Archive for October 5, 2011

Should we change Universities deeply to get more women in CS?

I spoke to an expert on women in CS a couple weeks ago, who said that she really hates efforts to make deep changes in courses, like curriculum changes.  “That sends a signal that women can’t succeed in the current classes, that they need changes in curriculum in order to be successful.”  She’s concerned that these efforts make women feel inferior or inadequate.

On the other hand, here’s a study from Mary Frank Fox and colleagues saying that these smaller, surface-level, student-focussed changes are not going far enough to get more women into STEM fields.  They call for changes in “faculty and institutional structures.”  Is a call like this counter-productive, in terms of influencing self-efficacy in a negative direction?  Or are Universities “broken,” in the sense that the deck is stacked against women (and other minority groups), and we have to change the structure, just to get a level playing field?

Despite years of trying to improve the number of women undergraduates in science and engineering, a new study shows most universities are failing. Not only are women lagging behind their male classmates, efforts to close the gap too often focus on students instead of faculty and institutional structures.

This is first study that looks at the full range of programs for undergraduate women in science and engineering in the U.S. It gathered information from nearly 50 difference programs.

Despite seeming to understand the problem, the authors found that many institutions did not try to change the climate in the classroom, create more faculty advisors, or improve and strengthen the faculty commitment to educating women in science and engineering. Instead, they found programs often left these key structural obstacles “untouched,”—especially when it came to faculty. Diversity training for faculty, mentoring of undergraduates and new course components are examples of programs that could make a difference, researches say.

via Women in science? Universities don’t make the grade.

October 5, 2011 at 9:41 am 8 comments


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