IEEE Women in Engineering isn’t the only group focusing on closing the gender gap in engineering. The IEEE Computer Society dedicated its March issue of Computer magazine to the challenge of attracting more women to the field of computing. Articles covered mentoring, gender-based barriers, the importance of preuniversity computer science education and strategies for encouraging diversity.
Computing and information technology are among the fastest-growing industries in the United States, according to the magazine, but only 18 percent of all computer and information sciences undergraduate degrees were awarded to women in 2009.
The lack of diversity will inhibit innovation, productivity, and competitiveness, say guest editors of the issue Jane Chu Prey and IEEE Fellow Alfred C. Weaver. Prey is a program director at the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education, and Weaver is a professor of computer science and also director of the University of Virginia’s Applied Research Institute, in Charlottesville.
“We face a great challenge, but one that can be conquered if we all work together,” says Prey. “We need to recognize that to be successful, we must have a diverse workforce, and we all need to help build it.”
But it will take a lot of work to get there, according to Weaver. “This problem [of a lack of diversity] extends from K-12 through undergraduate education and on to graduate school and industry,” he says. “There is no easy solution or quick fix.”
The authors of the issue had several ideas on how to help. Articles in the special issue include “Diversity in Computing: Why It Matters and How Organizations Can Achieve It,” “Priming the Pipeline: Addressing Gender-Based Barriers in Computing,” “A Path Between: Mentoring the Next Generation of Computing Professionals,” and “More Than Gender: Taking a Systemic Approach to Improving K-12 Computer Science Education.”
The issue also includes articles by representatives from the University of Washington, the University of Virginia, and Harvey Mudd College describing how they’ve increased the number of women in computer science programs at their institutions.
In addition, you can check out videos of advocates for more women engineers discussing why they chose to spend their time trying to close the gender gap.
“Their individual stories illustrate what the efforts and passion of individuals can do to encourage more women and girls to get excited about computing,” says Prey.
Do you think it’s important to increase the number of women in computing? Why or why not?