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Supporting Women in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan: 1992 - 2006

Deciding on a Career in Computer Science / Computer Engineering

The field of computing has many options. Some career choices include writing code, others do not. Some computer science majors manage projects, design how software will look, build video games, write tutorials to help people learn, teach college, make kiosks, build robots, improve medical technologies, or even help send people into space.

There is a harmful stereotype in America of a person hunched over a computer for 80 hours a week never seeing daylight. There are a few people who fit that mold, but most do not. There are many women in the field who lead normal lives with interesting jobs and good salaries. With your boss' help it's not too hard to get a job where you can work from home or work part-time. The field of computing is very exciting and offers many possibilities for making a positive contribution to the world.

To find out more, we recommend:

Career Choices & Profiles of Women in Computing

Check out the wide variety of computing careers available and read about women in the field.

Cool Projects

Short summaries of some of the exciting projects that you can do even before graduating from college.

Special Programs for Girls

There are a number of organizations and special initiatives devoted to showing girls the cool things you can do in the field of computer science or engineering. Check out the summer camps and after-school offerings too.

If you live near a university, ask if they have a special summer program to introduce girls to computer science and engineering. Simply call the engineering counseling office and ask how to contact the women who run their Women in Engineering program or Society of Women Engineers chapter, then get in touch with them. Also, let your teacher know about the programs you've found in case they know other girls who would like to attend.

Meet Women in Computing

There are dozens of groups of women in computing around the country (e.g., AWC, WITI). Check out this list to find an organization near you. Feel free to send email or call the president of a local group and tell her you're interested in meeting women in computing. She'll probably invite you to one of their meetings or perhaps organize a special luncheon with you and a few members of their organization.

Keep in mind that these women are really interested in encouraging more girls to enter the field of computing. So don't hesitate to suggest that a few women in computing come visit your classroom. You can also ask if it's ok for you to visit their companies and take a tour.

If you live near Ann Arbor, Michigan please come to the next AWC/CSAM/WISE Dinner event. It's a nice evening and a great way to meet women professionals and college students in computing. 2006 Update: refer directly to the AWC Calendar for more information.

Career Path Q & A

This is the place for college students and pre-college students to ask questions.
When it comes to choosing a career, don't hesitate to take the first step and find out more about any field that interests you. There are many different things to do with a computer science / computer engineering degree. If you don't like the first example of a computing career you're shown, ask again for something more to your liking. This is a very exciting field - check it out!

University classes don't assume prior experience

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to have a lot of prior experience to enroll in computer science at the university level. All universities offer introductory courses. If you took programming classes in high school, maybe you'll be allowed to skip the introductory courses at the university. The teachers at the university will teach you everything they expect you to know. You should not be intimidated by students who talk endlessly about their extracurricular experiences changing video cards, adding memory and upgrading operating systems. Most computer science classes have nothing (repeat: nothing) to do with that, and if they do, the teachers will explain the material from the beginning.

Did you know?

Originally, there were more women in computing then men. In fact the word "computer" was first used to describe a job held by women who calculated missile trajectories during World War II. Women also were very influential in the development of early programming languages (photos). It's not clear at what point the number of men jumped so far ahead of the number of women in computer science, but in the future we believe the number of women to men will be 50/50. At schools like Carnegie Mellon, the number of women in computer science is already greater than 40%. Most other schools are trying to catch up and happily welcome more women to their department.

Don't sweat the letters

Good students get A's and B's (sometimes even C's). Studies have shown that some women start to doubt their abilities and even drop-out of computer science because of a "B" letter grade. This is ridiculous -- do not drop out of any field that interests you just because of a letter grade. Relax, and remember that most employers are far more interested in your work experience (internships, special projects, etc) than whether you received more A's than B's in college.

In case you were wondering...

The men in computing are not much different than the men in any other profession. A small percentage of every profession is comprised of dweebs. Be assured, there are plenty of incredible men in computer science/engineering who are intelligent, interesting, attractive - and looking for smart women.