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Bridging the Gender Gap: Why More Women Aren't Computer Scientists, Engineers


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Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe

"If I could wave my magic wand and just change the world right this second," says Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe, "I would change the way that the media . . . portrays careers in science and engineering, because we tend to think of those people as dorks and dweebs and geeks and nerds."

Credit: PBS NewsHour

Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe is seeking to close the gender gap in the hard sciences, which she attributes to young women's perception of such fields as uninteresting, beyond their capabilities, and being conducive to unappealing people.

The concept of computing and other hard sciences as a strictly male-oriented domain is a major impediment, Klawe notes. However, she says hard science careers are actually very appealing to women for a number of reasons, including the incredible opportunities for jobs that pay very well, and with the flexibility to balance work and family. Klawe also notes that products and innovations stand to benefit from a feminine perspective.

One key to attracting more women into science and engineering careers is changing the image of such careers as promoted and entrenched by the popular media, according to Klawe. She recommends that young women's interest in hard sciences should be nurtured when they enter college. "You get them into an intro computer science course that is absolutely fascinating and fun and creative," Klawe suggests. "And you have them have so much fun, that they just can't believe that this is really computer science."

From PBS NewsHour
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