The Problem

The Problem

In the US in 2012, women earned...
  • 57% of all undergraduate degrees
  • 59% of the undergrad degrees in biology
  • 42% of the undergrad degrees in math
  • 18% of the undergrad degrees in computing
  • 19% of the undergrad degrees in engineering

STEM Undergraduate Degrees

Bachelor's Degrees in CS

Recruitment Strategy:
Identify Your Target Audience

    • The low hanging fruit:  
      • Undeclared female students who already have building block courses
    • Female students who are undeclared and need building block skills
    • Women in the community who are unemployed, underemployed, or career changers
    • High school students

Recruitment Strategy:  
A compelling intro course

  • Make students want to take more classes!
  • Intro to Programming with Robots
  • Hands-on interactive activities
  • Graphical/game programming
  • Other ideas???

Recruitment Strategy:
Personal encouragement

Encourage a potential student to enroll in your program.
    • Tell them about career opportunities and salaries, and the companies that have hired your students in the past.
    • Focus on how technology helps others.
    • Talk about how this is a good field for women.
    • Provide strong personal encouragement to enroll in a class.
    • Tell them you believe they can be successful.
    • Ask them if they have any questions.

Recruiting is everyone's job!

Recruitment Strategy: 

Female Role Models

Women need to see other women.

  • Invite female alumni & industry guests to events
  • Recruit from local networking groups
  • Posters, brochures, videos
  • Guest speakers

Diversity sells itself.

Recruitment Strategy:  
Online presence

Most students go online to learn about schools and programs
  • One in five students said they removed a school from consideration because of a bad experience on the institution's web site. (Noel-Levitz, 2011)
  • 27% of prospective students visit a college Facebook page
  • 55% of prospective students watch videos 
  • 93% of students check their college email at least weekly
  • Use responsive design -- an increasing number of students are using smart phones!

Online Marketing

  • Tell the story of the program and the work it prepares you for
  • Make a personal/emotional connection
  • 50% of images, bios, testimonials and videos should be female
  • Email campaign/newsletter
  • Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Google+
    • Integrate FB into your website
  • Content
    • role model bios and videos
    • job information
    • real-world applications for tech
    • upcoming events
    • registration reminders

Social Media with HootSuite

Recruitment Strategy:  

Internal events are most effective for enrollment increases

Key elements:

  • Female role models
  • Tours and hands on activities
  • Program/job/registration information
  • Keep a sign-in list
    • We used door prizes as incentive
  • Market a specific program
  • Food is always a draw! (Have some healthy alternatives)
  • Advertise
  • Personal invites

Recruitment Strategy:  

Press coverage

  • Press release
  • TV and radio
  • Student paper
  • Local community papers

Recruitment Strategy:  Community outreach

  • Tech Expos
  • High School College Fairs
  • Summer Camps
  • "Dog & Pony" Shows to local schools
  • Open houses

These are a long-term investment!

Why do women leave?

  • Lack of confidence
  • Perception of poor grades
  • Lack of building block skills
  • Unfriendly classroom environment
  • Lack of community
  • Learning style/curriculum unappealing
  • Work overload

NC University found that men were more likely to repeat a class, 
while women were more likely to drop out, even though 
women's grades were just as high as the men's.

Building Block Skills:

Kids & Games

  • What do girls typically grow up playing?
  • What do boys typically grow up playing?
  • How does that translate into skills?
  • What skills are needed to succeed in a Computer Science program?

Building Block Skills

  • Tinkering
  • Problem solving
  • Trial and error
  • Computers
  • Spatial reasoning

Girls are more likely to give up when things get difficult

Retention Strategy: 

Welcome your students

  • First weeks are critical
  • Model positive interaction with female students
  • Let your female students know you believe in them
  • Instill confidence and success

Retention Strategy:  
Level the playing field

  • Provide building block / bridge skills
    • Pre-programs or mini-courses
      • MIT EE/CS has longer, slower-paced versions of critical intro courses
    • Boot camps
      • ASU provided a four-day summer program for freshmen
    • Academic support services
      • Tutoring
      • Learning community
      • Open lab time
    • Additional class resources, tutorials, practice exercises

Retention Strategy: 

Teach problem solving

  • Design exercises that reward guessing and intuition
  • Focus on the process
  • Failure --> Persistence --> Success

Retention Strategy: 

Address the math gap

  • Women and minorities are generally less prepared in math
  • Contextual math is more effective for women and minorities
  • Provide parallel math content
    • UC Berkeley provided a parallel calculus support course
  • Teach math in context
    • Math prereqs are often unrelated to the math needed and used
  • Good communication with the instructor and tutoring can help alleviate math anxiety

Retention Strategy: 

Different learning styles

Many women prefer collaboration to competition.

  • Solve real life problems
  • Make curriculum relevant
  • Do collaborative group work
  • Pair programming!
  • Engage in real world projects

Classes that offer substantial teamwork opportunities
increase retention of both women and men!

Retention Strategy: 

Address obstacles

  • Teach students how to find information and move into imperfect action. 
  • Women often want to understand the whole picture, and can be anxious about making mistakes.
  • Men are often less perfectionistic... "As long as it works."
  • Make it explicit that making mistakes is the best way to learn.

Retention Strategy:  

Build community

  • Open Labs
  • Learning Community
  • Study groups
  • Create a club
  • Women's networks
    • SWE
    • Systers Listserv
    • Meetups


  • This presentation largely came from the online training course provided through the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology & Science (IWITTS)
  • NCWIT describes 6 key practices for piquing girls’ (and boys’) 
    interest in computing.
  • NCWIT Scorecard (lots of awesome charts and graphs) 
  • Positive role models (female role models positively influence girls) 
    [Source: Dryburgh, H. (2000). Underrepresentation of girls and 
    women in computer science: 
    Classification of 1990s research. 
    Journal of Educational Computing Research, 23(2), 181–
  • Tina's "Grit" Posters

Recruiting & Retaining Women in STEM

By tostrander

Recruiting & Retaining Women in STEM

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