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Maria Klawe: Giving Women the Access Code

Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, dramatically increased the number of women who graduated from the college with computer science degrees. She describes how she did it in this Elmhurst College lecture.

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When Maria Klawe became president of Harvey Mudd College in 2006, she was dismayed to find that the percentage of female computer science graduates from the college was stuck in the single digits.

A renowned computer scientist and scholar, Klawe turned that figure around dramatically, and in 2012 more than 40 percent of Harvey Mudd’s computer science degrees went to women. The statistic is even more startling when compared nationally, where women account for only 14 percent of college graduates in the field.

Klawe tells Harvey Mudd College’s turnaround story at Elmhurst College in her talk “Giving Women the Access Code,” part of Elmhurst’s yearlong Science, Technology and Society lecture series.

In the U.S., women hold fewer than 25 percent of the jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEM) fields, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Klawe’s work at Harvey Mudd sent ripples throughout the tech industry. In a recent Business Week article, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged his company’s struggle to find women for technical roles and executive positions. “We need to keep more women interested longer in their lives in STEM subjects,” he said. Klawe’s work at Harvey Mudd “gives us something good to emulate.”

Klawe is one of the ten members of the board of Microsoft Corporation, a board member of Broadcom Corporation and the nonprofit Math for America, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and a trustee for the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. Before joining Harvey Mudd College, Klawe served as dean of engineering and professor of computer science at Princeton University.

Elmhurst College is a leading liberal arts college located eight miles west of Chicago. The College’s mission is to prepare its students for meaningful and ethical work in a multicultural, global society. Approximately 3,400 full- and part-time students are enrolled in its 23 undergraduate academic departments and nine graduate degree programs.


Recorded Thursday, September 19, 2012 at Elmhurst College.

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