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On March 21, 2024, Brian Plancher, assistant professor of computer science, published new research in the IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, alongside a team of colleagues, titled “Underrepresentation of Women in Robotics Research [Women in Engineering].” The team included Barnard students Chloe Ho ’24, Elizabeth Fields ’25, and Zixuan Wu ’25.

The researchers set out to conduct a comprehensive review of the gender gap in robotics research. Plancher and his team explain that while previous studies show large diversity gaps in computer science and engineering research, with the female author ratio (FAR) at only 16%-26% for computer science, comprehensive data has not been previously collected on the subfield of robotics research. As such, in order to quantify the current gender gap in robotics, the team determined the gender of all first and last authors for all 11 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) fully sponsored conferences as well as the Robotics and Automation letters journal from 2019-2021. 

Results showed that the FAR for the analyzed robotics conferences and journals ranged between 6% and 24%, with an average of 11%-12%. These results emphasize the importance of continuing to work to increase diversity within robotics. Based on the results of a preliminary community survey, the researchers propose expanding opportunities for undergraduate robotics experiences—from introductory courses to clubs, to formal research opportunities—as a first step in the right direction.