President Philomena V. Mantella embraces Provost Fatma Mili at the
September 9 Women's Commission Fall Luncheon in the Kirkhof Center.
Fatma Mili, provost and executive vice president for Academic
Affairs, shares her approach to systems design thinking before faculty
and staff members at a Women's Commission event.
When Provost Fatma Mili began her career in computer science, about
40 percent of the students studying the discipline were women. That
number is now about 17 percent.
Mili shared those statistics with faculty and staff members gathered
for the Women's Commission Fall Luncheon September 9 in the Kirkhof
Center. Before beginning the role of Grand Valley's provost in July,
she served as dean of Computing and Informatics at the University of
North Carolina at Charlotte.
"Computer science is one of several disciplines to become a
gendered field," Mili said. "First, there were many women in
the field, who were working as mathematicians and scientists; then for
some reason, the number of women decreased and now in the IT workforce
women are the small minority."
She cautioned against the assumption that more women should study
computer science and enter the workforce, saying maximizing that type
of output could lead to homogeneity.
"It's naive to pick one variable — we need more women in
computer science — that's not the answer. When you maximize output it
can lead to homogeneity, the thought that making more of the same is
better," she said.
Mili offered a systems design approach to the issue using a reference
from the book "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer
about the author's approach to planting seeds. "System design is
not only about focusing on output, it's studying what's visible, and
asking ourselves, 'What do we allow to grow?'" she said.
President Philomena V. Mantella introduced Mili at the event and
introduced the provost to the work of the Women's Commission, calling
the group "a force." Mantella noted the role the Women's
Commission Family Leave Task Force played last year in researching and
recommending to senior leadership an expanded university parental
"The Women's Commission is really a force and I thank them for
advancing the conversation around benefits and advocating for a
12-week parental leave period," Mantella said.