Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Women in Computer Science

I was going to post the link to this article yesterday, but I felt it wasn't entirely appropriate in light of the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy.

Lenore Blum, one of the Carnegie Mellon University professors profiled in the article, is a classy lady. I had the honor of working with her for a semester or so, as I was the assistant to the Women in Computer Science Advisory Committee. Little-known fact about me: I started my college career as a computer science major at Carnegie Mellon, and even though I eventually switched to creative writing, I still have a large fondness for the department. It's filled with brilliant professors, excellent advisors (particularly Mark Stehlik, who was like a surrogate father to me during some hard times, and Jim Roberts, who alas, no longer advises), and students who really care about computer science. Hell, I still care about computer science, and find it largely fascinating.

So I find it incredibly heartening that there's still an active effort to recruit women into computer science programs across the nation. I wasn't quite in on the ground floor of the effort, but I'm glad to have been even a tiny part of the process. =)


Patrick McNamara said...

I'm surprised they need to recruit women. There's always been a strong presence of women in computers. It may just be that computer science doesn't have the appeal it use to.

Anonymous said...

After nine years in IT, my experience is it has always been a male-dominated field. However, I've also noticed in recent years the guys don't seem to mind having us around. At least not where I've work. :)


Tracey said...

I studied here in Australia (was the only woman in my class)and graduated to become an Analyst/programmer. I started my career as a mainframe developer 11 years ago. I left the public sector to become and individual consultant.

Now I have moved on to Systems and Business Analysis. I love it, its the first thing I found I had a real knack for. But now I've discovered writing - I am not as in love with computer science as I once used to be, Still I think I would miss it if I was to give it up.

DanStrohschein said...

After 14 years working within IT and MIS fields as a software engineer, I've never once actually worked with a female who was in a similar role. I've always hoped that there would be more spread - women have new and innovative ways of finding solutions, and I think the industry as a whole could benefit from having more of the female influence and perspective on it.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Before my dad retired from a career as an IE prof at Pitt, he was always bemoaning the lack of women engineering students. If he had a strong female student, he'd always make sure the department mentored her and helped in any way they could.

Jenny, we ought to talk. The Tour Manager is a CMU alum, and I'm quite sure we have friends in common.

Cara King said...

Interesting article! And encouraging, too.

It sometimes seems like all my female friends work in computers -- but then, the same is true for all my male friends. Of course, once upon a time, you didn't need to major in computer science to work in it -- two of my closest friends were (female) computer gods at Caltech, and their majors were French and English, respectively. :-)

But I must say, even though I definitely think computer science (and other fields) should have more women in them, I'm never quite sure I agree when people talk about a field needing "women's perspective." I think all that Mars/Venus stuff is annoyingly exaggerated, and what's given too little acknowledgement is the huge differences between men and men, and women and women. Ask my perspective, and it might be a more "masculine" perspective than my husband's, to be honest!

In fact, when I hear "Men can't multitask, women can" or "Women need to hear the words, men don't" or "Men like fried foods, women like candy," or whatever this week's pop-psych gender "wisdom" is, I realize as often as not that I'm acting like the stereotypical man, not the stereotypical woman.

Guess that means I'm a human being, not a stereotype.

Which I think is true for most of us -- most people don't fit a neat little gender role. (Not that I want to stereotype us or anything.) :-)


kathie said...

CMU, eh? I went to Pitt...I used to love going to CMU's spring fling/festival. My running route snaked through CMU. Did you ever go to Panther Hollow Inn? Sounds like you made the right switch in majors as you're burning up the town with sales.

Anne Harris said...

You started out in computer science, no kidding. So did I! I actually finished with my degree, that's what my BS is in. At the time, (this was the eighties -- showing my age), the program had a lot of women in it. Prob. not 50/50 but at least 70/30. Course back then, _everyone_ was going into CS.

My first and only job, however, was for the Dept. of Defense -- and I was the only woman in my section.