Colleges Have Increased Women Computer Science Majors: What Can Google Learn?


Harvey Mudd College students Ellen Seidel and Christine Chen work on a summer research project in computer science. Photo: Harvey Mudd College

By Laura Sydell, NPR

A Google engineer who got fired over a controversial memo that criticized the company’s diversity policies said that there might be biological reasons there are fewer women engineers. But top computer science schools have proven that a few cultural changes can increase the number of women in the field.

In 2006, only about 10 percent of computer science majors at Harvey Mudd College were women. That’s pretty low since Harvey Mudd is a school for students who are interested in science, math and technology. Then, Maria Klawe began her tenure as president of the college.

Klawe — a computer scientist herself — had always been told that girls weren’t good at these things. “This whole idea that women lean to liking doing one thing and men to doing another, it turns out I think if you do the curriculum and pedagogy well that’s just false,” she says.


Source: Harvey Mudd College, Taulbee Survey Credit: Alyson Hurt and Mollie Simon/NPR

In fact, as soon as she arrived Klawe joined in an effort to change the curriculum. First the school changed the name of the intro course, which had been called Intro to Java — a programming language.