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A New Analogy

Last month I was able to attend a regional conference conducted by the National Girls Collaborative Project. The keynote speaker was Dr. Chris Sahley from Purdue University. She is a biology professor and Director of an NSF ADVANCE grant. The purpose of the ADVANCE program is to "increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce." Thus, her talk focused on the analogy of the still shrinking pipeline to get women into the STEM disciplines with Computer Science being one of them which is heavily hit.

She showed some of the historical data about women in STEM careers and then also showed that the need to increase the pipeline has been a long fought battle, with very little headway being made. She then proposed that perhaps we need a new analogy. The pipeline model may represent the lack of females in the STEM disciplines, but we certainly have not found a way to open that pipeline and clear the path.

So what analogy would you propose? With the rerelease of The Lion King, the natural analogy that came to me was one of the "circle of life." We raise up these girls who show promise, but when you least expect it, they get devoured by something bigger or unexpected. And the rest of the world goes on the same as it has been before, with little more than a moment's pause to reflect on the loss of another female who could have been a computer scientist.

Perhaps a bit dramatic? Maybe.

So what analogy would you propose?

Is there an analogy that captures the phenomena better than the pipeline?

Only with full understanding of the problem, can we ever begin to imagine a solution.

Mindy Hart
At-Large Representative

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