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Some ­niversities Crack Code in Drawing Women to Computer Science


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Camille Birch and Robby Blood of the University of Washington

Camille Birch (left) and Robby Blood during a computer programming course at the University of Washington.

Credit: The New York Times

Just 18 percent of the computer science graduates from colleges and universities across the U.S. are women, down from 37 percent in 1985, but some schools are reporting much higher percentages.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the University of Washington (UW), and Harvey Mudd College have pursued several different programs and policies that have helped them dramatically increase the proportion of women in their computer science programs. Both UW and CMU have partnered with companies and organizations to train high school computer science teachers and host camps and mentoring programs that help involve girls in computer science at an early age. Harvey Mudd has sought to make women's participation in the field more visible in marketing materials and campus tours, and CMU has established formal programs to support women in the computer science program, while also eliminating programming experience as part of the criteria for admission.

Altering curriculum is a controversial choice, but UW says revamping its introductory course to include a focus on the creative and real-world applications of computer science has helped bring many women into the program who would not otherwise have studied it further. CMU decided not to change its curriculum, contending the belief that women place more importance on creativity and real-world applications is a myth.

From The New York Times
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