Computing is for Everyone

My name is Asu Ozdaglar. I'm the head of MIT's Department
of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and also
a co-chair for today's event. It's my distinct pleasure to
introduce our next speaker, President Maria Klawe. Maria Klawe is a renowned
computer scientist, mathematician and scholar. She became the fifth president
of Harvey Mudd college in 2006, and she is the first
woman to lead the college. Previously, she served as Dean
of Engineering and Professor of Computer Science at
Princeton University. She joined Princeton from
University of British Columbia, where she served in various
roles from '88 to 2002. Earlier, she spent eight
years with IBM Research in California and two years
at the University of Toronto. She earned a bachelor's
degree and a PhD, both in mathematics, from
University of Alberta. She has made significant
research contributions in several areas of computer
science and mathematics, including a functional
analysis, discrete mathematics, theoretical computer science,
and human and computer interaction. President Klawe is
a renowned lecturer and has spoken widely
about diversity in science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics, about gender and gaming,
and about lessons from her own career in STEM
industry and education. In recent years, she has
devoted particular attention to improving K through 12
science and mathematics education. President Klawe
is a board member of the nonprofit
Math for America, chair of the board of the
non-profit organization, a fellow of
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a trustee for the
mathematical Sciences Research Institute at Berkeley, and a
member of the Canada Excellence Research Chair selection board. She has won numerous awards. I'm just going to
say a couple of them. She is the recipient of
the 2014 Women of Vision AB awards for Leadership from
the Anita Borg Institute and was ranked 17th on Fortune's
2014 list of the world's 50 greatest leaders. In 2015, she was honored
with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian
Association of Computer Science and the Achievement Award
from the American Association of University Women,
and she was inducted into the US News STEM Solutions
Leadership Hall of Fame. She was honored by the CRA's
2016 Distinguished Service Award. We're delighted that
President Klawe is here to share her unique insights
in this historic symposium. In fact, the title of
her talk beautifully sums up our overarching
theme for the day, "Computing is for Everyone." So please join me in
welcoming President Klawe. [APPLAUSE] So first of all, it's
a thrill to be here. I am incredibly
excited about the fact that MIT is starting
the Schwarzman College of Computing. I think there are huge
opportunities for, certainly, all educational institutions
in the United States and elsewhere around the world. And particularly, as president
of Harvey Mudd college, it's really nice to
be here to talk to you about computing is for everyone. So the first thing
I will say is– one of my– I'm old. I am 67 at this point. And so I'm of an age that
when I was growing up, I– anyone else my age here? I know I have a bunch
of friends here. Thank you. I'm of an age that, you
know, when I was growing up, people said to me all the time,
girls aren't good at math. And it was just, like,
what everyone said. And I loved math. I loved other things
as well, art, English, all areas of science. But I particularly loved math. And when I started as
an honors math major at the University of
Alberta, my professors would say to me, Maria, we
just don't understand why you want to be a mathematician. There are no good
female mathematicians. Now, they knew and
I knew that I was one of the top two
students, math students, they had had in a decade. So they were not telling me
that I wasn't good at math. What they were
saying was, you are good at so many
other things as well. Why would you pick
math when you're going to face all of this
bias throughout your career? Now, I happen to be
extraordinarily stubborn. Everyone in my family
knows that if you want to get Maria
to do anything, you tell her she
shouldn't do it. My kids, especially, have used
this against me many times. So I think one of
the consequences of feeling that way is
that from very early on, I was absolutely determined
that women should be as welcome and as supported in math and
all the other areas of science and engineering, where they
are not well represented. And growing up in Canada,
I was much less aware of issues around race,
just because it's a different country. It has a different culture. This is not to say that we don't
have racial discrimination. We certainly do, particularly
around First Nations Aboriginal peoples. But it's just not the same kind
of issue that it is in the US. And so when I moved to
Princeton as dean of Engineering at the beginning of
2003, all of a sudden, I was sort of like, oh yeah,
gender is really important. But oh my goodness, the
question of under-representation is really more important
for black people and Latinx people and Native
Americans, and so on. So I have spent most of
my life as an adult– yes, I love math and
theoretical computer science. I love doing research. I love teaching. But my passion is
to really change the culture of science
and engineering so that we support
everybody who brings ability and passion and hard work. And when I moved from Princeton
to Harvey Mudd college, I remember Shirley Tilghman, who
was the president of Princeton, saying how can you do that? You're supposed to go be
president at Yale or Michigan or MIT or something. And I said well, actually,
for what I care about, I think how we influence
education, the culture that we demonstrate in how we
educate our undergraduates, in particular, is
one of the best ways that we can shift the
culture of STEM fields to be more inclusive and
supportive of everyone. And Shirley was not convinced. And in fact, the
thing I have learned from going to
Harvey Mudd college is I get an enormous
amount of credit, and I've won a lot of
awards for the stuff that our faculty and
staff and students have done at Harvey Mudd. Let me just tell you for
real, presidents do nothing. Well, actually,
they ask for money. Sometimes they get money. They make some choices in
terms of who you appoint to positions, and so on. But the most important thing
a leader or institution can do is enable the participants
in that institution, which are really the faculty,
staff, and students, alumni, members of the board of
the corporation, so on and so forth, can get them inspired
