College’s Revamped Curriculum Has Drawn More Women To Computing

Whitney and Harvey Mudd have teamed up to help more than 15 colleges and universities increase computer science diversity. The initiative, Building, Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity, or BRAID, also draws from the work of other schools, such as Carnegie Mellon University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, that have come up with creative ways to make coding appeal to women.

That kind of effort can't stop with college, said Stout of the CRA, who's concerned that many female students will be so ardently recruited by companies that they won't consider getting doctorates: "We need more women getting these advanced degrees so that they have opportunities to be leaders in the field."

It wasn't coding that drew Harvey Mudd senior Alice Szeliga into classes in computer science, in which she majors with a focus on biology. Her thesis is on the life cycle of a parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, and she's using her programming skills to discern patterns from more than 100 gigabytes of data.

Computer science, she says, is much more than "building a new app." She wants to run a lab one day that conducts disease research "using computational techniques."

In the meantime, she's encouraging other women in her dorm to give computer science a try, even to major in it. Perhaps, someday, they'll all work side by side, solving the world's problems together.

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