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Santa Clara University Increases Women's Enrollment in Computing Majors
Santa Clara University has increased the number of women enrolled in computing-related majors by 31 percent over the past two years, a sign of progress that SCU hopes will ultimately be reflected in the computing field as the next generation of computer engineers, computer scientists, and software engineers finish their degrees and enter the real world.
“Having more women students in the computing discipline provides a broader range of backgrounds and perspectives,” said Ruth Davis, Ph.D., SCU School of Engineering’s associate dean for Undergraduate Studies. “Women are great communicators and listeners, and they’re extremely creative, experience life differently, and have different expectations than their male colleagues. Thus, a diverse group of women and men in the computing world can drive innovation.”
Numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor show that in 2009 women represented 58 percent of the professional workforce but held only 25 percent of professional computing jobs. SCU has been trying to change that trend by recruiting more women and working hard to retain the women who enroll in Computer Engineering programs. For example, the School of Engineering created a new degree in Web Design and Engineering that has attracted a larger percentage of women than the Computer Science and Engineering degrees. Computer Engineering’s Associate Professor Silvia Figueira, Ph.D., has implemented a volunteer tutoring program, which aims to boost the confidence of students, particularly women and students from underrepresented groups, who typically have no previous exposure to computing. The University has also increased support for existing women students by taking several of them to conferences and banquets that mentor junior women, inspire them, and provide networking and professional development opportunities.
SCU also offers a special luncheon for women in computing majors on the first day of finals each term where they socialize, exchange experiences, and form an ad hoc support group. The School of Engineering also celebrates all female engineering students at a “Women in Engineering” dinner every fall. Both of these events connect students from different years and aim to have older students inspire younger ones.
Women students can always turn to any of the hundreds of women faculty at SCU for advice on everything from academics to careers. Forty percent of the University’s faculty are women, and the School of Engineering has the highest percentage of women faculty (tenured or tenure track) in the U.S., a distinction it’s held for several years.