Excerpt from Chapter 4 – “A Class in Transition: The 2002 Case Study”

Kicking Butt in Computer Science: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University by Carol Frieze, Ph.D. and Jeria Quesenberry, Ph.D.

Excerpt from Chapter 4 – “A Class in Transition: The 2002 Case Study”:
Changes in how our students were relating to CS were already being
observed by 2002 when we conducted interviews to examine the perspectives
of a class in “transition.” We called this group of seniors a class
in transition because this was the last class to have entered the program
before there was anything close to a critical mass of women. They
entered the program in 1998 when the entering class was on a par with
the low numbers of women entering CS programs nationally. The classes
ahead of them also had a low female to male ratio. However, the classes
following behind them from 1999 onwards, with the new admissions
criteria now in place, had good gender balance (the 1999 class entered
with 37% women).

Excerpt from Chapter 2 – “Women’s Participation in Computing Really Does Matter”

Kicking Butt in Computer Science: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University by Carol Frieze, Ph.D. and Jeria Quesenberry, Ph.D.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 – “Women’s Participation in Computing Really Does Matter”:

Investigations like those carried out by Deloitte, McKinsey & Company,
Inc. and Lehman Brothers endorse the idea that diversity should be seen
as a means for finding good solutions, not a target number. Professor Orit
Hazzan uses Carnegie Mellon as an academic example along with examples
from industry to propose, and we agree, “it is in the interest of the
computing world, rather than in the interest of any specific under represented
group in this community, to enhance diversity in general” (Hazzan,
2006, p. 1). Changes in the culture of computing at Carnegie
Mellon have shown that a more diverse student body, including
increased numbers of women students, has enriched the social and academic
environment for everyone.

We have seen from the data that the number of women in CS is seriously
low; yet clearly the potential is there. In the United States we face the
mystery of why women are not taking full advantage of the opportunities
and the intellectual challenges of what is probably the fastest growing
field in the nation. Why are women apparently choosing to miss out on a
range of exciting and rewarding career opportunities? In the meantime
the field is missing out on a broad spectrum of talent that a more diverse
student body and workforce could contribute. Thus, it is generally
argued, and agreed, that women’s participation in CS really does matter.
The low representation of women in CS needs to be turned around for
the benefit of women, for the benefit of the field, and, with fears of the
United States falling behind its competitors, for the benefit of the nation
as a whole.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 – “The Importance of Balance”

Kicking Butt in Computer Science: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University by Carol Frieze, Ph.D. and Jeria Quesenberry, Ph.D.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 – “The Importance of Balance”:

So, what are the findings that lead us to such conclusions? In the specific
case of Carnegie Mellon several in-depth case studies along with ongoing
observations, surveys and discussions with students and faculty,
showed that improving “balance” has been the critical factor. As the
environment became more balanced post-1999 in terms of gender,
breadth of student personalities, and enhanced opportunities for
women through Women@SCS the culture changed. Our studies show
that as students inhabit, and participate in, a more balanced environment,
and as both men and women have opportunities to contribute to
shaping the culture, perceived gender differences start to dissolve and
both men and women can be successful in the CS major without accommodating
what are thought to be the specific interests and learning styles
of women.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 – “Case Studies at Carnegie Mellon University”

Kicking Butt in Computer Science: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University by Carol Frieze, Ph.D. and Jeria Quesenberry, Ph.D.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 – “Case Studies at Carnegie Mellon University”:

Evidence for the critical role of culture and environment come from case
studies at Carnegie Mellon, which show cultural change at the institutional
level. In 1995 women made up 8% of the first year CS class. In
1999 that number jumped dramatically to 37% and to 39.5% in 2000!
Since 1999 the department, while not immune to national trends, has
continued to enroll and graduate women in well above national averages
for similarly ranked schools across the nation. In particular our book
compares the pre-1999 CS culture and imbalanced environment with
the post-1999 CS culture and more balanced environment. We show
how in a more balanced environment, perceived gender differences start
to dissolve and we see students displaying a spectrum of attitudes,
including many gender similarities, in how they relate to CS. We focus
on undergraduates because it is at the undergraduate level that the
majority of interventions leading to change took place and also because
we can compare studies from pre and post 1999. At the same time, we
cannot overestimate the positive impact of having an active group of
graduate women in the School of Computer Science. Not only did they
initiate connections among women across the many departments of the
school, but also they have since played a major role in mentoring and
guiding our undergraduate students, especially through Women@SCS
programs. Our graduate women are exceptional role models.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 – “A Cultural Approach”

Kicking Butt in Computer Science: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University by Carol Frieze, Ph.D. and Jeria Quesenberry, Ph.D.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 – “A Cultural Approach”:

So, what do we mean by culture and what does it mean to take a cultural
approach? Our working definition of culture is derived from British cultural
theorist and historian Raymond Williams (1958) who tells us “Culture
is ordinary, in every society and in every mind” (p. 6). Williams
brought a new way of thinking about culture that did not confine it to
“high art” or the prerogative of the privileged requiring specialized
knowledge and understanding. Williams showed that culture belonged
to everyone. It is part of our everyday experiences and being “made and
remade” by us on both the personal and the societal levels: “a culture is
a whole way of life.”

This definition allows us to see culture as dynamic; shaping and being shaped
by those who occupy it, in a synergistic diffusive process.

When Williams refers to the “ordinariness” of culture he was claiming it
for us all, as part of the lived experiences of ordinary as well as extra-ordinary
people. But it is also the potential “ordinariness” of culture, rife
with what Virginia Valian (1999) calls “gender schemas” that can jeopardize
our gender perceptions. Gender-difference assumptions easily
become entrenched in our thinking and mistaken for deep-rooted characteristics
appearing to be completely natural while actually being
socially constructed in specific cultures.