about doing something, and then support them
in enabling to do that. So that's what the College
of Computing is all about. And I feel very lucky to be
here to talk about something that I'm super passionate
about, which is, how do we teach computer science,
data science, in a way that everybody can be
engaged and supported? So everyone needs to learn. Everyone can learn. But our challenges are– and I'm going to say this
at the end of my talk, but I'll say it now– we hold the keys to the future. I really mean that. We, as the people
who are the leaders, both in creating the technology
and in teaching the technology and in moving towards
interdisciplinary collaboration between computer science and
data science, mathematics, engineering and
other areas, we're the people who either make it
possible for everyone to learn, or not. So what do we need to do? We need to really think about
the pedagogy, and I mean, both face-to-face as well as a
hybrid and online technologies, the curriculum, and the
culture that we put forward to enable everyone. And as everybody who is involved
with any area of computer science education
right now knows, we have an exponentially
growing demand for access to this content. And we have to figure
out how to meet that. So I'm not going to
solve these problems, but I'm going to give you two
hopefully compelling examples of efforts towards addressing
a component of these problems. So I'm going to tell you
about the BRAID project, which is a project for computer
science departments that we've been working on for
the last four and a half years. And I'm going to tell you
about bridge2DSCS, which you can read as either
bridge to data science and computer science or bridge
between two disciplines. And the idea is to increase
supply of faculty who really can teach computer
science as both computer science for prospective
computer science majors, but also teach computational
techniques within their home discipline. So first of all, BRAID– so in the summer of 2014,
I was giving a plenary at Snowbird, which is a
conference put on every two years by the computing
research association. And the primary attendees
are department chairs, or if you have a
school or college of computer science, deans. And my topic that I'd
been asked to talk about was increasing diversity
in computer science. Now I talk about this a lot. It's because I care
about it a lot, but it's also because my home
institution has been remarkably successful in increasing
participation of women in not just computer
science, but also physics and engineering. And we have graduated– for the
last two years, our computer science majors that we graduated
were more than 50% female. And we've done that
physics, as well, and we've done that
in engineering. Engineering tends to go back
and forwards a bit between about 45% female to 55% female. And we're also– our computer
science faculty is 50% female, and our faculty
overall is 40% female. So we've done a lot
for women, but we also have increasingly diverse
students majoring in computer science, so African-American
and Latinx students, as well as Native Americans and others. So I was invited
to give this talk. And before I started
the talk, I realized that it wasn't a good idea just
to talk about what had happened at Harvey Mudd, because
people can look at Harvey Mudd just as they can look at
MIT, and they could say, oh, you're a really
unique institution. In my case, they'll say, well,
you have a female computer scientist who cares about
diversity as a president. Or they will say,
oh, you're recruiting the top students, undergraduate
students, in the country and from around the world, and
of course you can do it there. They would say that about
MIT as well, and so on. So instead of just talking about
Mudd, I chose six universities and took a look at what they
had done to encourage more women to major in their areas. So it will not surprise you that
MIT and CMU were on that list as institutions that had
very good numbers of women graduating in terms of the
percentage of CS degrees, University of Washington, the
University of British Columbia, large public universities. Also on that list, Harvey Mudd. But the one that was
probably most interesting is Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. And the reason that
Cal Poly is interesting is that they managed to get from
12% female in their CS major to 29% in five years, and they
did that starting in 2008. Now I think everyone
here is old enough to remember what
happened in 2008, 2009. We had a recession. And the funds for
public institutions, state universities,
were cut dramatically, including in California. So they did it at a time when– so already, they weren't a rich
institution in the first place. But they did it at a time when
it was particularly difficult in terms of resources. And I looked at what those
six universities, well, six universities– take that back, four
universities, one institute, one college– had done, and I pulled
out the commonalities. And as I'm giving
my talk, I realized that I had a ton of
department chairs, including several new
department chairs, because one of the things that
happens at Snowbird is there's a program for
new department chairs. And so I said, towards the
end of the talk, I said, the first 10
department chairs that say they want to
try these things within their departments, I will
help you raise money in order to do some of the
things like sending your students to the Hopper
Conference and the Tapia Conference. And when I finished
my talk, there were 11 department chairs who
had volunteered within two minutes of each other. And then a week later,
I found the other four within that same
period of time who were in my junk mail folder. But in any case, I
ended up with 15. And those are the universities
that you can see there, and hugely varying places. So UCI, UC Irvine,
and University of Maryland, College Park,
those are highly regarded CS departments. NJIT, University of North Texas,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, those are ones that
are going to have– University of
Illinois at Chicago– those are going to be places
with a lot less resources. But anyhow, mostly
public, a few privates. And I then set
out to actually do something about raising the
money that I had promised. And within three days, I had
commitments from Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. And then I found the other four
department chairs in my junk mail folder, and I then was able
to get Intel to join the group. Now, one of the
things that happened– early on, Brad Smith, who's
