If They Can, We Can Too: Why Improving the State of Gender Diversity at GTCMT Should not be Viewed as an Impossibility

by Zachary Kondak

If one takes a look at the students at GTCMT, it becomes blatantly obvious that there is an imbalance between the number of women and men. The goal of Women in Music Tech at Georgia Tech is to try and reduce this imbalance as much as possible. This goal may seem impossible to some, given the current state of gender diversity in the program. However, as the results of similar efforts in varying fields have shown, it is actually very possible to succeed at this goal. Below, I summarize the techniques and results of two efforts at mitigating gender imbalance within (1) an academic program and (2) a company. Both of the examples are in the sphere of computer science (CS), but there are countless other examples of similar efforts outside of the CS field. I chose to talk about CS examples because I was CS major in my undergrad, and thus feel I have experienced just how male-dominated the field can be first-hand.

My first example is the Computer Science department at Harvey Mudd College (HMC), where they were able to increase women enrolment in the program from 12% to approximately 40% in about five years. One important thing to note is that this increase coincides with a general downward/stagnant trend in women enrolment in computer science programs, so we know they were doing something right at HMC. The department did several things to encourage the enrollment of women: (1) they overhauled their introductory computer science class to make it more accessible; (2) they split the program into separate tracks based on prior experience; (3) they started taking female students to events like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. Notice that two of these three strategies (1 & 2) made the program more accessible to everyone, including women.

My second example is Google, which debatably isn’t doing remarkably on this front, but who is nonetheless making progress. Right now, only 19% of google’s technical employees are Women, and 21% of their new technical hires in 2015 were women. This modest progress is still noteworthy in my opinion because Google is one of the few companies in the field making any progress at all. Two important things Google does to promote diversity are: (1) they expanded the pool of universities from which they recruit new employees; (2) they expanded their internship program. Much like the strategies employed by HMC, these two strategies employed by Google help make the company much more accessible to everyone.

As I have noted above, the efforts outlined in both of my examples make it easier for everyone, including women, to become involved in their respective institutions. This is something our program at Georgia Tech is already doing in a sense with our new bachelor’s program. This program really does make studying music technology much more accessible. Accessibility is often the central driver for increasing diversity. In closing, people often see improving gender diversity in certain fields as too difficult or impossible, but as the above examples show, it is not at all impossible; and thus it is our responsibility to do so.

Author Bio: Zachary Kondak is a first-year master’s student at GTCMT who works in professor Gil Weinberg lab. Zach’s specializes in real-time systems for musical interaction.

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