Since she writes code for a living, many people will ask Kaitlyn Aliano if she went to school for computer science. That question is usually a lobbed softball of conversation, but for Aliano, it gets a bit tricky.
“I have to give that caveat that I did, but I didn’t graduate with that degree,” she said.
Aliano ended up dropping out of the illustrious program at Stevens Institute of Technology because, as the only woman in her classes, she felt isolated.
“It wasn’t that the males in my class were trying to exclude me in any way — I just didn’t feel like they were inclusive,” she said. “I felt it was more of a struggle for me because, not only did I have to prove that I knew how to do it, but I also had to prove that I know how to do it as well as — or better than — a man.”
And as for gender parity, there wasn’t much representation on the staff, either. Except for Ruth Schwartz.
“We had one female teacher. The rest of them were very traditional, older men,” she said. “There were a lot of times I’d go to these older male professors and I did get this dismissive ‘honey’ kind of thing and I’d just think, ‘I’m not your honey.’
“That came up a lot.”
This underrepresentation isn’t isolated to Stevens but across the state, according to the listed faculty on the school website.
At Rutgers University, for instance, only 13 percent of professors (five of 39) in the computer science program are women, while Stevens and Montclair State University’s computer science faculties are both 20 percent female (three of 15).
Out of all of the state’s higher education institutions, The College of New Jersey had the most female representation on its computer science staff: 43 percent (three of seven).
Monisha Pulimood, a TCNJ professor and chair of its computer science department, said that representation on the staff is only one of many ways to help women feel welcome in computer science.