Where are all the women?Jessica Howe “There is a prevailing opinion among many men that academics is an entirely cerebral endeavor in which the social roles of men and women have no influence. This clearly is not the case.”
Where are all the women? • In Biology, Chemistry • In Medicine, Law, Media, Business Colhoon Abelson • Not in Computer Science
The numbers grad faculty • EECS 17.5% (140/800) 5.6% (7/125) • CS 18.5% (44/240) 9.1% (4/44) • AI 24.1% (21/87) 5.9% (1/17) AI Web page (1998) • LCS: • Faculty 12.2% • Researchers 29.7% • Graduate 16.4% • Undergraduate 19.1% LLCSW (2002)
The numbers • EECS • CS 19.5% • EE 20.3% • EECS Graduate 19.9% Dept. Statistics (2003) • This year: ~25% of admitted graduate students • Faculty now at 9 women
Why don’t women choose CS? • Discouraged at an early age • Lack of role models • Overly-intense atmosphere, competitive • Socially solitary work • The “nerd” factor • Other science disciplines are more fitting, welcoming • CS is more suited to men than women? • It’s too hard?
Okay, so there’s not many in CS, but so what? • Why is this a problem at all? • Possible Scenarios: • Advertising firms, all Canadian • Authors & news publishers, all frat boys • Basketball teams, all upper-class rich • Computer Scientists, all women
Diverse atmosphere leads to diverse thinking • Strive towards diversity in gender, race, economic backgrounds, etc • President, National Academy of Engineering “Without diversity, we limit the set of life experiences that are applied, and as a result, we pay in opportunity cost - a cost in products not built, in designs not considered, in constraints not understood, and in processes not invented.”
What does a diverse atmosphere look like? • Comfort with asking questions: independence expected, don’t want to “stand out” as ignorant • To be a healthy environment for all, you must feel welcome: not exposed or vulnerable • To be near people like you • Comfortable => productive
Fear: Changing the atmosphere = “dumbing it down” • No, but lowering admissions standards might - Don’t get these confused! • Atmosphere changes: increase peer support • Many brilliant women are not here because they find more welcoming places elsewhere • Example: • Vision ~1/3 women • Systems, um, ~low
Why do I have to help? • Responsibility: community vs. individual • Progress doesn’t happen on its own • We have the ability to change the numbers • It is up to us to do so • You want students and classmates, right? • Falling numbers of undergrads • Uneven attrition rates • More grads more professors more role models more undergrads more grads ….
What do we do? • Spertus, Abelson, study on women in School of Science, Margolis, Cohoon, CRW • Broaden discipline stereotypes • Recruit women • Retain women through mentoring and encouragement
Is it just us? • Through 90’s, 16% CS PhD in US
Why don’t more women just come here? • That would solve a lot of problems • That’s just like saying “get out of poverty” • Social channeling into gender-appropriate careers • They just need to do the same thing men do? • They just need to work harder? • The problem goes back deeper than that
But it started earlier than at the graduate level • Mit undergrads • ~50% women • EECS is still < 20% women • Nationwide • 25% undergrad in EECS
So the only way to fix it is to tutor 6 year olds? • No. • We can influence our surroundings.
But it won’t make a difference if it really starts that young? • We (of both sexes) serve as role models • We directly influence undergrads • As members of a respected academic institution we influence other academic groups • We can recruit and retain at the graduate level • Impact of a woman president?
Attracting women is being unfair to men? • Question: is it easier for women to be admitted? Are women being admitted with lower standards?
Attracting women is being unfair to men? • Question: is it easier for women to be admitted? Are women being admitted with lower standards? • Grimson: “No two standards for admission!” • Never had a quota
The idea of special treatment • Unequal evaluation = special treatment • Many men are against special treatment of any sort • Many women too • Many methods are not special treatment but acts of convincing women to come • Goal: provide opportunities w/out undercutting standings in society
Why are (younger) women staying away from CS? • Positive vs. negative feedback • Computing viewed as a ‘male’ activity • Interest in CS later in life => lack of experience when entering college • Lack of encouragement, support • Self doubt, acting outside of gender stereotypes • Many, many, many other reasons
Why are women staying away from our school, our labs? • High pace and pressure • Atmosphere • Reputation • Few choices of women to work with • Positive vs. negative feedback
Keep it going on • Aggressive recruiting of high school girls (result: 48% of admitted students female) • Prog.s in place at MIT (RSI, MITES, etc) • WTP • IAP 6.001 prep class • GW6 • Polina’s web page
Things other folks have tried • CMU, Unlocking the Clubhouse • Dept. undergraduate statistics • 1995: 7% • 2000: 42% • How’d they do that? • Broad outreach to HS teachers • Broader admissions criteria • Curriculum changes
Official suggestions: LCSW • Double the number of women faculty, staff, and UROPS in 5 years • Acknowledge and address women’s unequal child-care burden • Designate one or more faculty ombudspeople • Oversight meetings to review staff and students • Improve our mentoring system • Hold consciousness-raising events
Summary of questions • Should vs. How • Is the lack of women a problem? • Why do _we_ need to do something about it? • Why are women staying away? • What do we do? • We tried that once, so why will it work now? • There can always be two extremes, but progress comes from many in the middle
My take on a possibly feisty discussion: work together! • Sometimes it’s fun to play devil’s advocate, but less is accomplished • Constructive vs. destructive • And what did I say about this being an aggressive place?
Bibliography • Barriers in Equality in Academia: Women in Computer Science at MIT; many authors, AI Lab Report, Feb. 1983. • Barriers to Equality: The Power of Subtle Discrimination to Maintain Unequal Opportunity; Mary Rowe, MIT. web.mit.edu/ombud/ombuds_publications.mit • Must There Be So Few? Including Women in CS; J. McGrath Cohoon, Intl. Conf. On Software Engineering, 2003, pp 668-674. • Unlocking the Clubhouse; Margolis & Fisher, MIT Press, 2001 (I think that’s the year…) • Women Undergraduate Enrollment in EE and CS at MIT; H. Abelson + committee, Jan. 1995. www-swiss.ai.mit.edu/~hal/women-enrollment-comm/final-report.html • Being a Woman Student at MIT or How to Miss the Stumbling Blocks in Graduate Education; Candace L Sidner, AI Lab Report, June 1979. • Why Are There So Few Women?; Ellen Spertus, AI Lab Tech Report, 1991. www.ai.mit.edu/people/ellens/Gender/pap/pap.html • Digits of Pi: Barriers and Enablers for Women in Engineering; 2000. www.mit.edu/afs/athena.mit.edu/dept/aeroastro/www/people/widnall/Digits_of_Pi.html • web.mit.edu/admissions/www/undergrad/freshman/faq/summer.html • web.mit.edu/fnl/ women/women.html • www.ai.mit.edu/academics/student-life/women.shtml • www-tech.mit.edu/V123/N3/timeline.3f.html • web.mit.edu/gep/ • Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research www.cra.org/Activities/craw/ • LCSW Summary Recommendations [DRAFT] - LCS Report soon to come out. • Departmental Statistics c/o Marilyn Pierce