January 2006


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Stefanie Ploof <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Technology Discussion at UVM <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 12 Jan 2006 13:34:22 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (404 lines)
There's nothing wrong with having a CS degree, but there's nothing wrong
with -not- having one, either.  I think it was short sighted of The
Chronicle to use college degrees relating to gender as the basis for their
information, and completely appropriate for "[s]ome women who have been
successful in computer science" to call the Chronicle findings nonsense.
No need to divide humans any further than we already choose to divide

On Thu, 12 Jan 2006, Lauren Brault wrote:

> I am probably the exception to the rule with my hand down...
> Stefanie Ploof wrote:
> >Raise your hand if you work in IT but -don't- have a CS degree.  Now, look
> >around the room.  Point made.
> >
> >
> >
> >On Thu, 12 Jan 2006, Alison Pechenick wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> >>Hello everyone,
> >>
> >>The CEMS faculty received this today, and I found it to be an
> >>intriguing, and somewhat startling piece.
> >>
> >>Best wishes,
> >>
> >>Alison
> >>
> >>-------- Original Message --------
> >>Subject: 	From today's Chronicle of Higher Education
> >>Date: 	Thu, 12 Jan 2006 09:00:51 -0500
> >>
> >>
> >>The Chronicle of Higher Education <>
> >>------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>Information Technology <>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>  From the issue dated January 13, 2006
> >>
> >>
> >>       Wanted: Female Computer-Science Students
> >>
> >>* Colleges work to attract and support women in technology majors*
> >>
> >>
> >>Are computer programmers from Mars? Is computer science a guy thing?
> >>Some experts are wondering just that  at least, as it is taught now.
> >>While other fields, like mathematics, science, and chemistry, have seen
> >>growing enrollment and involvement of women, the number of women in
> >>computer science and related fields remains low and stagnant. According
> >>to the Computing Research Association, only 17 percent of undergraduate
> >>computer-science degrees were awarded to women in 2004, down from 19
> >>percent in 2000. Those dwindling numbers come at a crucial time for the
> >>discipline, which has seen shrinking enrollments in since the dot-com bust.
> >>
> >>Could it be that men are more attracted to the nuts and bolts of
> >>computers, while women are more interested in the social and cultural
> >>applications of the devices? Perhaps computer-science programs, suggest
> >>some researchers, are stacked against women and the way they learn.
> >>
> >>Some women who have been successful in computer science, however, say
> >>that is nonsense. What is needed, they say, is more social support for
> >>women in the discipline  and for peers and parents to stop telling
> >>girls that computers are not for them.
> >>
> >>To provide that support, programs and clubs for women in computer
> >>science have recently cropped up at colleges across the country, notably
> >>at Carnegie Mellon University and at the University of
> >>Maryland-Baltimore County.
> >>
> >>Women who want to go into computer fields can face discouragement and
> >>discrimination from as early as grade school, through college, and into
> >>the work world. Consider the story of Kim, who graduated from Ohio
> >>University in 2004. Kim, who asked to remain anonymous, arrived at the
> >>university intending to major in mass communications. But, having grown
> >>up building ham radios with her father, she thought a technical field
> >>would provide better job options and offer more of a challenge.
> >>
> >>Communications-systems management, a technical degree with lots of
> >>programming, was definitely challenging, but not in ways she had
> >>anticipated. She was one of only a handful of women in the program. "The
> >>guys wanted to be my partner when it came to writing papers, but no one
> >>wanted to be my partner when it came to lab time," she says.
> >>
> >>Advising sessions for the degree were held at a local bar. "All the guys
> >>would sit together, eating the hot wings," she says. "I hated going
> >>there, because I knew that unless the other girls showed up, I would be
> >>sitting by myself."
> >>
> >>The challenges did not end when she got her first job after graduation,
> >>at AT&T, as the only woman on a team of techies charged with selling
> >>equipment and services. On her first day, a senior male colleague tossed
> >>a pencil on the floor in front of her. "Could you pick that up?" he
> >>cooed, clearly wanting to ogle her.
> >>
> >>"I was floored," she says. "I called home that night and just cried."
