Girls who manage to wade their way through a childhood saturated with messages about concentrating on their hair may still love STEM subjects, but will they pursue such penchants professionally? Young ladies who demonstrate an interest in subjects like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics do seem to be aware of the roadblocks ahead. One jarring poll found that even though 82% of teenage girls deemed themselves smart enough to compete with boys in these fields, 57% said that they would have to work harder than boys “just to be taken seriously.” But according to The New York Times, the private liberal arts college Harvey Mudd is looking to woo these enterprising young ladies to their campus, statistics be damned.
In a profile of Dr. Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd who has made her personal mission to encourage more women into the STEM fields, The Times finds that the tiny college is close to reaching gender parity on campus. Computer science graduates continue to remain low, with numbers on the decline:
As recently as 1985, 37 percent of graduates in the field were women; by 2005 it was down to 22 percent, and sinking… this year, nearly 40 percent of Harvey Mudd’s computer science degrees will go to women.
Dr. Klawe is reportedly “snatch[ing]” up kids of both genders, but specifically young ladies, who might otherwise wander over to notable institutions like MIT or Carnegie Mellon. Described as “converting” girls with STEM interests to computer science, the president seems to be crafting quite the haven for the next generation of Sheryl Sandbergs and Marissa Mayers (the first female engineer hired at Google). Yet, Harvey Mudd still only accepts 17% of applicants, making their admissions process hardly lax in courting some of the sharpest girls in our country.
Girl Scouts surely might be doing their part to encourage bright girls what with mentorship programs and a partnerships with NASA, but perhaps a history of selling cookies might not be the only indication of young lady on the rise. In 10 or 15 years time, perhaps a resume that reads “Harvey Mudd graduate” will signify a girl who had her STEM potential cultivated, challenged, and ultimately reached.