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Grace Hopper Conference 2002
Birds-of-a-Feather Session: The Women Student's Perspective
October 10, 2002

The following information is from a panel for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2002. The purpose of the panel was to discuss the perspective and condition of women graduate students in general in computing fields. Those involved in the panel include Judy Liebman, Megan Thomas, Katie Everitt, Elaine Cheong, Hayley Iben, Holly Fait, Wai-ling Ho-ching, Rachel Rubin and Barbara Engelhardt.

In order to present opinions of students other than ourselves and other than Berkeley students, over the summer of 2002 we collected answers to a survey we put together which had just under 100 questions about life as a graduate student. The questions fell loosely under the categories of: demographics, expectations of graduate school, finding an advisor and advisor relationships, comfort levels, social groups, class support, mentorship and role models. We had about 120 responses from graduate student women in electrical engineering and computer science. We obtained the survey responses through emailing requests to the SIGCSE mailing list, the CRA-W board, Systers-students mailing list and various professors who expressed interest in the survey. We based parts of our presentation at Hopper 2002 on the information gathered from this survey.

The survey results, at a glance, have approximately the following demographics:

Age: Majority between 22-30
Degree goal: 60% PhD, 40% MS
Years as a graduate student: Majority between 1-4 years
Focus: Mostly CS; secondary is IT
Type of school attending: 80% public, 20% private
Deptartment size: Continuous between 10-40 professors and 1-300 students
Advisor: 80% male, 20% female

Before we delve into discussion of the survey, here is some background about where we as a group come from. The group we are a part of, named Women in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, or WICSE, has been in existence at Berkeley for 25 years as of 2002. Our long life means WICSE is recognized throughout the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at UC Berkeley, which encourages the funding of the group, and allows us to be a well-known point of contact to the women graduate students at Berkeley.

In the panel, each person participating discussed a different topic using results from the survey. Here are some of the summaries from these panelists: