Mapping Gender Diversity at MIT

Published in MIT News on October 25, 2017 by Michael Patrick Rutter, Office of the Vice Chancellor

Data visualization map explores two decades of enrollment trends among female students at the Institute.

A trio of researchers has created and published a data visualization map that examines trends in undergraduate gender diversity at MIT. The big reveal is heartening: Over the past 20 years, MIT’s female undergraduate population has risen to nearly 50 percent of total enrollment and such growth has been sustained across almost every department and school.

Professor of aeronautics and astronautics Karen Willcox, researcher Luwen Huang, and graduate student Elizabeth Qian devised an interactive map to show these aggregate trends, and much more. The tool, using data from the MIT Registrar’s Office, allows users to explore gender diversity on a class-by-class and department-level basis, to see links between classes, such as prerequisite requirements, and to conduct keyword searches to reveal variations in related subjects across MIT.

“MIT should be proud of the leadership it has shown,” says Willcox. “The positive trends in gender equity are not seen in just one or two departments, but literally across the spectrum of science, engineering, arts, humanities, social sciences, management and architecture. One of the unique features of our tool is that it provides insight at the subject level, going deeper beyond aggregate statistics at the major level. We hope that this will be a basis for data-driven decisions — for example, by understanding what about a particular subject’s pedagogy makes it appeal to a more diverse audience...”

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