became president in 2006, and by 2010 the portion of female majors had jumped from 10% to 30%.
- Quartz reports that the college changed the name of its introductory course to make it sound more approachable and had faculty divide the class into those with and without coding experience so the newbies didn’t feel alone.
- Female students who passed the introductory course were taken to the Grace Hopper Conference, where they had a chance to see other successful women in technology, and the summer after freshman year, these students were offered a research opportunity where they could put their coding skills to use in fun and meaningful projects.
Colleges and universities across the country have experimented with ways to make computer science programs more attractive to women, building up the pipeline that has so far created a male-dominated field. One key step is shifting the culture around first-year courses, which have long been used to weed out the low performers. Supporting students and cultivating their talent works to increase diversity in the classroom.
Coding bootcamps have also been very successful at attracting women. On average, the alternative providers boast near parity in the number of men and women going through their intensive programs. With these alternative pathways and the work being done at colleges, it may not be long before the computer science field gets a gender shakeup.
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