Computer Science Living-Learning Community for Women to enroll students in fall 2016


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

Rebecca Wright, director of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science, was the brainchild behind a living-learning community for women who study computer science at Rutgers. The program, which will begin enrolling women next fall, will accept about 20 to 30 first-year female students. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EDWIN GANO / ASSOCIATE PHOTO EDITOR


Professor Rebecca Wright visibly sees the gender gap in the computer science courses that she teaches at Rutgers. But rather than sit back and teach, Wright took action by starting a living-learning community for women on campus.

“I don’t think I’ve ever taught a computer science class that came close to 50 percent men and 50 percent women,” said Wright, director of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS.) “That’s why this is important.”

The Computer Science Living-Learning Community for Women will start enrolling students in the fall of 2016. The program, which will accept about 20 to 30 to first-year students, aims to support female students studying computer science.

Women that are accepted into the program will live in a residence hall on either Busch or Douglass campus.

The Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science and Engineering at Douglass Residential College and the Department of Computer Science are currently working together to build the program with a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

“When girls are younger, they might not perceive computer science as an area for them and end up not even exploring the option,” Wright said. “It is hard for some women to put herself intentionally in an environment where the gender balance is so unbalanced.”

The women in the program will be provided career seminars, leadership training and graduate student mentoring throughout the year with a focus on women in the workforce of computer science.

Andrea Delgado, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, believes the new community will be advantageous to first-year Rutgers women majoring in computer science. 

"It'd definitely be a great thing to meet friends who are going to take the same classes you are," she said via email.

Currently, the number of women receiving undergraduate degrees in computer science is around 18 percent, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education. Thirty years ago, this number was almost double.

In her Intro Computer Science class, Delgado said the ratio of men to women was about 60:40. But her upper-level courses in computer science are less even, with a ratio closer to 70:30.

“You hear stories from some women scientists of horrible treatment they receive in the workplace because of their gender,” Wright said.

One example came this summer when British biochemist and Nobel laureate Tim Hunt said at a conference in Seoul that women in laboratories “fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry.” 

Hunt publicly advocated for gender-segregated workplaces, to which he became the subject of fierce backlash and the driving force for the sardonic hashtag, #distractinglysexy. Women scientists took to Twitter to post photos of themselves in lab attire with the caption #distractinglysexy. 

Delgado said had one experience as a women computer science major in which she was stereotyped.

"There was one time when I walked into my recitation and my TA thought I was lost because I was a girl," Andrea said. "He felt bad afterwards."


Avalon Zoppo

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