Lenore Blum, Distinguished Career Professor, Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, February 6, 2006 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Lenore Blum
Distinguished Career Professor, Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University

CSE and ADVANCE are pleased to offer a special seminar on February 6,
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm in EE03, featuring Dr. Lenore Blum, Distinguished
Career Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


What follows is an abstract from Dr. Blum's seminar, "Transforming the
Culture of Computing: The Carnegie Mellon Experience (Similarity is the

Transforming the Culture of Computing: The Carnegie Mellon Experience
(Similarity is the Difference)
Since 1999, Carnegie Mellon has seen a substantial increase in the
numbers of women entering and completing its undergraduate computer
science program. Perhaps even more significant has been the
transformation in the culture of computing at Carnegie Mellon. In this
talk, I will discuss the nature of these changes, how they came to be,
how we are adapting our program to increase the participation of women
in IT at the graduate level and beyond --and ideas and implications for
other venues.

I will also discuss a key result of our research (at odds with much of
the prevalent gender research in this area): Gender differences in
computer science tend to dissolve –that is, the spectrum of interests,
motivation and personality types of men and of women becomes more alike
than different-- as the computing environment becomes more balanced.

This finding is emerging from our ongoing studies of the evolving
culture of computing at Carnegie Mellon as our undergraduate computer
science environment becomes more balanced in three critical domains:
gender, the mix of students and breadth of their interests, and the
professional experiences afforded all students. In contrast, studies
conducted within imbalanced environments, including those carried out
at our own institution from 1995-1999, point to strong gender
differences. We believe that recommendations for curricular changes
based on presumed gender differences are misguided and may help
reinforce, even perpetuate stereotypes. Fundamental misconceptions
about computer science, (in particular, the equating of computer
science with programming), rather than gender differences, are a root
cause of gender under-representation as well as the current crisis in
the field, i.e. the diminishing interest in computer science on the
part of all students.