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“Whose girlfriend are you?” (women in comp sci)

2009 February 23
by dekman

This is the question my interviewee was first confronted with when she walked into the computer lab on the first day of Comp Sci grad school.

My interview with Dianna in the Comp Sci at Bryn Mawr department was really fun, and brought up some really great questions for me. Talking with her also made me think about the role womens colleges play in the kinds of fields women become involved in. Dianna went to Smith College, and she felt that she probably wouldn’t have majored in computer science if she had gone to a larger institution where men would have been the majority. Dianna spoke from first hand experience about how she saw women leave the computer science field, not because they couldn’t handle the material, but because they hated having the go so much further out of their way to prove that they could do it. I wonder how the feeling of inclusiveness for women of computer science education (and other male dominated fields) at womens colleges can be replicated at other institutions?

Dianna also expressed an interest in the fact that some sciences, such as bio and chem, have done a much better job of incorporating women into their fields, where fields such as computer science and astro physics are still very male dominated. I’m not in any of these fields, so I couldn’t think of much in the way of an explanation, but I was wondering if anyone out there had any thoughts on the subject?

One Response
  1. Hillary permalink
    February 23, 2009

    OK, so i’m a bio major and have had this discussion with my mother many times (she is in her 60’s and feels that she was pushed out of science even though she went to an all girl’s high school and Wellesley College, and interestingly enough even though she feels like she was pushed out of science she ended up in a male dominated field anyway, Law (she went to Harvard Law back when the excepted 5% women)). Any way she has a theory about why more women go into biology and chemistry. It goes something like this. Women are by nature very social and like to interact with people. The reason they go into sciences like Biology and Chemistry is because there are more opportunities to find a job that is social in nature then in astro-physics and computer science. I probably have more to say, but i’m hungry. so i’ll finish my thoughts later.

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