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Single Sex CS Education from the Student's Perspective

As a student at an all-women's college, there are no barriers to my exploration of typically male-dominated fields. Before taking an introductory computer science class, I had very little knowledge of programming languages and the internal processes of computers. So far, I have greatly enjoyed the class and plan to continue developing my skills in the field. However, I can't help but wonder whether I would have ever decided to take a CS class had I attended a coeducational institution.

How is a single-sex environment conducive to women entering CS? First, it erases any potential tension and distractions that may arise in a coeducational environment. It also allows women to see other women understanding the material and succeeding in the classes. Before I came to college, I never met a woman who had earned a degree in computer science and I had never considered pursuing a degree in a technical field. When I arrived, not only were all of the computer science majors women, so were those who had majored in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Seeing such women graduate makes those fields all the more accessible to the next classes of students.

I found that, in particular, those women who had studied CS were very nurturing of younger students in the introductory classes. There were many times when my friends and I would be discussing what we learned in class and an older student standing nearby would join the conversation to answer our questions and recommend professors. There was also a student who created a Google Group in order to foster a supportive community for students interested in careers in the tech industry. The camaraderie in the CS department has been very energizing, and learning computer science in a single-sex institution has had an immeasurable influence on the confidence I have in my abilities.

Emily Grandjean
Wellesley College
Class of 2015

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