> >>
> >>*Downward Trend*
> >>
> >>Studies of women in technology inevitably refer to /Unlocking the
> >>Clubhouse: Women in Computing,/ a highly influential and celebrated
> >>study of women in computer science, based on research conducted largely
> >>in the late 1990s at Carnegie Mellon. At the time of the study, only 7
> >>percent of the computer-science majors at Carnegie Mellon were women.
> >>
> >>Nationwide, "things have not changed that much," says Jane Margolis, a
> >>researcher at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
> >>at the University of California at Los Angeles, who was one of the
> >>book's authors. "In fact, they've gotten worse."
> >>
> >>Her studies indicate that boys get more hands-on experience with
> >>computers at home. In addition, she says, games and computer software
> >>are generally designed by guys, for guys, and tend to engage boys more
> >>than girls.
> >>
> >>In high-school and college courses, computer science is presented as
> >>straight programming, which is seen as tedious, especially by women, she
> >>says. Men are generally interested in computers as tools and objects of
> >>study, according to her research; women are more interested in what
> >>computers can do for science, the arts, or society.
> >>
> >>"What our research found was that their motivation for learning computer
> >>science very much hung on the purpose that computing was going to be
> >>used for," she says. "It wasn't just hacking for hacking's sake. There
> >>was a real social context that gave them motivation and meaning."
> >>
> >>In response to such findings, Carnegie Mellon changed the admissions
> >>policies for its School of Computer Science in 1999. Instead of
> >>primarily looking for students who had prior programming experience, the
> >>university broadened its criteria to include students who had ambitious
> >>goals, who showed leadership skills, and, of course, who had excellent
> >>grades. After 2000, the number of women entering the computer-science
> >>program went from below 10 percent to more than 30 percent and has held
> >>steady there since.
> >>
> >>Lenore Blum, a professor of computer science, arrived at Carnegie Mellon
> >>just as the admissions policy changed and as the population of women in
> >>the program surged. Local newspapers were celebrating the arrival of
> >>women in the computer-science program. "I could see that unless we did
> >>something that provided the critical professional support for women in
> >>the program," Ms. Blum says, "you would see articles the following year
> >>saying that half the students had dropped out."
> >>
> >>She wanted to set up a program that would foster the professional
> >>experiences and support for women at Carnegie Mellon that are "implicit
> >>and often not acknowledged for a majority in a population," she says.
> >>
> >>The program, called Women@SCS, draws prominent female speakers from the
> >>world of technology who can serve as role models for the students. It
> >>runs a mentor service, in which women who are juniors and seniors can
> >>counsel freshmen and sophomores, offering support for course work or for
> >>dealing with the rigors of the major. Social occasions, like lunches,
> >>are set up to provide opportunities for the women to network.
> >>
> >>"These are common-sense things to do, but you've got to do them," Ms.
> >>Blum says, adding that she is tired of hearing people bemoan the fact
> >>that computer science is losing female students. "What I'm realizing is
> >>that there is too much talk the talk and not enough walk the walk. We
> >>have the complete support of the president, the provost, the dean, and
> >>the chair of the department. They're not just saying, 'Hey, you're doing
> >>a good job.' They are paying the bill."
> >>
> >>*'Bias In, Bias Out'*
> >>
> >>The expanded population of women in Carnegie Mellon's computer-science
> >>program has given Ms. Blum the opportunity to do her own research on the
> >>classes of 2002 and 2004. She says her findings contradict some of the
> >>conclusions of /Unlocking the Clubhouse./ The book's research was
> >>tainted by "bias in, bias out," she argues, reflecting Carnegie Mellon's
> >>admissions requirements at the time, which rewarded programming
> >>experience that male students were more likely to possess.
> >>
> >>Ms. Blum does not believe that women are oriented toward applications
> >>and that men are oriented toward programming. "We didn't see any gender
> >>differences at all, but found similar spectra in men and women," she
> >>says. "We found that there were some men who were hackers and some women
> >>who were hackers. ... One of the women we interviewed said that she
> >>kisses her computer every morning."
> >>
> >>"To say that there are intrinsic male and female differences and you
> >>have to accommodate for those is absolutely wrong," she says. "Don't
> >>devise the curriculum so that it's female-friendly. That will only serve
> >>to marginalize women."
