Computer Science

Harvey Mudd College Triples Female CS Graduation Rates

More than half of HMC’s most recent graduating class were women, surpassing the national average.

A California-based private college has tripled its rates of female computer science graduates over the last 10 years. Harvey Mudd College (HMC) has transformed its Department of Computer Science graduation rates by removing obstacles that have traditionally held back women and making the curriculum more inclusive.

For starters, Quartz reports that HMC redesigned the introductory course taken by all first-year students “to emphasize practical uses for programming and team-based projects.” Instead of placing Java as the core programming language, the course switched to Python. HMC President Maria Klawe, who was formerly the dean of engineering at Princeton University, told Quartz that professors were also instructed to be aware of students who dominate class conversations, in order to maintain an inclusive learning environment.

Additionally, the college administration targeted efforts to appoint and promote women in leadership roles. Next year, for example, six of seven of HMC’s department chairs and 38 percent of professors throughout the school will be women, Quartz reports.

These changes, among others, have resulted in 55 percent of undergraduate CS majors being women, compared to the national average of 16 percent. More importantly, HMC’s female graduates are entering careers in tech, with 64 percent of last year’s female graduates leaving the college with full-time jobs in tech, up from 30 percent in 2011. HMC reports that its female graduates have taken positions at top employers like Google, LinkedIn and Intel.

Other college and universities noticed HMC’s efforts to promote diversity in computer science and have joined in. In September 2014, HMC and the Anita Borg Institute launched an initiative to help other institutions develop their computer science programs to include women and minorities. The BRAID (Building, Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity) Initiative provides funds for 15 universities across the nation to send female students to women-in-computing conferences. Participating institutions include Arizona State, University of Vermont and Missouri University of Science and Technology.

To learn about other efforts from the Department of Computer Science, visit the HMC site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at sravipati@1105media.com.

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