did you say twelve?

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Got the preliminary numbers for our entering freshman class this fall, in preparation for interviewing the incoming women (and a random sample of men).

Of 210 incoming freshmen, a whopping total of 12 are women. Yes, that's right. Twelve. Less than 6%. (Hmmm...should that be "fewer"? Not sure.)

That's down from last year, when we were at about 10%. Which, in turn, was down from closer to 14% the year before. Everyone here I've shared that figure with has been aghast. "Twelve?? Are you sure???" Yes, I'm sure.

So yeah, there's a problem. And it's getting worse, not better. And yes, I have some theories as to what those problems are. But the reason we're doing this research is to go beyond the personal theories into something grounded in the experiences of the students themselves.

If you're interested in this issue, I highly recommend the book Unlocking the Clubhouse, by Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher. It describes the process that CMU went through to understand and then address the problem of underrepresentation in their CS program. The number of women in their entering class went from 7 of 95 in 1995 to 54 of 130 in 2000. Pretty impressive. The things they found are important and interesting...it's well worth a read by anyone who has an interest in women and technology, because (I think) there are generalizable lessons that go beyond educational contexts.

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Less is right. Fewer than 13, less than 6%.

At least that's the way I'd edit it.

As to the problem? I guess it's a matter of finding out what CMU's doing that you're not and, then, probably, why you can't apply those lessons. I find it absurd that less than, say, 40% of the class is female, but such is life.

Let me shoot some hot air a minute.

How much of your problem is your alignment with Comp Sci?

I looked into doing a compsci degree a few years back. Forbidding as hell. Advanced calculus and other yuck.

Now, I think I could likely do quite well in your program, Liz, but I don't know that I'd ever have got as far as *looking* at your program because of its title. (Assuming for the sake of argument that I didn't know you or any of your students.)

But the thing is, I'm going into a program that is going to be very little less technical than yours. Different emphasis, maybe, but similar stuff. Since it's called "library science" rather than IT, though... you see where I'm going, so I will shut up now.

I'm really disappointed in that, as well. Women are much easier to work with than men, and it's just unbelievable that so few are interested in IT.

I think this major has too much of a hard edge, hardware aspect to it. It needs to be softened up, so it doesn't look only like a networking and system admin major.

That's another reason I'm hoping for all of your XML curriculum to go through. It will give IT another face at RIT.

I'd go with "fewer." "Less" is for noncountables (less tomato sauce in this pot, b/c you can't count tomato sauce in units, i.e., one tomato sauce, etc.), and you per cents are countable. Doesn't make the numbers any more palatable....

I recently finished the class work portion of the RIT IT graduate program and never really noticed that women were a minority. Thinking about it now, I guess women were the minority, but not nearly as severe as only 6%.

I wonder if the high school faculty and guidance councilors are not encouraging girls to pursue technical fields. It might be worth some investigating in your local districts.

I thought last year's showing of women wasn't that bad... seemingly larger than my Freshman class (Fall 2001) which was terrible ;)

I can't believe RIT isn't doing more to market our school to females, with the University of Michigan doing all they can to bring in minorities, why can't RIT implement such a policy in order to favor females during the admissions process?

Many, many years ago I went to Stevens Institute of Technology ( a small engineering school in NJ). My entering class probably had no more than 10% women. However, even during my time their they were able to bring it up to 25%. Not sure what it is now though...

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