February 5, 2008

The power of networking stems the flow of women leaving computer sciences

Really nice article in this week's ylife, York's student email newsletter: The power of networking stems the flow of women leaving computer sciences.

It's about the WiCSE program for Women in Computer Science & Engineering.

For Professor Melanie Baljko, WiCSE provides an essential support service to female students in computer science and engineering. Baljko, who has an interest in the challenges women face in computer science and engineering, has investigated a phenomenon referred to as the leaky pipe syndrome. "I have a longstanding interest in how to encourage women to start careers in computer science and engineering. I have been part of several initiatives at other universities and here at York to find out why the attrition rate is higher among women in computer science and engineering," said Baljko.

"I am particularly interested in why women come into computer science and engineering in smaller numbers and why the drop-out rate is higher," said Baljko. "There are also fewer women in higher management positions in the industry and even fewer in academia. Sociologists have studied this phenomenon called the 'leaky pipe syndrome'."

Baljko said that research has shown that practical solutions are essential in retaining young women in the profession, and groups such as WiCSE offer an important lifeline for female students who are often coping with multiple demands for their time and who have few role models to emulate. "In our group we have seen that practical solutions work and what is most effective is the social networking that groups such as WiCSE offer to young women entering the profession."

A large number of young women enrolled in computer science and engineering programs in Canada and the United States either do not finish their studies or end up leaving the profession, slipping away in silence, explained Baljko.

"There is a disproportionate loss due to women switching to other fields of study," said Baljko. "We [faculty] in computer science and engineering are striving to provide greater social context for the material in the computer science curriculum, so, even early on in undergraduate studies, we can show our field's usefulness to society."

It's a great article, well worth reading the whole thing. Bravo!

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