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The UW received the grand prize in the first NCWIT Extension Services Transformation Awards, “based on the significant gains they have made in increasing the number of women enrolling and graduating from their program,” says the organization’s co-founder and CEO Lucy Sanders in an e-mail. “These accomplishments are the result of strategic, well-planned recruiting and retention efforts. Of particular note is the inclusive, welcoming community their department has grown that spans beyond the walls of the university and has demonstrably advanced women’s meaningful participation in computing.”
In 2005, only 15 percent of UW computer science bachelor’s degree recipients were women. The rate has marched steadily upward in the last decade.
“Although our 30 percent still leaves us with a long way to go, we’ve worked really hard over many years, and I’m truly thrilled to have it recognized,” UW computer science professor Ed Lazowska says in an e-mail.
Ed Lazowska, lecturer Allison Obourn, director of student services Crystal Eney and Ruth Anderson were on the UW team credited by the NCWIT, which is presenting the awards Thursday at its annual summit.
|UW CSE’s Ed Lazowska, Crystal Eney, Allison Obourn, and Ruth Anderson
with the NCWIT NEXT Award Grand Prize trophy. |
The UW has cultivated a welcoming community in part through a revamp of its introductory
course that students take before they’ve declared computer science as their major. It’s broad in scope, meant to encourage everyone to participate, with some specific programs highlighting research by women and women working in the industry. Many of the undergraduate teaching assistants are women.
Lazowska says that at other schools, these introductory courses often serve to “weed out” students considering majoring in computer science, particularly given that demand for the major is outpacing many universities’ ability to accommodate interested and qualified students. (And that is certainly the case at the UW.) Women enrolling in the introductory course at UW say in surveys they’re less interested in pursuing the major than men. Lazowska fears that this hostile, “weed ‘em out” approach could lead to “precisely the students who are already under-represented” being dissuaded from the major.