How to Get More Female Computer Science Grads

 - Safia Abdalla, a freshman in the computer science program at Northwestern University - KENDALL KARMANIAN

In the US alone, there’s a 1.2 million demand for computer scientists/engineers. If more women were intrigued by the profession, they could help address the gap. But women only make 18% of CS/CE degrees. Recruiting and retention of women in male dominated careers is a problem worldwide. This Chicago Business article shares an approach to solving both the problem of recruiting and retention of women.

In my experience at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez (UPRM), where there are almost 40% of women in engineering, it takes a multi-pronged approach to bring in and retain women in engineering and computer science. You need to start as early as possible in making science and engineering attractive and non-stereotyped. “When gender perceptions and negative stereotypes towards women in mathematics and science are non-existent, the gender gap in performance seems to disappear.” according to a 2014 UPRM study. You need role models at all levels, including society. And most importantly, incorporating project-based learning is critical. Why the latter? Women’s perceptions, problem-solving approach and contributions make them feel valued. As Richard F. Baz from WPI reports, project-based learning has significantly more impact on women than on men. It appears that when women have connections with their environment they feel valued. Project-based learning allows students, especially women, to “build more intimate connections with people… because we were living with the people we were working with…”