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.

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