Women in Computer Science


Reported July 1, 2005

Computer Science Women

PITTSBURG (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) ‑‑


When the 1990's "dot com" bubble burst, it also took a big toll on computer science programs at colleges across the country.  Enrollment dropped as students steered clear of an economically uncertain discipline.  But, the trend is starting to change, especially among women.


For the past decade, Lenore Blum, Ph.D., has been on a mission to recruit women to computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.  She says: "The computer science department head is female.  We have a lot of female faculty.  We have probably the largest percentage of women in our undergraduate program of any major university computer science program in the country."


In 1995, Carnegie Mellon graduated just seven women from a computer science class of 110.  The next year, the number was up to 20.  And this year, 37 women will graduate with computer science degrees, more than a third of the class.


The university credits getting the word out to the right people.  "Word spread through the high school teachers.  Their girls apply and come here as undergraduates," says Jeannette Wing, Ph.D., the computer science department head at Carnegie Mellon.


It is also graduate students spreading the word to undergrads ‑‑ computer science is more than just writing programs for PCs.  Graduate student Gita Sukthankar says, "It's much more.  You can define what interests you and go off and do it!"


And get paid well for doing it.  Those with a bachelor's degree will earn an estimated $50,000 a year to start ‑‑ making computers one of the most lucrative fields for new grads.


Carnegie Mellon isn't the only school trying to boost the number of women in computer science.  The University of Illinois, Stanford, and the University of California at Berkeley are just a few examples of schools with similar mentoring programs for women.


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