Klawe became Harvey Mudd College’s fifth president in 2006. A renowned computer scientist and scholar, she is the first woman to lead the college. Klawe is a North American expert on diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; gender and gaming; utilizing lessons from her own career in STEM industry and education. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, she was ranked 17th on Fortune’s 2014 list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.
Klawe is on the boards of the Alliance for Southern California Innovation and the nonprofits Math for America and EdReports.org. She was previously dean of engineering and professor of computer science at Princeton University and dean of science, vice president of student and academic services, and head of the computer science department at the University of British Columbia. Klawe spent eight years with IBM Research in California and two years at the University of Toronto. She received a PhD and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Alberta.
WITH GROUPS CREATING PROGRAMS TO ENCOURAGE FEMALES TO CONSIDER STEM, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST BARRIER TO ENTRY THAT IS STILL PREVALENT TODAY?
The main areas of STEM in which women are under-represented are computer science and some areas of engineering (e.g. computer, electrical, mechanical, aerospace). The main barriers for entry are that young women don’t see role models in the media and don’t think they would enjoy or be good at these subjects. In addition, they receive little encouragement to major in these subjects from parents, high school teachers and counselors. Even for those young women who do enter these majors or take an introductory course, they are often discouraged by the small number of women and sometimes by professors and other students who make comments suggesting that women don’t do well in these subjects. When they persist and enter the workforce, they often encounter subtle (and sometimes blatant) signals that they don’t really belong.
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?
I am inspired by the many women who have persevered and succeeded despite many challenges, especially those who mentor and sponsor younger women in their field.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT/ACCOMPLISHMENT?
My proudest accomplishment is my two children who are now in their thirties and are doing wonderful things in their careers. I am deeply grateful to my husband, Nick Pippenger, for all he has done to make it possible for us to have children, as well as both, succeed in ambitious careers.