About Me

My photo
The Stereotypes, Identity and Belonging Lab at the University of Washington is now a member of the blogging community! We will be using Decoded as a forum for disseminating our research on women and computer science and discussing current issues related to the field of computer science including: women's involvement and how computer science is changing the way we live. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on our posts.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Follow the Lead: Harvey Mudd

Maria Klawe is setting a high bar for universities around the nation. Once Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Princeton University, Klawe became President of Harvey Mudd College in 2006 and has since made her mark on the Computer Science Department.

Harvey Mudd’s percentage of female computer science graduates once hovered in the single digits. Now, it is over 40%. This considerable transformation is a direct result of Klawe’s leadership and insistence on making CS a more approachable and relevant field for women. Klawe and the computer science faculty split the required ‘introductory’ course (which was described as “hard-core programming”) into two levels more tailored to specific programming experience. By creating separate classes where students can work alongside others that have similar experience, Klawe is combating the stereotype that programming is an innate skill.

Bill Gates and Maria Klawe at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., in 2005.
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
Klawe also ensured that every freshman female CS student could attend to the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a series of conferences that showcase women’s accomplishments in computing. By doing so she provides an opportunity for the female students to meet other female programmers, combating the stereotype that programming is an almost exclusively masculine profession. 

Klawe’s enormous success in a relatively short period of time suggests that the dearth of women in CS is not due to differences in intellectual capacity, but rather, how CS classes are portrayed and taught. This is consistent with our research suggesting that it is negative perceptions of CS that deter women and not the content of the field itself. For example, our research has shown that simply changing the classroom environment from stereotypical to neutral can boost female undergraduates’ interest in CS to that of their male peers. The strategies employed by Klawe—dividing classes into levels based on difficulty and required experience, providing programming work with context and meaning, and applying the lessons to a larger picture—help create a less stereotypical experience and result in CS being more attractive option for women. 

What do you think? Have you heard of other universities re-evaluating their computer science programs? Are the changes better for the field?

Want to see more? Check out an interview of Klawe on PBS.

Posted By: Patty


  1. Hi there, awesome site. I thought the topics you posted on were very interesting. I tried to add your RSS to my feed reader and it a few. take a look at it, hopefully I can add you and follow.

    Computer Service in Chennai

    1. Hi Sorna,
      Thank you so much for your interest. We've added a link at the bottom of our blog to make it easy for you to add us to your feed. In our footer there is a link with a radar icon that says "Subscribe in a Reader" you should be able to click that an follow the instructions on feedburner to add the blog to your reader.

      I hope this helps, please feel free to ask any questions you have.

  2. Maria Klawe is making an appearance at the UW! She's coming to give a talk about her experience increasing women's participation in computer science at Harvey Mudd College. She'll be giving a talk at 3:30p October 16th in the atrium of the Paul Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering. If you are interested in her experience, please come by.

    For more information check out a UW posting on the event http://www.washington.edu/news/2012/10/12/maria-klawe-national-leader-promoting-women-in-science-and-technology-speaks-tuesday-at-uw/.