Building a culture of belonging for women in CS degrees

In an interview with Vogue earlier this year, much celebrated software engineer and outspoken advocate for women in technology Tracy Chou recalls the first computer science class she ever took. She walked into the class, thinking it would be a familiar environment since she grew up as the child of two programmer parents in Silicon Valley. Instead she felt put off by the pronouncements from male students in the class that the subject was ‘a piece of cake’.

This is an experience shared by many women, both those who enter technical degree with some programming experience under their belt and those that start as complete beginners. Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College, talks about the effect that this sort of behaviour can have on other students, particularly women.

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Do CS faculties have a responsibility to attract more female students?

Should it be the responsibility of Computer Science and Technology faculties to make their degrees more attractive to female students? I have had cause to think about this issue a lot recently. After establishing a student-run group for women in technical degrees earlier in the year, I have been considering the limitations of what groups like ours can achieve.

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