Highlights Part 1: Red Chair PGH Nov. 2017; Keynote: “Filling the Pipeline with Talent”

Hey boys! For those of you who wanted to attend Red Chair Pittsburgh 2017 event – the girls-only event left available for only a select few ladies – here’s what you missed:

What is the purpose of the Red Chair?

  •  Challenge. Innovation. Creativity. Strength. Reinvention. Sustainability.
  • The Red Chair is a physical representation of men and women “sitting” to take a stand about the value that women bring to Computing and IT.
  • having women in the IT and Computing workforce means…
    • Expanded talent pool: we need more people involved in IT due to the span of careers creating a shortage in workers to fill these future job opportunities.
    • Improved technical innovation: greater diversity means people of varying backgrounds which means more perspectives to look at a problem.  Problem solving can be done quicker when you are able to assess the many angles of a problem.  Better assessment means better solutions.
    • Increased ROI: “Research shows that companies with the highest representation of women in their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment than did those with few or no women.”

Keynote: “Filling the Pipeline with Talent”

Carole Frieze

  • Director of Women@SCS and SCS4ALL; these organizations focus on building community on campus, and provide leadership opportunities as well as networking ones. Most importantly, these organizations focus on promoting diversity in Computer Science.
  • working on diversity and inclusion in CMU’s Computer Science division for 17 years.
  • researches
    • culture of computing
    • stereotypes
    • myths
    • unconscious bias
  • Winner of 2016 AccessComputing Capacity Building Award
  • Winner of 2017 Computing Research  Associations A. Nico Haberman Award
  • co-author of Kicking Butt in Computer Science: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University

Jeria Quesenberry

  • Ph.D
  • Associate Teaching Professor in the Information Systems Program in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at CMU.
  • Research:
    • cultural influences on information technology post-secondary students
    • social inclusion
    • how to broaden participation
    • values behind chosen careers
    • work and life balancing
    • organizational intervention
  • Teaches:
    • global systems
    • social informatics
    • strategic value of information systems
    • web design and web development
    • project management
  • Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Information Sciences and Technology from the Pennsylvania State University

The Presentation


  • Intro: 50% women in computer science major in CMU – big success that deserves recognition; fueled by their hard work researching, and implementing ways to create diversity in computing and IT.
  • Because IT is one of the best rated job areas as far as growth and personal satisfaction, this is an important field to get anyone involved in.
  • 2016 CRA Taulbee report showed that only 18% of the pool of Computing and IT students were female. 
  • 2016-2017 CMU admissions Taulbee report showed that ~ 50% (49…%) of their Computer Science students were female for their 1st years.

Discussed Timeline of Culture in Computing:

  • 1990s: men were all similar in mentality and found that coding was “fun”; women – only 5% of those in computing – saw the computer as something that they wanted to be useful with, but did not feel like they belonged in this field.
  • Post 1999: mentality around the use for the computer began to become more diverse for men and women, as did the pool of men and women.
  • 2012: interviews between men and women showed that
    • reasoning for joining CS showed no gender gap
    • Women’s confidence decreased as they progressed in school
    • Men’s confidence increased as they progressed in school
    • Women and men GPAs were on par; there was no difference in the general academic performance of men and women
    • Leads researchers to believe the problem is not competency, but cultural stereotypes causing women to feel like they do not belong in their field.
  • 1974: Lego promoted boys and girls playing with their products.
  • 2011: Lego designs targeted boys.
  • 2014: 7 year old’s letter to Lego made headlines expressing a lack of Lego toys for girls.  She expressed a distaste for the girl’s Lego toys being girls who would go to the beach and did not have jobs, while the boy’s toys got to have jobs and even go on adventures.  This led to the creation of female Lego science and NASA sets.
  • 2014: Barbie book I Can Be a Computer Engineer – “I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie tells Skipper. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!” – perpetuates the idea that women are not meant to code.

Progress? 2016/17, CMU has managed an almost perfect 50/50 ratio of women to men in their Computer Science major for their first year students.

Intervention techniques to fix the ratio of men to women

  • programming requirements dropped for joining majors
  • became more open and allowed various entry levels to join the field
  • Lenore Blum joined the Computer Science Faculty and began her mission to get women more involved in science and math.
  • Women@scs 
    • formal organization supported by the institution
    • designed to level the playing field by reaching out to women and giving them opportunities in computers.
    • female students were put in charge to develop an importance in student leadership
  • scs4all
    • program that developed from women@scs
    • available to men and women
    • women still the leadership figures

Important theme to the research

  • It is a cultural issue
  • Confidence gap NOT competency gap
  • Do NOT perpetuate stereotypes
  • Do NOT accommodate differences because it only perpetuates the divide
  • Do NOT listen to Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus: “worst book ever for the cause
  • Recommended books:
    • Pink Brain Blue Brain by Elliot T. 2009
    • Delusions of Gender


Red Chair Pittsburgh 2017: Union Trust Building, November 16, 2017.


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