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How Harvey Mudd closed Computer Science gender gap

Jayesh A Lalwani
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http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/10/how-harvey-mudd-transformed-its-computer-science-program-and-nearly-closed-its-gender-gap/

Funny, that just making CS interesting and fun automatically closes the gender gap. Shows that the problem has been all along with the way we teach CS rather than CS itself (or the way women's brains are supposedly differrent than men's)
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Watched the video. Here's a summary. It's way more than just making CS programming and fun.

Perceived concerns:
  • Programming is boring
  • might not be good at it
  • nerds have no life


  • Their solution:
  • changed intro course
  • change to Python (more forgiving and used in industry unlike Scratch)
  • give choice of problems to solve so feel ownership
  • make it fun
  • make it less scary so feel like will do well
  • streaming - split intro class into three - never programmed before, have programmed before, know a lot
  • show lots of programmers who aren't dorks - show cool females at different stages of career
  • first three courses focused on retention - challenging, fun and enough to get a summer job


  • Why she feels isn't ok to accept low % women:
  • predicts economic problems if don't have more software developers graduates - if most females don't do it, this isn't going to grow
  • good careers - pay well, flexible, travel options, work on cool problems - why wouldn't want females to have these job opportunities
  • better solutions if more diverse teams - it's not just about women; it's about all diversity


  • And my take on it:
    I really like that it isn't just focused on women. Other than the showing cool females part, everything is about being more interesting and engaging to help as many people grows as possible.


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    Bear Bibeault
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      66



    Oh, sorry, wrong Mudd.


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    chris webster
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      14

    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:And my take on it: I really like that it isn't just focused on women. Other than the showing cool females part, everything is about being more interesting and engaging to help as many people grows as possible.

    Great summary, Jeanne, and yes, this course sounds a heck of a lot more fun than my introductory CS course (over 90% of students were male) back in the late Jurassic period!


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    fred rosenberger
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      16

    Bear Bibeault wrote:Oh, sorry, wrong Mudd.

    That's who I thought we were talking about...


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    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    chris webster wrote:Great summary, Jeanne, and yes, this course sounds a heck of a lot more fun than my introductory CS course (over 90% of students were male) back in the late Jurassic period!

    I don't remember the gender ratio partially because I never took Intro to CS in college. I took AP Computer Science twice in high school (Pascal and C++) though. But also mostly because I was focused on what we were learning and not the gender distribution in the classes. There was only one class where I noticed and that was because someone pointed it out. That one was a small class so it was more obvious.
    Maneesh Godbole
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        8

    Interesting comments there on that page.


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    chris webster
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      14

    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I don't remember the gender ratio partially because I never took Intro to CS in college. I took AP Computer Science twice in high school (Pascal and C++) though. But also mostly because I was focused on what we were learning and not the gender distribution in the classes. There was only one class where I noticed and that was because someone pointed it out. That one was a small class so it was more obvious.

    Well, my major subjects were liberal arts, where male students were generally in the minority or the gender balance was roughly equal, so it was quite noticeable and a bit weird when I went to my CS class which was almost entirely full of male engineers, many of whom seemed rather uncomfortable with female students around. There was also quite a strong and entirely pointless "arts vs. sciences" mentality among all too many of my fellow students in those days, so even as a male I sometimes felt out of place as a rare interloper from the liberal arts in a room full of somewhat "arts-o-phobic" engineering students. I think it must have been quite intimidating initially for the handful of female students in that class, so I'm glad things have improved at most universities since then, even if there's still a long way to go in academia and the wider IT industry. In any case, I have to admit I found CS pretty dull in those days, and I dropped it after a year, so I wish we'd had the kind of courses Maria Klawe describes, regardless of gender balance!
     
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