From Difference to Diversity: Carnegie Mellon’s Women@SCS and SCS4ALL

Carol Frieze - Carnegie Mellon University

March 27, 2015, 2:30 p.m. - None

MC 12


In fall 2014 Carnegie Mellon (CMU) hit the news when an unprecedented 40+% new women entered the computer science major. Since 1999 the School has enrolled and sustained well above national averages of women in the CS major; all without changing the curriculum to be “female friendly” or “pink” in any way (as is often presumed). In this talk I’ll focus on what we did …and, just as importantly, on what we did not do in terms of interventions to change the culture and environment. In particular, I’ll discuss the role played by Women@SCS in the change process, and the value that such student organizations can contribute as schools work towards greater diversity. On a broader note I will propose that the lessons learned at CMU provide strong arguments against gender difference approaches which have not provided satisfactory explanations for the low participation of women in CS. Indeed, beliefs in a gender divide may actually be deterring women from seeing themselves in male dominated fields like computer science.

Carol Frieze gained her doctorate in the field of "Cultural Studies in Computer Science" from the School of Computer Science (SCS), Carnegie Mellon University. Her thesis examined the role of culture and environment as determinants of women's participation in computer science. She has worked on diversity issues in the School of Computer Science for the past 15 years. She is Director of Women@SCS, a professional faculty/student organization (hosted by SCS) working to build community on campus and to promote diversity in CS through outreach. She is also Director of SCS4ALL, a new student advisory council (hosted by SCS) working to develop social and professional activities and leadership opportunities to broaden interest and participation in computing by underrepresented groups. Her research interests and publications focus on the culture of computing, broadening participation in computing fields, diversity issues, gender myths and stereotypes. She is the SCS faculty representative for Access Computing and for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). She designed and teaches a course on the “Images of Computing” which looks at the ways computing and computer science are represented and perceived in US popular culture and in other cultures and countries.