+ Online Mentors to Guide Women Into the Sciences

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In an article in the New York Times, Tamar Lewin reports that hundreds of prominent women who work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), will become online mentors for college students beginning in October.

This is part of a six-week program to encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM fields.

According to Dr. Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, which is a sponsor of the project

I think of this as a MOOC — a massive open online course — and a big mentor-fest.  Getting more women into STEM is my passion in life, and every institution that’s set up mentoring programs for young women has been successful at increasing their numbers, so I think this can make a real difference.

But if it can be called a “course,” the program has no curriculum, no grades and no credit; the goal is simply to connect young students with accomplished women working in STEM fields.

Many prominent universities have signed on: California Institute of Technology, Cornell, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, the University of California and many more.  They are contributing mentors and are publicizing the program to students.

Women currently earn more college degrees than men over all.  But they lag in STEM fields, particularly computer science and engineering: in these fields they earn less than 20 percent of undergraduate degrees.

Dr. Klawe has lined up six prominent women as “lead mentors,” including Mae C. Jennison, the first black female astronaut; Jacqueline K. Barton, chairwoman of the chemistry department at Caltech; and Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s chief technology officer, as well as 300 nearly 300 other mentors.

Mentors will answer questions submitted by students at any of the universities participating in the project, which is known as Women in Technology Sharing Online, or WitsOn.

Visit https://piazza.com/witson

WitsOn will attempt to connect students who are interested to positions with mentors’ organizations.

In May, a test forum attracted more than 800 questions in a day.  Young women had a wide range of inquiries: “How sexist is programming?”  “How did you get where you are?” “Do you have time for your family?” “When is it right to correct misunderstandings about women in technology fields and when do you have to just let it slide?”

The web site notes that even if a school is not listed as a participant, any student can sign up: the schools that have signed on are committed to publicizing the program to their students, but everyone is welcome.

They suggest that students from other schools speak to a faculty member about nominating them.  The nomination process takes only 30 seconds, and is in place to ensure the quality of the conversation.

source: Tamar Lewin’s 9/16 article in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com and the WitsOn web site linked above.

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