Sunday, April 11, 2010

Crimson Article on Women in Computer Science

From a few days ago:

Computer Science at Harvard Sees Large Gender Imbalance

It's listed as a news article, although I don't think this is news.  It is something we are trying to figure out, and do better:

“It’s something that we talk about a lot,” said Associate Dean for Computer Science and Engineering J. Gregory Morrisett. “We are coordinating with a bunch of departments around the world and are trying a lot of different things in the hopes that we will uncover some of the issues and correct for them.”


Paul Beame said...

Unfortunately the phrase "another coding-heavy field" in the article perpetuates misconceptions about CS that it is all about coding.

BTW: How can one explain the disparity with the percentages in the EECS track? Is it just small numbers?

Anonymous said...

MM, what is the difference between Applied Math: Computer Science and CS?

Geoff Knauth said...

Georgia Tech Human-Centered Computing program is more than 50% female. See Guzdial CACM blog post.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

1) Paul -- I can't really explain it.
2) Anon: Applied Math is a distinct major. In fact, applied math is more flexible than CS, in terms of requirements -- a bit less CS, a bit more math/econ can be used. With Applied Math students choose a specialization area. So Applied Math : CS majors are taking a number of CS classes, but other stuff as well. Perhaps the flexibility, and the ability to take more related courses outside of CS, is more appealing to women?

Harry Lewis said...

Or, perhaps, that you don't have to do as much computer programming, you don't have to compete with the Putnam team as you would if you were a pure math major, and you can still graduate with a degree that is highly valued in the business world. It makes perfect sense to me.

Geoff Knauth said...

The women scientists I've worked with are more quickly turned off by drudgery than are men. The key to retaining women is to find what they consider dreary and change it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

I guess it is not a problem. There are less women in the Army/Mechanical Engineering/Plumbing as well. There are more women in Arts/Nursing/Languages. You cannot FORCE nature.


Sam Lightstone said...

I recently interviewed Google's VP of Search and User Experience, Marissa Mayer, on this question. You can hear a 3 minute audio of what she said here:

The full interview with Marissa is published in "Making it Big in Software" (details here: