Specific opportunities for women

UVA has also opened up its computer science programs to non-engineering students, creating opportunities for women who traditionally major in other disciplines to pursue a degree in the field. In parallel, computer science faculty have also made a concerted effort to ensure assignments and case studies do not reflect gender biases and stereotypes, which has offset the prevailing narrative that computer science is a male-dominated profession. Women across the program have, instead, seen and noted that they can excel in computer science.

With the support of the department’s Industrial Advisory Board, students have built on this passion, attending national events such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and Women in Cybersecurity conference. And they have focused on promoting an early, longstanding interest in STEM through the Women in Computing Sciences Club, mentoring elementary, middle and high school girls interested in science.

To bolster its efforts to set female students up for success, UVA Engineering’s Computer Science Department has provided diversity training to undergraduate teaching assistants and paired new faculty with mentors trained in encouraging diversity. As a result, they have the tools to promote inclusive, collaborative environments that help students navigate the barriers they may face in the field.
With support from several National Science Foundation grants, faculty members now train high school and community college teachers across Virginia on how to both recruit and support diverse students in computing.

“We’ve tried to be very proactive in how we recruit, interview, and retain diverse faculty and students,” says Kevin Skadron, chair of the department. “The Chronicle’s rankings affirm our efforts to boost the representation of women in computer science and underscore the importance of continuing our work to boost diversity across the board.”

How UVA is elevating women in #STEM fields

At UVA Engineering, female students are working alongside researchers to tackle big problems in engineering for health (developing new methods to prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease); engineering for the cyber future (developing and securing the innovative technologies that are continuously making life easier and more efficient); and engineering technologies for a sustainable and connected world (developing high-performing, energy-efficient materials and sustainable systems for energy, water and transportation).

With the support of the school’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and groups such as Women in Chemical Engineering, UVA Engineering is positioning more women than ever to address these grand challenges.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Thiel Mather is director of communications for the University of Virginia School of Engineering.

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