> >>
> >>Other colleges have set up programs like [log in to unmask] The University of
> >>Maryland-Baltimore County recently started the Center for Women and
> >>Information Technology, or CWIT, as it is more commonly known. The
> >>center supports female students in computer science, information
> >>science, computer engineering, and information studies. Women in the
> >>center's program live together on a designated floor of a residence
> >>hall, allowing for the sort of support that all-night programming
> >>sessions require. The center also helps women make connections with
> >>local companies for jobs and internships.
> >>
> >>CWIT attempts to counter some of the negative influences that have
> >>ground down the students' self-esteem. Lindsay Mannchen, a senior, says
> >>she was one of two girls in her high-school programming courses, where
> >>her male peers told her again and again that she was no good at
> >>programming and that she was out of place.
> >>
> >>"One of guys I grew up with and was in all of the classes with told me
> >>that, scientifically, girls were not programmed to do math like guys
> >>could," she says. "And I believed him."
> >>
> >>Since joining the CWIT program in college, her attitude has changed,
> >>"mostly because I'm surrounded by girls who say, 'That's not right;
> >>don't listen to that,'" she says.
> >>
> >>"I do notice that a lot of my classes are male-dominated, and in
> >>information science, we do a lot of group projects," she says. "The guys
> >>don't want to listen to the girls, unless you stand up and prove
> >>yourself right away."
> >>
> >>The women's center is not all women. A select group of male students is
> >>involved with the program, a strategy to draw UMBC men into the
> >>conversation about women in technical fields. "It's not so much that
> >>only women can encourage us," says Amanda Schwenk, a freshman. "It's
> >>that the guys realize that it's harder for women to get a start or keep
> >>going in this, and that it's not exactly socially acceptable."
> >>
> >>*Social Factors*
> >>
> >>Claudia Morrell, executive director of CWIT, is not a computer scientist
> >>but a psychologist who has been studying the attitudes and influences of
> >>women and girls in computer science. Support programs for female
> >>computer-science majors can help women stay in the discipline, she
> >>argues, but crucial influences in childhood are strong factors in
> >>steering girls away from computer science and related fields.
> >>
> >>"Parents are students' No. 1 source for decisions in career making," Ms.
> >>Morrell says. "Daughters tend to identify or align themselves with their
> >>mothers, and mothers aren't often the ones who are involved with
> >>technology." Meanwhile, dad is the one who is often fussing with the
> >>computer, hooking up the home stereo system, or even has a job involving
> >>technology.
> >>
> >>When girls enter middle school, Ms. Morrell says, these perceptions
> >>begin to solidify into career goals, as young people start to form their
> >>identities. "At that age, gender issues become important as an
> >>expression of personal identity," she says. Too often, a middle-school
> >>girl who says she wants to be a computer scientist is treated much like
> >>a boy who says he wants to be a nurse  the professions carry gender
> >>identities, even if they are outdated.
> >>
> >>Those gender identities still have power over enrollment choices. If
> >>schools offer computer-science or programming courses  and all too
> >>often they don't, scholars say  enrollment is often dominated by boys,
> >>who are already playing around with computers at home. A middle-school
> >>girl in a programming class might feel as out of place as a boy in a
> >>sewing course.
> >>
> >>Add to all those influences the image of computer scientists and
> >>programmers well known in the media: the brilliant but socially inept
> >>mumbler who could use a few tips on hairstyles and clothes.
> >>
> >>"Unfortunately, computer fields have a geeky image," Ms. Morrell says,
> >>"and girls in particular don't want to be perceived as geeks and nerds."
> >>
> >>So by the time girls enter high school and start thinking about colleges
> >>and careers, computer science and related technology fields are distant
> >>thoughts compared with biology, chemistry, and mathematics, which have
> >>seen tremendous growth in women's participation in the past few decades.
> >>
> >>Ms. Morrell and others at UMBC are trying to change that in Maryland
> >>with a couple of programs that are specifically aimed at middle-school
> >>girls. The university runs a summer program that invites girls to
> >>explore science and technology. While the girls are digging into
> >>computers, people from CWIT sit down with parents to talk about the
> >>troubles of attracting women to computer science, the subtle influences
> >>on that trend within the home, and the potential women have in the field.
