Thriving Stars

    Thriving Stars is the Department of EECS’s ambitious initiative to increase gender representation among graduate students in computing and information technologies.


    Students gather with department leaders, including department head Asu Ozdaglar and Graduate Officer Leslie Kolodziejski, at a celebratory event for women in EECS. Photo courtesy Leslie Kolodziejski.

    Background and Origins

    Computing and information technology are primary drivers of technological progress in the 21st century. Groundbreaking advances from electrical engineering (EE), computer science (CS), and artificial intelligence and decision-making (AI+D) are changing the day-to-day life of every person on Earth. And yet, in all three fields, a substantial gender gap persists.

    For the technology of tomorrow to meet the needs of all members of society, the department recognizes that this situation needs to change.

    Routinely ranked the top PhD program in the world, MIT EECS is an internationally recognized leader in EE, CS, and AI+D, with a long history of significant research contributions to all three fields–it is therefore uniquely positioned to make inroads to impacting gender representation in its graduate student body.

    Importantly, the undergraduate population of EECS is steadfastly approaching gender balance (with an overall percentage of women at 42%), while the department is making strides towards better gender representation among the faculty and department leaders.

    However, according to the National Science Foundation, only 1 in 4 doctoral degrees are awarded to women in engineering, computer science, and math, and 1 in 3 awarded in physical sciences. The situation in EECS at MIT mirrors this national average, with women graduate students representing 25% of the graduate student body.

    For the future of all people whose lives will be impacted by computing and information technologies, that needs to change—and MIT is ideally suited to lead the way.



    Our Solution

    With a pipeline full of promising and talented undergraduate women (at MIT and elsewhere), a multitude of female role models, the goal of building a vibrant, supportive and inclusive community, along with strenuous effort to provide fellowship support, Thriving Stars will affect change in the PhD journey for women and underrepresented genders.

    Through a holistic approach capitalizing on our strong pipeline programs and wide variety of student-led support organizations, Thriving Stars will provide support and information to students throughout every step of their PhD journey: from recruitment to admission all the way to graduation.

    The initiative will help undergraduate students:

    • Navigate the application process
    • Showcase research opportunities, interdisciplinary collaborations and internships
    • Learn about the diverse array of career opportunities accessible to doctoral EECS graduates

    The initiative will strive not only to inspire women and other underrepresented genders to pursue graduate work at MIT, but also to build a more supportive and representative community for all our graduate students.

    We need to focus on increasing participation of women graduate students in EECS today, considering their wide-ranging influence as the scientific, technical, and policy leaders of tomorrow.

    –Asu Ozdaglar
    Department Head, EECS