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Technology’s Next Generation of Women

Last July a new group joined the throng of high school students that descend on MIT each summer: the 27 pilot participants of the Women’s Technology Program. Course VI graduate student Douglas J. Ricket ‘01, SM ‘02 created the month-long program to introduce high school girls to the male-dominated fields of electrical engineering and computer science. Ricket was inspired after noting the huge gender gap that persists in his field- at MIT, four men for every woman. Program participants studied Java programming, circuit design, and such math topics as probability and Boolean logic. The curriculum also included special hands-on projects, guest lectures, and tours of Institute labs. The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the Chancellor’s Office, and the School of Engineering sponsored the program.

The participants, chosen from more than 200 applicants, came from 15 states and one foreign country, Egypt. Not all had a technical background. Le Zhang of Houston, TX, describes herself as a “pseudotechie”: she manages a video technology startup, which she cofounded with a (male) friend who handles the technical work. After seeing the Artifical Intelligence Lab and building an electric motor, Zhang says an engineering career is now a serious possibility for her.

 

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