Friday, October 7, 2011

Computer Science: It's not just for dead women

How ironic that today is Ada Lovelace Day, as I just took a picture of her out of a Computer Science Department display case this morning.

Since I came to Ball State, we had a display case that showed four images of women in computing. I did not snap a picture of the display case, but here are the four individual images.

On one hand, one could argue that these images show that women can succeed in computing. On the other hand, I think there's a good chance that a modern young woman who walks by these will come to the conclusions that women could succeed in computing, ... back before color photography and pants. That's not very relevant to a generation that has grown up with the Internet, social media, games, and service learning, four factors that have been identified that get girls interested in pursuing Computer Science.

I got the blessing from my department to update the display case, which now looks like this:

The plaques on the left and right are awards from the 2008 and 2011 CCSC:Midwest Programming Competitions, in which teams from Ball State placed second and third, respectively. In the middle is a research poster put together by the students who were involved in both the Morgan's Raid and the Digital Archaeology project. The poster describes how we used Scrum and principles of agile software development and the lessons learned in the process.

One wouldn't know to look at the plaques, but both teams comprised of two men and one woman. The genders of these students was irrelevant: their success speaks for itself. Taking a closer look at the poster, you can see that although the teams have a male majority, there are women there too.

This is not as flashy as the University of Washington's excellent Why CSE page, which overtly demonstrates how underrepresented groups can and do succeed in Computer Science and Engineering. However, it does show that—right here and now—women are integral parts of successful research and development projects. Whenever I meet with a prospective CS major, we walk by this display case. I am glad that now I can point to these pictures of some of our most successful majors and show how they are working hard, together, and that they are proud of their work.

After all, Computer Science is not just for dead women.

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