Proportion of CMU women in undergrad engineering and computer science above national average

Carnegie Mellon University is leading the charge towards eliminating the gender gap in STEM fields with nearly 50 percent of this year’s first-year undergraduates for the School of Computer Science and College of Engineering consisting of women. While the national average of women with degrees in computer science and engineering fields has remained stagnant at around 20 percent throughout the years, Carnegie Mellon University has managed to increase the percentage of females within their School of Computer Science from seven percent to now more than 48 percent within the span of a decade.

Having claimed the title as the number one university to combat the STEM gender gap according to a ranking conducted by Her Campus, Carnegie Mellon University attributes this exponential increase in female enrollment towards a deliberate attempt to seek out more diversity, a nurturing and encouraging academic environment, and early outreach programs for students in high school and even middle school. Diversifying the composition of the student body enables the introduction of new and potentially revolutionary ideas. In a University press release, Jim Garrett, dean of the College of Engineering, remarked that, “Not only is this the right thing to do, it is important to have diverse perspectives included to improve the performance and results of engineering processes.” Garrett is one of many faculty members to share an appreciation for a community focused on enabling those who have seldom had the opportunity to flourish.

A multitude of organizations exist on campus dedicated to helping women pursue their passions and develop the necessary skills to leave a lasting impact on society. From encouraging nervous first-year students for upcoming exams, to providing young undergraduate students mentorship, WinECE (Women in Electrical Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University) is one of the many support groups available to women in need of assistance. Besides ensuring that all students feel comfortable and accepted, Carnegie Mellon University emphasizes the importance of collaboration. In a recent University press release, Jelena Kovacevicć, Hamerschlag University Professor and head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, said that one of Carnegie Mellon University’s defining factors that sets it apart from other schools with STEM programs is the electrifying cooperation among students and faculty. “One of the things that Carnegie Mellon is known for is this deep immersion in a collaborative culture,” said Kovacevicć. “What that feels like is pure excitement; excitement about our research, excitement that it matters, excitement that we all do it together, students, faculty and staff. That’s what makes us unique.”

Research among students at Carnegie Mellon University shows that there is little difference in the amount of interest men and women express in STEM fields. So then why is there such a disparity in gender within today’s computer science and engineering job field? According to Lenore Blum, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon Univeristy, the answer lies within the culture of computer science itself. Blum was an essential part of creating Women@SCS, a support network that enables female students to work with faculty members to help build relationships all around campus. Carol Frieze, director of Women@SCS, said the key to diversifying the modern workplace and propelling women to respectable positions is creating opportunities and social networks that have persistently been more commonly available to men.

The tight-knit relationships the Carnegie Mellon University staff creates and maintains with female students are paving the way for a radical change to the landscape of computer science and engineering. The drive and acceptance of the Carnegie Mellon community will serve only to leap across more boundaries for generations to come. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s president Subra Suresh, “these fields are key to shaping the 21st century, and Carnegie Melon University’s distinctive program offers young women and men the opportunity and environment to make a real difference.”