> >>
> >>The university also runs an after-school program at six suburban
> >>Baltimore middle schools, focusing on hands-on activities in science and
> >>technology. Supported by a $1-million grant from the National Science
> >>Foundation, the program covers basic tenets of science and technology,
> >>while giving students the opportunity to tear apart cameras to see how
> >>they work, to put together telephones from kits and string together a
> >>telephone network, and to create presentations on computers.
> >>
> >>At a middle school in Essex, an economically depressed community east of
> >>Baltimore, Renee Yusuff and Anissa Nixon pore over a diagram for
> >>assembling a blue plastic telephone, barely looking up to answer a
> >>reporter's questions.
> >>
> >>"I learned how to use a digital camera and how to use PowerPoint," Renee
> >>says when asked about her favorite lessons in the program. "I want to go
> >>into information technology." Anissa says that she is considering some
> >>kind of career in engineering.
> >>
> >>True to Ms. Morrell's observations, the girls have had strong role
> >>models in technology within their families. Renee learned about
> >>computers from her uncle, who used to work on them in the basement at
> >>home. Anissa's mother used to climb telephone poles to repair lines for
> >>Verizon. "She was one of the only women in that job," Anissa says, then
> >>adds proudly, "and she was one of the best."
> >>
> >>*Mentors Needed*
> >>
> >>Among college women in computer science who were interviewed by The
> >>Chronicle, many recounted special circumstances from childhood that
> >>helped them enter the field and stick with it.
> >>
> >>Amy Goodwin, a junior at Carnegie Mellon, picked up computers as early
> >>as elementary school because she had a learning disability that affected
> >>her handwriting. She dug into her laptop, a constant companion, and
> >>learned some common programming languages by sixth grade.
> >>
> >>In programming classes in high school  at an all-girls school in
> >>Maryland, where, she says, girls "don't have to pretend not to be smart
> >>when they're around guys"  she says she knew far more than the students
> >>who enrolled from a nearby boys' school. Her mother, a law professor,
> >>was a strong figure in her life and taught her by example to persevere
> >>in a profession that is still an old-boys' club.
> >>
> >>She considers her gender an asset  something that might make her stand
> >>out in job applications. Recruiters from Microsoft and from Google  who
> >>brought shirts with the o's in Google transformed into female symbols 
> >>came to Carnegie Mellon to talk about the opportunities for women in
> >>their companies. But she has also heard, from women who graduated from
> >>Carnegie Mellon a few years ago, stories about male colleagues who said
> >>things like "You don't belong here" and "You're only here because you're
> >>a woman."
> >>
> >>"Those are the people that are out there in the work world," she says.
> >>
> >>Ms. Blum and Ms. Morrell point out that their programs for women are
> >>building alumnae networks, through which women can find out about
> >>friendly workplaces and evangelize about the field. National
> >>organizations like the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology,
> >>which is composed of female professionals from the computer industry and
> >>academe, provide opportunities for women in the working world to get
> >>together and support one another.
> >>
> >>Progress may come, if slowly. Computer science, Ms. Morrell points out,
> >>was once the dominion of women. Early programmers, called "computers,"
> >>were women who worked on huge mainframe computers during World War II.
> >>Grace Murray Hopper, an early programmer, is celebrated as a pioneer in
> >>the field, having found the first computer "bug." Ada Byron Lovelace, a
> >>19th-century mathematician, is credited with writing the first computer
> >>program.
> >>
> >>"We forget to celebrate," Ms. Morrell says, noting the progress that has
> >>been made over the years in mathematics and other sciences. "It's simply
> >>a matter of time before women see the professional opportunities and the
> >>financial opportunities. We'll reach a tipping point where women reach
> >>some level of comfort, and this will no longer be a problem."
> >>
> >>
> >>Section: Information Technology
> >>Volume 52, Issue 19, Page A35
> >>------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>Copyright <>  2006 by The
> >>Chronicle of Higher Education <>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>--
> >>Alison Pechenick, Lecturer
> >>Department of Computer Science
> >>College of Engineering & Mathematical Sciences
> >>351 Votey Building
> >>University of Vermont
> >>Burlington, VT 05405
> >>(802)656-2547
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> --
> Lauren M Brault, A.S.
> Computing Analyst II
> Continuing Education
> 460 South Prospect Street
> 802.656.5808
> [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
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