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Council on Women in Computing (
ACM-W). ACM-W seeks to recruit, retain, and
celebrate women in computing.
I joined ACM-W in 2000, bringing
with me a community-building idea for
women in computing. In 1996, I used
the fledgling Internet to count the numbers of female computer science majors
in Indiana. Small pockets of women
dotted the state. I dreamed of uniting
these small groups of Indiana women
by inviting them to attend a regional
conference where each woman would
find role models and a peer community.
Attendees could build confidence by
giving short “lightning talks” and post-er presentations. The conference would
dispel the myth of the lonely programmer hidden away in a cubicle by offering keynotes and panel presentations
that share accurate career information.
Women could find job and internship
opportunities offered by industry and
graduate school sponsors, who also
serve as role models.
My colleagues and I organized the
first conference, called an ACM Cel-
ebration, in Indiana in 2004. We imag-
ined organizing Celebrations all over
the world, so that no woman would feel
isolated. Fast-forward 15 years, and
ACM Celebrations now span the globe:
Serbia, Chile, Ukraine, Canada, Philip-
pines, Pakistan, Ireland, Turkey, Spain,
and India, to name a few.
ACM-W Student Chapters sustain
energy after one Celebration ends and
before another begins. The ACM-spon-sored organizations provide local activities on a smaller scale, but with the
same Celebration mission to recruit, retain, and build community for women.
Beyond Celebrations and Chapters, what can institutions do? DePauw University awarded 47% of its
computer science degrees to women
in 2017—almost three times the national average. How? A lineup of traditional methods such as mentoring
and role-modeling added new computer science majors, as did more specialized techniques like our CS Tryout. We invite every first-year woman
(immediately before registration) to
a preview of the introductory class,
where third- and fourth-year female
majors (and role models) sit alongside
attendees to teach all that is needed to
complete the first laboratory. The student teachers also talk briefly about
their computing opportunities and
career plans. Many women have zero
computing experience, so the event
removes the mystery surrounding
computing classrooms and careers,
as the older students describe their internship and research opportunities
and their classroom projects—
especially their impressive senior projects.
Outnumber Men in
Should Be Next.
April 26, 2019
In March we celebrated Women’s
History month, but there were few female computer scientists to celebrate.
Women receive only 16% of U.S. bachelor’s degrees in pure computer science
(CS). In an age when women outnumber men in medical schools, we scratch
our heads when we see such a small
number. What’s going on? The National Center for Women & IT (NCWIT) reports: “By 2026, 3. 5 million computing-related job openings are expected. At
the current rate, only 17% of these jobs
could be filled by U.S. computing bachelor’s degree recipients.” More women
graduating in CS will reduce the magnitude of the looming crisis.
ACM launched a pioneering effort to
address plummeting graduation rates
in the early 1990s with the creation of a
Bringing More Women,
Gloria Townsend on encouraging women to pursue CS,
and Sheldon Waite on supporting immigrants to fill STEM jobs.
DOI: 10.1145/3329705 http://cacm.acm.org/blogs/blog-cacm