How Colleges Are Attracting More Women to Computer Science

One of the biggest problems facing the tech industry is the significant lack of women filling engineering roles at both large and small companies. For the past few years, experts have been debating the reasons why there are fewer women in tech, but recent data suggest this problem lies — and can be fixed — within our education system.

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According to a recent article in The New York Times, it appears that, “One of the reasons so few women work in tech is that few choose to study computer science or engineering. Only 18 percent of computer science graduates in the United States are women, down from 37 percent in 1985.”

Several colleges are beginning to address this problem and bring up these numbers by changing their approach to marketing, implementing, and teaching computer science programs. At Carnegie Mellon University, 40 percent of incoming freshmen to the School of Computer Science were women — the largest percentage ever. Also, at the University of Washington, women accounted for 30 percent of computer science degrees this year. 

Both schools are also offering mentorship programs for students interested in computer science. Lenore Blum, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, said that while these programs aren’t necessarily geared towards women, but they do help recruit female applicants because they are “less likely to pursue technology classes otherwise.” Additionally, Carnegie Mellon no longer requires programming experience to be admitted, which enables more women to enter the program — especially those who may not have any prior experience but do have the passion for and interest in the field. 

To demonstrate how much these changes are impacting women at schools who may not have otherwise chosen to study computer science, just take a look at women who graduate from the University of Washington; 60 percent of women who become computer science majors say they did not intend to take that major when they first enrolled in an introductory course.

While the number of women choosing computer science degrees has dropped significantly over the last 30 years, the changes being implemented by schools such as Carnegie Mellon and the University of Washington indicate that this trend can be reversed. If more colleges implement similar programs, we will hopefully see many more women choose to study computer science in school, and then go on to fill a greater number of roles at tech companies.

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