CMU Sees Dramatic Rise in Women Computer Science Majors

Woman at Computer

Women comprise 40 percent of the incoming class at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science. That marks, in the school’s words, “a new benchmark.”

It’s certainly a respectable number when compared to the proportion of women who earned bachelor’s degrees in computer science during the 2012-2013 school year: 14 percent, according to the Computer Research Association. It’s also nearly double the 22 percent that entered the school during that same period.

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The last time that a class of first-year computer science majors came close to including 40 percent women was in 2000, during the first dot-com boom, the school said. That happened after CMU expanded its admissions criteria and launched an outreach program to encourage more female high school students to apply. But that increase dropped along with interest in computer science nationally after the tech bubble popped.

CMU’s announcement comes weeks after Google put a spotlight on tech diversity by revealing the make-up of its workforce: The company said that just 30 percent of its employees are women, 3 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are black. In technical roles, 17 percent are women.

For comparison’s sake, women make up 47 percent of American workers overall, and represent 20 percent of all software developers. The tech industry says its lack of diversity reflects the pool of available talent, and points out that it’s undertaken a number of efforts to encourage more women and minorities to pursue STEM degrees.

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