the president of Microsoft– and at the time I was
on the Microsoft board, so Brad did not want
Microsoft to be giving money to Harvey Mudd
college to distribute, because that would be
a conflict of interest with my being board member
of a public company. So he said, Maria,
why don't you partner with some other
organization so we can give the money to
the other organization, they can distribute it, and
then we won't have to put it on our inner conflict list. And the other thing
he said is, you know, since we're right
at the beginning of this, why don't you find
a researcher who would like to study what
happens in these departments over the period of this project? So I got on the phone. Well, I got on the phone
to Telle Whitney, who was the CEO of the
Anita Borg Institute, and asked her if
she'd like to do this. And she said yes. So they now have
re-branded as, but they became the partner. And I reached out to Jane
Margolis, who many of you will know from her work with
Allan Fisher in studying why so few women were majoring
in computer science at CMU in the mid '90s. I reached out to Jane
and said, are you interested in being
the researcher? And she said, no, I've got
way too much on my hands with Explore CS,
which she was leading. She said, but there's
this other person in my department
at UCLA, Linda Sax, and I think she'd be great. So the next day, I had
a phone call with Linda. Now, I fortunately had a
lot of experience working with educational researchers. And the reason I say
this is, the first time I tried to do this– what's the right thing? Sometimes they are very
suspicious of technologists who want to partner in
research, because technologists don't have a clue
about their methods. And fortunately, because I had
10 years of work doing this before, when I was on
the phone with Linda, I was able to have a great
conversation with her. And it was clear when we
started the phone call, she didn't think
this was going to be something she wanted to do. And by the end of the phone
call, she was going, yeah, this is great. So I claim entire success,
not just for Linda and for her entire
research team, who are leading the world in
really trying to understand what attracts and supports
people, women, people of color, and so on, in computer science. They have been phenomenal. So the actions that I described,
and which the department chairs had to agree that
they would take on, were one, make your introductory
course engaging and supportive for everyone. And I'll say a little bit in a
moment about what that means. Two, build confidence
and community among the members of your
underrepresented groups. Do outreach to high school
teachers and students. And for those institutions
where it makes sense, i.e. is feasible, promote joint
majors with disciplines such as biology and
psychology, in other words, disciplines where there'll be
a lot more women and people of color than computer science. Now, let me talk about
making the intro course engaging and supportive. So one of the things
we know from research is that both women
and people of color are much more likely
to be attracted to areas like computer
science and engineering if you are demonstrating to
them how what they are learning is actually important in
solving the problems that face the world. When they see that they
can use the knowledge and work on something
that matters, it's just a lot more compelling. It's also the case that
women and people of color are much less likely to
feel a lack of confidence when they start
an intro CS class. And if you have a couple of
people in that course who, like I did when I was
a young math major, want to answer every question
and ask every question and dominate the
airtime, that's extremely discouraging for people
who feel like they don't know nearly
as much, and they don't have has much to offer. So there are all
kinds of ways that you can change your classroom
so that that doesn't happen. I mean there's separating
by section according to prior experience, prior
knowledge in the discipline, because computer science is one
of the areas where there's just a huge disparity. I mean there are people who are
starting at MIT or at Harvey Mudd who have almost the
equivalent of a computer science undergraduate
degree already in terms of just the amount
of experience they've had, and there are people who have
never written a line of code. And you put those two people
in the same classroom, and it just is not fair,
actually, to either of them. Another thing we do
in the intro classes, we make it very modular,
because one of the things is, suppose I get the
flu one week, and I don't do well in that particular
section of the course. If that's going to
screw up my performance for the entire
rest of the course, that is not a good thing. So trying to make it possible
for, if you didn't particularly understand
if-then-else statements or some other key
idea about coding, it doesn't matter when you
get to the next session. So what happened? Well, we managed to
raise enough money so that we were able to give
every department about, well, exactly $30,000 per year. Now, I would say
the amount of work that departments actually did
was more like a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of work. But the thing that that
30,000 made a difference for were the things that it was
not easy for them to do. So for example,
departments routinely work on revising
curriculum, or having a club for women in
computer science, or for people of color
in computer science. What they don't have
resources for is to send 25 students to the Tapia
Conference for people of color and people with disabilities,
or to the Grace Hopper Celebration, or to
bring in, perhaps, speakers so they can have
role models for their students to see. So they get $30,000 per year. It's pretty small. I mean, think about how
far that would go at MIT. And remember, you know,
some of these departments like ASU, Arizona State
University, they're humongous. And in exchange,
they participate in qualitative and
quantitative research. And that's actually a
pretty large commitment. So for example, we have
been surveying the students in the intro course, and
then doing follow-up surveys with those students
as they go on. And we will continue, probably,
that until those students actually graduate from college. It's a big commitment. They also– and I
think this is probably one of the most
important things in terms of the effectiveness
of what has happened– is that the chairs commit to
coming to a two-day workshop. It's held at Harvey Mudd
college every summer, and sharing experiences. We have had participation
