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Broadening the Path for Women in STEM

By Esther Shein

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 8, Pages 19-21

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In 2018, girls and women are getting the message they belong in computer science as much as boys and men, thanks to a greater push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curricula in schools and a vast number of programs available to them outside of school.

Yet the numbers remain discouraging. Although computer science jobs are projected to grow 15% to 20% through 2020, the majority of these positions will be pursued and filled by men, according to Women in Computer Science (WiCS).


R Oldehoeft

Women as computer science academic faculty members are still woefully under-represented. But they do no come to us on parachutes from the sky. They are available to employ when people like Ms. Saosun and others decide to opt for excellence as undergraduates, gain admission to reputable graduate CS programs, successfully complete PhDs, and opt for academic instead of commercial or industrial careers. That multi-step pipeline narrows dramatically for both men and women, but the latter are a too-small group from the start.

I tried to hire women into professorial jobs by making sure there was room on short lists for them and other under-represented people to compete. The competition among institutions was fierce, we were all trying to do the right things, and I had a few successes. My university was fully supportive of these efforts, there were no local impediments.

I agree that the real benefits will come from younger kids being offered computational education experiences as part of their regular curricula. My own experience was enhanced by an older sibling who noted to me that this computing stuff is a heck of a lot of fun, and they pay you very well to do it. Perhaps that is the best message of all.

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