Reducing the Gender Gap in Data Science

Promising Pathways

Did you know that only 20% of computer science and 22% of engineering undergraduate degrees in the U.S. go to women?

To address this problem, the Rice Office of STEM Engagement launched two programs in summer 2023 to provide young women with pathways to some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future.

R-STEM developed the Data Divas program, which was taught at the Houston ISD Young Women’s College Prep Academy in June. This program was meticulously designed to bridge the gender gap in data science by demystifying this field and equipping young women with insight into why data holds immense significance in today’s world and how it can serve as a promising career path.

Promising Pathways
Promising Pathways: At a weeklong camp at Rice, young women learn about genetics, biotechnology, interactive problem solving, life skills and career options.

The intensive four-day program immersed participants in engaging activities. They studied how TikTok works and used Python and Excel to probe the large open-source Austin Animal Shelter database. The young women worked as teams, asked questions about big data and interacted with accomplished female professionals in the field: Lydia Beaudrot, assistant professor of biosciences at Rice; Genevera Allen, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, statistics and computer science; Akane Sano, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Kendall Capshaw, a graduate student in civil engineering.

The program sought to ignite a passion for data science and instill confidence in these young women, fostering the belief that they, too, could thrive in a STEM field. One Data Diva participant said, “Before the camp, I did not know anything about data science, but now I am very interested in it and think it might be an interesting career path.”

In collaboration with Design, Connect, Create, a nonprofit started by Wanda Gass ’78, R-STEM also hosted its inaugural one-week BiotecHER camp. Held in Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative, students developed a deeper understanding of genetics and learned biotechnology tools and techniques. Yang Gao, assistant professor of biosciences, provided the students with instruments from his lab.

Students learned concepts that apply to research from graduate students working in the lab of Caroline Ajo-Franklin, professor of biosciences at Rice. The weeklong summer camp consisted of hands-on activities focused on biotechnology and interactive problem-solving challenges, life skills workshops and career explorations.

The program exposed students to different biotechnology lab tours and talks from female guest speakers in the field of biotechnology at Rice University, including Amanda Marciel, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Sabia Abidi, assistant teaching professor in bioengineering; and Laura Segatori, professor of bioengineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering and biosciences.

In addition, Adriana Bankston, senior fellow in civic science and public policy with Sigma Xi, talked about how she entered the field of policymaking. The diverse group of guest speakers allowed students to make connections and expand their understanding of the different career pathways that
this field provides.

— Marian Quinn
Assistant Director of Science Education

— Brittany Templeton
Assistant Director for Computer Science and Mathematics

— Carolyn Nichol
Rice Office of STEM Engagement


A quarterly newsletter that showcases the university’s outreach programs. Each issue of the newsletter includes a series of stories that raise the awareness of Rice’s engagement with the city and beyond.