AWIS provides a unique national platform where essential research meets advocacy, innovation and practice in supporting the advancement of women in STEM.
While we celebrate the dramatic increase in women’s undergraduate enrollment at computer science programs around the country, to see this surge translate into career-long outcomes, we cannot ignore ongoing gendered and racialized disparities in computing, particularly as they relate to a student’s sense of belonging. Even in times of high enrollment, fostering a sense of belonging cannot occur just through ad-hoc methods, the goodwill of a few faculty, or a standalone mentoring program. Policies and structures must be put into place and enacted holistically.
We report on a multi-phase, 10-year case study of undergraduate student experiences at the University of Illinois (2007, n=61; 2017, n=339). Our 2017 study explores the policies and structures enacted over a decade and their impact on departmental culture. We report on three areas: i) Inclusive classroom experiences; ii) Quality of mentorship opportunities; iii) Student sense of identity. While there have been significant departmental improvements, there are some cultural, policy, and structural issues to be addressed in order to foster a sense of belonging and success for all students.