Members of Women@SCS at an Undergraduate Council meeting.
We meet every other Monday at 4:30pm in GHC 8115. Everyone Welcome!
Members of Women@SCS at a Graduate Lunch meeting.
Women@SCS BackgroundWomen@SCS' mission is to create, encourage, and support women's academic, social and professional opportunities in the computer sciences and to promote the breadth of the field and its diverse community. The Women@SCS Advisory Committee consists of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty within the School of Computer Science.
Members of the Committee have initiated many programs, such as the Big/Little Sister program for undergraduates, the invited Speaker Series, professional development workshops, as well as dinners and other social and academic events. Women@SCS also sponsors outreach projects such as "Is there a robot in your future?" workshop for middle school girls, and the Women@SCS Outreach Roadshow with its different versions for undergraduates, for grade school children, teachers, and parents, and TechNights, a free weekly series of workshops for middle school girls taught by our students. In general, the committee strives to promote a healthy and supportive community atmosphere for ALL. Making a difference and solving problems serve as the basic motivating purposes of the organization.
Read more about us in our gender and CS research papers
Please take a look at our website and give us your input! We appreciate your comments and concerns.
FAQ -- Find more about us
What kinds of things do you suggest to get more CS women involved in your activities?
Definitely publicize. Set up a distribution list (dlist) of all the women in the Computer Science department and send e-mails to inform them about activities! Use the word-of-mouth method and tell all of your female friends about exciting activities you are planning. Ask other women in the department for their input on what activities to run so that more people are involved in the activity planning process.
How did you get so many people to join your committee?
We opened up the committee to anyone who is committed in helping this program succeed, and just as importantly, to anyone who is committed in succeeding in the field of computer science. The commitment and success of the Women@SCS organization here at CMU is a testimonial to the dedication and time that our members put forth for the group. As the organization has played a bigger role in sponsoring events such as a Halloween party and Pre-Registration advice sessions on campus, and also expanded our visibility to the community through outreach programs such as the Roadshow, more and more people have decided to be a part of this organization.
We usually hold an ice cream social type activity early on in the semester, and explain the programs and activities we offer. We ask for people to contact us if they want to be involved in the committee. Usually, we get several responses there. We have a Big Sister/Little Sister program which is really popular. We plan sister movie nights, dessert socials, dinner and fun events like ice skating. Then we have the Pre-Registration events which are helpful for all. Thus the key is to organize activities and events which everyone finds helpful and entertaining at the same time. Also, a lot of people who find out about the committee through word-of-mouth decide to come to one of our meetings and become involved.
Tell me more about the Big Sister/Little Sister program. How can you start the program?
The way we started ours was by e-mailing all of the upperclassmen and asking them if they wanted to mentor a freshman, and we asked them to provide us with basic information about themselves. Then we e-mailed the freshman describing all the information of the different eligible big sisters and asked them to pick their top three choices of big sisters. We matched people up on a first come, first serve basis. Since then we've come up a quicker way of matching, "speed matching", where we hold an event in which everyone interested gets a chance to spend a few minutes meeting each other and then select their preferred big/little sister. The sisters' organizers do their best to match people according to their preferances.
How do you find time to do all these activities and events?
It's not very time consuming if you can get enough people involved in the planning process. The way the committee is set up, we have different members working on different projects at the same time, so it ends up not being too time consuming. We have regular weekly meetings at a time which is convenient for most of the members on the Women@SCS undergrad committee. We always have a set agenda which is decided beforehand, and we decide events based on popularity, assign different responsibilities to different people, and then communicate via e-mail.
Why are women 'different'? If the end goal is equality, why do you think women merit special attention?
Women are not different. Women have been involved in computer science since its early days but more recently the majority of women (and many men too) have not been seeing it as an option. The field is little understood and 'who' can do computer science has often been reduced to stereotypes so that few people 'see' themselves in this field. Like most academic fields computer science thrives on diverse ideas and we need to reach out to a broad range of potential students. At the same time computer science is not offered in every school and it's often by chance that some people find out about it. Organizations like Women@SCS try to present to the world the real picture which is that women can be great at computer science and that the field offers tremendous opportunities! With a 49% female School of Computer Science class of 2021, CMU is a great example of this.
Why do you think technical fields are still underpopulated with women, while fields like medicine and law are closer to 50/50?
Most people grow up with some familiarity with the medical and legal professions, even if only through TV and movies. But computer science is still little understood and many people in our society share the notion that technical fields are for men. This means fewer girls and women are encouraged by parents/ teachers/peers to consider technical fields and computer science. We have far fewer role models in these fields for girls and women and those who are interested often find themselves in situations with very few same sex peers which can create a cycle of under-representation. We need to show that women are good at technical fields, and we need to encourage them more to consider these exciting areas.