Monday, February 22, 2010

Choosing a Supervisor, part 6

10. Gender Balance and Attitudes
What kind of attitude does your potential supervisor have to gender balance and women in computing? Besides the obvious gender equality statements one can expect, are they actively supporting or promoting women in computing?
In many branches of computing and engineering, and in North American and most of central to northern Europe, the ratio of women to men in computing is quite low. Happily, some researchers work in areas that, for a variety of reasons, are more attractive to women researchers and students than others. Others have a more difficult situation: for example, the number of active, visible women researcher in my sub-discipline worldwide is on the order of a couple of dozen.
How can this situation be addressed? Should this situation be worrisome? Do we need more women in computing, and if so, how do we achieve this goal? Attitudes about and answers for these questions classify supervisors as managers in sometimes surprising ways.
Personally, I come from research groups that had decent, but not fantastic, female representation. The groups I worked with at UMass and Caltech had perhaps 1 in 5 ratio. But ever since then I have had less success. This frustrates me.
For the past five years I have actively tried to recruit woman PhD students and postdocs. But of the perhaps 300 "cold" applications I have received and reviewed for hiring, I have only seen about 5 women applicants. I have also pursued hiring a handful of woman researchers, but none of these cases were successful.
I also give special invited lectures to woman undergraduate students and have participated in summer internship programs that focus on under-represented groups in computing (e.g., women, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc.). But all of these activities seem to have come to naught, at least in a direct and immediate fashion into my research group.
Obviously, if you are an outstanding potential PhD student or postdoc and wish to work with me, please get in touch!

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