Daily Reporter Staff Writer
Throughout the lifespan of the
information technology field, men have dominated its workforce, but
Ohio State University's computer science department is hoping to
In the past couple of years, the department has
started programs and created new courses designed to entice women
and other groups into majoring in a computer science
"We're doing more and more to recruit (women) and
other underserved groups," said Bettina Bair, a senior lecturer in
the Ohio State University Department of Computer Science and
For instance, this Fall, the department started
offering two new computer courses that are "more interesting" than
typical computer science courses.
The courses, "Computing
Fundamentals in Context: Creative Interactive Media" and "Computing
Fundamentals in Context: Digital Images and Sounds," emphasize more
creative uses of technology, said Bair.
"When enrollment (in
computer majors) dropped off, we started getting more creative in
what we were offering," she said.
She also said that men and
women often have different tastes when it comes to the computer
field and that the university is adapting its curriculum to
recognize those differences.
"Young men are motivated by
working with the intrinsic workings of computers, (but) that
alienates a lot of women," said Bair, who also oversees the
department's diversity program.
The goal of the department is
to get more women enrolled in computer majors and thus send more
women into the IT workforce.
Although women comprise have of
the total workforce in the U.S., they represent only 25 percent of
all IT workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Women's
Women's interest in computer science fell 80 percent
between 1998 and 2004, and only 0.3 percent of incoming freshmen
women in 2004 expressed an interest in majoring in computer science,
according to the Higher Education Research Institute.
Ohio State's computer science and engineering department can offer
courses and programs that are more appealing to women, that number
should increase, Bair said.
"Women will stick with the
introductory curriculum if they feel it's related to the real world
... if it's shown to be applicable to something that's interesting,"
said Bair. "Research has shown that some groups of people are not
motivated by certain (tasks)."
She said part of the effort is
to demonstrate to women that information technology can be a fun and
"A lot of women think that it's sitting
alone in a dark room or it's about creating video games. We want to
dispel those myths," Bair said.
The effort to attract more
female computer majors is not limited to the classroom,
Last year, Ohio State joined the National Center for
Women Information Technology's Academic Alliance. Three years ago,
the school started a chapter of the Association of Computing
Machinery Committee on Women, which promotes students to engage in
activities and projects that "aim to improve the working and
learning environments for women in computing."
There is also
The Women In Computer Engineering project, an "innovative and
holistic approach" to improving the recruitment and retention of
women in the computer science and engineering undergraduate
Through TWiCE, undergraduate women with an
interest in computing are given opportunities to gain a new
perspective toward career possibilities in information
Members of TWiCE can get paid to do research,
work on a local industry project, teach computing to kids or help a
charity or non-profit with their technical needs.
sponsored the first Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing
conference earlier this year that attracted more than 100 female
computer scientists from the academic and business worlds. A second
one is planned for February.
One significant factor that
could draw more women into the IT field is availability of jobs,
Demand for all information technology
professionals will grow nearly 50 percent between now and 2012,
according to a recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor
"Places like Google and Microsoft are hiring a
lot of people, and to fill those positions they're looking at women
and other underrepresented groups," said Bair.
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