from several of the six universities,
institutes, and colleges that I mentioned at the
beginning being there as people who are helpful. We have also
participants from some of our partner organizations,
CRA, NCWIT, CMD-IT and so on. We have, every year,
about eight universities that would love to be
part of the project, so they're affiliates. So they don't actually
get any money, but they come to the summit. So the big question, of course,
is did it make a difference? So one thing I should mention
is every single department has seen a significant
growth in CS enrollments. It's happening everywhere. But one of the things
that we know in the past is that when we have had
growth in enrollment, participation by
women has declined. So if you see the growth
in enrollment going up like this, then what happens
is the growth of women goes down like that. So one of the things that
I'm totally thrilled about is that after four years– and remember, the
first year of that four was mostly dedicated to
getting things in place, like changing the intro class. So if you look at the growth,
14 out of the 15 schools are like this,
like they're really statistically significant more
growth in women than overall. One is pretty much
right on the line. If we look at people of
color, about half are above. About half are at
or slightly below. One of the reasons– remember these are very
diverse institutions. And so we have some institutions
that are in very white places. We have some institutions
like UNT and UTEP that are ready very
significantly minority. And so it's less likely
we'd see growth there. So we now have an
absolutely massive data set to be analyzed from all the
data that's being collected. Our current initiative
ends summer 2020. And the goal is that we
hope that we will actually expand to about 50
departments after we end this. Probably a slightly smaller
financial contribution to each department, maybe 20k,
because that means we literally need to have, would need to
have on the order of a million dollars a year to do this. But I think the thing
we have demonstrated is that we have known for a
very long time what departments needed to do to increase
the participation of women and people of color. And it hasn't happened. And what we know now is,
if we engage the chairs, if we give them a
small amount of money, and if we treat them as a
cohort so they are informing each other, it works. OK, very briefly,
the postdoc program– so I think we all
know that industry is hiring recent PhDs
in computer science as well as existing
computer science faculty members at salaries two,
three, four times what academia can pay. And while some places
who are very affluent, like perhaps MIT, and
Stanford, Princeton, might have a hope at
competing– though actually, I don't think it's
really feasible, given the whole structure of
academic salaries overall– the vast majority of
institutions can't compete. And it takes too long to
take a student entering as an undergraduate to when
they will get a PhD in computer science, and the demand from
industry is basically infinite. So we're going to fix this. Somehow, we need to find
a way to provide people. So as Asu said, my
PhD's in mathematics. I got a tenure-track
job at a math department after I did my PhD. I hated it, because
I was teaching students who couldn't add
fractions advanced calculus. I went back after
one year after my PhD to start a second PhD
in computer science at the University of Toronto. They hired me as
a faculty member at the end of nine months. I had never written
a line of code or read a computer science
book before I went there. Believe me, I
worked really hard. So the idea is, there
are tons of people who are getting PhDs in
other areas of science and engineering who really
want to be an academic, who are gifted at research
and gifted at teaching. Let's give them
that opportunity. Let's give them an
opportunity to learn a little bit of
computer science, but particularly how to
teach computer science in inclusive ways. So we're going to start
a postdoc at Mudd, hopefully in summer 2020. You might have seen
summer 2020 before. So this is transitioning
our energy towards this. And our goal is to
prove that it works at Mudd, in particular,
prove that these people get good academic jobs. And then we're going
to scale up to probably about 15 top computer science
departments around the country. And we currently have an
external advisory committee which has people from MIT, and
Stanford, and Northeastern, and Northwestern, and
Princeton, and Georgia Tech, and I could go on and on. And so this is our goal,
to do this and really prove that you don't have to
take seven or nine or 10 years to generate somebody who
could be a huge asset, to not just computer science,
but to their home discipline as well. So I already said that. OK, call to action. We are the people
who are controlling the future of the world. We are the people who will
figure out whether or not learning approaches,
pedagogy, culture curriculum actually is accessible
to everyone. And by everyone, I want to talk
about people who are currently in some non-CS-related
job right now, and haven't had math
since high school, or maybe since the
first year of college. We are the people who
can take that on or not. We know that no
single institution is going to solve this problem. It's one of the reasons I'm
so happy that MIT is launching the College of
Computing, because I think they're a very well
known flagship institution. And if they work on these
things with the rest of us, that's going to be very helpful. We know that computer
science will not solve this problem by itself. It's something that we actually
have to do collectively. And we also know that academia
cannot do it without help from industry and government. Thank you very much. Do we have time for questions? Maybe one question OK, one question. [INAUDIBLE] [APPLAUSE] One question. That was [INAUDIBLE]. Hi, Karen. [INAUDIBLE] Are you doing longitudinal work? Are you looking into how much
you've affected confidence in these women students? So the question is, are we
doing longitudinal work? So, yes. That's what Linda sax
and her team is doing. And yes, they are
looking at that issue, and explicitly, whether
the approaches do affect the confidence, of
whether that is correlated with their staying, because
they're studying students who chose to major in
computer science, and also those who didn't
after the intro course. And so that's one of the
really key questions. And I know there's a lot
more stuff to happen. It's fantastic to be here. And MIT, you have my
very, very best wishes. [APPLAUSE]


