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A Reboot in Recruiting Women Into Computer Science


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University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa sophomore Cassidy Lamm

"When girls think of computer science, they think of the gamers and sitting in a cubicle to program," says Cassidy Lamm, a sophomore at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. "But I've found that you can do so much more with it."

Credit: Christine Prichard / The Chronicle of Higher Education

U.S. government agencies, universities, and technology companies have contributed tens of millions of dollars to increase the number of female computer scientists, but their efforts have had limited success. Experts on the gender gap in computer science support a multi-pronged approach to closing it, including encouraging more diverse programming activities, revamped introductory courses, earlier exposure to research projects, and more opportunities for undergraduates to interact with successful female computer scientists.

"The biggest challenge is that everyone is doing their own thing, and no one is connecting," says Microsoft's Rane Johnson-Stempson.

Some colleges, such as Georgia Tech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvey Mudd College, have had success in remodeling their first-year computer science courses, or adding new ones, to create a better experience for women. In addition, the U.S. National Science Foundation and the College Board are leading an effort to create an Advanced Placement (AP) course that will provide a broad overview of computer science, with just a small portion involving writing code. During a trial version of the new AP course in 25 public schools in Los Angeles, 41 percent of the 2,000 students were women.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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