Wednesday afternoon I went to a panel organized by the Harvard Undergraduate Mathematics Association for a "Gender Gap on Math Discussion". I went both to hear what was going on (as there's still that gender gap in CS, and we're always eager to hear ways that we might do things better that might reduce that), and for moral support for some people I know who were involved. The panel was co-organized by Meena Boppana, an undergraduate who did research with me the summer before last and is currently a star in my graduate class, and one of the panelists was Hilary Finucane, a graduate student who I advised on her senior thesis and collaborated with on multiple papers with when she was an undergraduate at Harvard. I should note that Meena and several others had done a survey of Harvard math undergraduates which had highlighted some issues that would be a starting point for discussion.
I could only stay for the first half or so, but it seemed very positive. A number of faculty showed up, which was promising. My take on the panel's take was was that they were interested in how to make improvements in the culture, and the goal was to try to start figuring out how that could happen, in part by sharing their experiences. The discussion was both
balanced and thoughtful, presented positives with negatives, but focused on how to improve things. There's a writeup in the Crimson with more details. The main point that came out in the first half was something I've seen and heard before: the importance of having a community, including (but not necessarily limited to) a community of women that can offer support, guidance, and mentorship, but also just so you don't continually feel like the only woman in the room.
And as long as we're on the subject, there's been a number of recent stories (or older stories where I've recently seen the links) on women in math and computer science. Focusing on Harvard to start, there's a nice writeup about Harvard's Women in Computer Science group, which has helped provide that community that encourages women to take classes in and concentrate in computer science. An article from last year discusses progress at Harvard in closing the gender gap in computer science. There was even an article in the Harvard Political Review covering gender gap issues at Harvard.
Outside of Harvard, from sources on Google+ I've seen a blog post with an interesting slide deck from one Katie Cunningham that provides a great starting point of discussion about the culture and women in computer science. And, finally, a link to something simultaneously sad and funny (things-male-tech-colleagues-have-actually-said-annotated) that reminds us why we have to keep trying to improve the culture.