  1. Lucas Monteils said:

    Lets be real, computing isn't for everyone

    June 27, 2019
  2. thewiseturtle said:

    There is so much defensiveness by the mainstream academia when it comes to different brain types. Those of us who are creative, non-linear, scientific type thinkers are not welcome by the more conservative, linear type thinkers who prefer to keep schools and other workplaces predictable and "tidy", sticking to the processes that the were taught and feel comfortable with. But without diversity, progress is held back, and those of us who are the big picture type thinkers, the innovators, the weirdo experimenters who have our own unique style and approach to problem solving, need to be a large part of any organization or project, if it is to be truly successful in the long term.

    I know unpredictability and "woo woo" thinking can see scary to the more conservative minds in most mainstream geek places, but there needs to be a change, if we want to actually solve humanity's problems. It's far scarier to fail at taking care of our planet, than it is to allow us weirdo (non-Autism-Spectrum) type minds to be a part of the scientific community.

    June 27, 2019
  3. Mass Extinction said:

    Open source gaming 🤔 publishers want to much for less
    Allow games to mod and review
    Open it up to creative people who give a shit 🤔 Ark survival reviews modders
    Let us improve on intellectual crapitalism 👌👀 make da booboo's better

    June 27, 2019
  4. find the path said:

    Computing Forever

    June 27, 2019
  5. kdc kdc said:

    What are good numbers of women and black people and why? How specifically did her school obtain a high level of diversity?

    June 27, 2019
  6. Tree Stump said:

    I want to go to M.I.T

    June 27, 2019
  7. Krishna Gowda said:


    June 27, 2019

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