Access to Advanced Math Course-Taking in Middle School

Percent of Grade 8 Students Enrolled in Algebra I, 2015-2016

Source: 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection, U.S. Department of Education. Show methodology.

Completeness of institutions:
  • Only institutions that produced at least 25 computer science bachelor's degrees during 2011-2013 are shown.
  • A small handful of institutions like Princeton University awarded computer science bachelor's degrees during this time period, but their IPEDS data did not have sufficient detail about computer science degrees specifically. Those institutions are also not shown.
Definition of "computer science":
  • The definition of "computer science" was more restricted than some other definitions (only CIP codes 11.0101 and 11.0701 were used).
  • For instance, this definition excluded related fields such as computer graphics, computer and information systems security, and information technology.
  • Excluding these related fields was nedeed to meaningfully compare across institutions that did and did not offer degrees in these related fields (in other words, "to compare apples to apples").
  • These definitional issues are important to consider when comparing these numbers to other statistics. For instance, the national average for 2011-2013 for this restricted defintion was 14.2% women, but 17.9% women for a broader definition that included all 11.xxxx CIP codes.
Definition of top 25 programs:
  • The selection of top 25 programs was based on U.S. News and World Report's 2014 ranking of computer science programs.
  • Princeton was a top 25 school, but IPEDS did not have specific data for its computer science program.
  • U.S. News' list excludes, by definition, liberals art colleges such as Harvey Mudd College. If included, Harvey Mudd would be #1 among top 25 programs for the highest percentage of women among recent C.S. graduates.

Elite Schools Are Leading Recruitment of Women Into Tech

Barriers preventing women from pursuing computing fields are increasing, despite the millions of dollars that are spent every year to reverse this trend.

Women earned only 18% of the U.S.'s bachelor's degrees in computer and information sciences in 2013, down from 27% a decade prior. The numbers are even worse for data restricted to "pure" computer science (C.S.), which excludes related but distinct fields like information technology and computer graphics (see graph below).

"We’re going backwards in a field that’s supposed to be all about going forward," said presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, discussing this issue in a recent interview.

However, buried in these data is a glimmer of hope. Several elite C.S. programs like Harvey Mudd, Stanford, and University of Washington are unlocking the secrets about how to reverse these troubling trends. At these elite programs, women's share of C.S. degrees has been slowly but steadily increasing during the past five years.

Your browser does not support SVG

[How were elite programs defined?]

This trend is especially good news for tech giants like Google and Microsoft that extensively recruit from elite C.S. programs. In the past, these companies have found proportionally less women at elite C.S. programs than elsewhere. However, this situation has reversed in the past five years.

Private schools such as MIT and Stanford contributed the most to these encouraging trends, but two elite public schools also enjoyed recent success: University of California at Berkeley and University of Washington. At Berkeley, women even outnumbered men in taking an introductory computer science course last year.

Although elite programs improved as a group, many specific programs were stagnant. Among top 25 C.S. programs, women earned less than 10 percent of recent degrees at four schools: Georgia Tech, Purdue, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and University of Wisconsin at Madison. Trends for those schools were flat in recent years.

Harvey Mudd College is now leading efforts to spread its recent success in recruiting women to C.S. Along with the Anita Borg Institute, Harvey Mudd president Maria Klawe leads the Building, Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity (BRAID) initiative that aims to increase gender and racial diversity in C.S. at 15 universities.

The BRAID initiative provides participating universities with $30,000 per year over three years to support their efforts. In turn, these institutions provide data on what recruitment strategies work most effectively.

[What universities are participating in the BRAID initiative?]

In the long run, the initiative aims to identify effective strategies for increasing diversity at any C.S. program in the nation. At Harvey Mudd, promising strategies included emphasizing the societal relevance of computing in introductory courses, making those courses less intimidating, and providing networking and undergraduate research opportunities.

Ranking of Elite C.S. Programs By Gender Diversity

(Click header labels to resort)

NOTE: This list of elite programs was based on U.S. News and World Report's 2014 ranking of computer science programs. Princeton was a top 25 school, but IPEDS did not have specific data for its computer science program. U.S. News' list excludes, by definition, liberals art colleges such as Harvey Mudd College. If included, Harvey Mudd would top this list at 37.0% women.