Posts tagged ‘NCWIT’

Computing’s Narrow Focus May Hinder Women’s Participation: Context matters

Of course, I buy into the argument here about the importance of context. Beyond that, this article does a nice job of tying context to success of women in computing (with quotes both from Barbara Ericson and Valerie Barr, formerly at NSF).

“Boys fall in love with computers as machines; girls see them as tools to do something else,” said Barbara Ericson, a senior research scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who tracks the AP exam. “Then girls think, ‘maybe I don’t belong because I don’t love them like the boys do.’”

In her position as a professor of computer science at Union College, Barr found contextualizing computer science classes led to an increase in female enrollment. “We said, ‘let’s show them that computer science can be useful by giving themes to the introductory CS courses, so students can see their relevance,’” she said. “For us, it’s been enormously successful. Ten years ago we taught the introductory course to 29 students, and 14% of them were women. This year there were over 200 students, and 39% of them were women.” Beyond college, Barr said, she’d also like to see “a bigger funnel into the corporate world and the tech industry, with people coming from many other majors. It doesn’t have to be just CS majors.”

via Computing’s Narrow Focus May Hinder Women’s Participation | News | Communications of the ACM.

September 15, 2014 at 8:12 am Leave a comment

10 Reasons Why America Needs 10,000 More Girls in Computer Science: Need to change girls’ minds about girls

Nice article from Ruthe Farmer on why we need more girls in CS. The point quoted below is particularly interesting to me, and relates to a recent Blog@CACM post: student perceptions matter. It’s not just the males who need to realize that females are good at math. Girls sometimes take themselves out of the competition.

The idea that girls can’t do math or succeed in science is a silly myth that needs to be put to rest. Girls made up 63 percent of the 2013 Intel ISEF finalists in biochemistry, accounted for 46 percent of all Advanced Placement AP Calculus test-takers in 2013 (See http://ncwit.org/bythenumbers), and contributed 47 percent of the winning projects in the Google Science Fair. But it’s not only boys who need to get the message about girls’ abilities: According to the Atlantic, female test-takers around the world reported feeling “helpless” while doing a math problem, although they scored within striking distance of their male counterparts. In other words, there is an abundance of girls who are good at math and science, but a lack of girls who know it.

via The Shriver Report – 10 Reasons Why America Needs 10,000 More Girls in Computer Science.

September 4, 2014 at 8:47 am 1 comment

The most gender-balanced computing program in the USA: Computational Media at Georgia Tech

Jennifer Whitlow here at the College of Computing at Georgia Tech just posted enrollment statistics about our undergraduate degrees, BS in Computer Science and BS in Computational Media (a joint degree between Computing and the School of Literature, Media, and Communications in our Ivan Allen College of the Liberal Arts).  (You can read student impressions about CM here.) We’re now at 1665 undergraduate majors, the largest ever.

This is a huge table — click on it to make it bigger.

GT-enrollment-data

The gender diversity in the BS in CS is improving significantly — from 9% in 2004, up to 19.91% this year.  But it’s the CM major that I find most intriguing.  It’s gone from the 25-30% female up to 45.32%.  At 45% female, I believe that it may be the most gender-balanced ABET-accredited computing undergraduate major at any US state university.  (Private schools with more control over admissions could be higher.)  That’s really something — dramatic and important.  CM graduates are getting good jobs (in the top starting salaries coming out of Georgia Tech undergrad, well into six figures). My son just graduated with a CM degree in May, and has now started a CS PhD — evidence that the degree is getting respect at CS departments too.

But there’s an interesting research question in here, too. CM is shrinking.

CM was at its largest in 2010 with 300 majors.  Today it has only 214 majors.  The number of women in CM has continued to increase every year until this last. It’s obvious what’s going on: we’re losing men.

males-vs-females

Computational Media at Georgia Tech may be the only computing program in the country that is wondering, “Where did the men go?”  CM is clearly doing the right things to recruit, engage, and retain women.  Why are we losing men?  What is having a differential impact in terms of gender, that started about 2010?

One hypothesis is that it’s because of competition with the BS in CS, and in particular, with our threaded curriculum with threads available like Media and People.  But Threads started in 2005, same as the CM major, and CM grew while CS shrank from 2005-2011. While the faculty know from hiring statistics that CS and CM are neck-and-neck in terms of starting salaries and jobs offered, it’s not clear that the students know this.  It’s not clear why any competition with CS would suddenly rise in 2010, and then impact men more than women.

Another hypothesis is that CM is perceived as being easy — it’s “CS lite.”  You can see that perspective in the student comments I linked to earlier.  The hypothesis has two parts (a) that CM is perceived as easy, and (b) that men are more dissuaded by a degree being labeled easier than women.  Both are empirical questions, and I don’t know the answers to either. If we’re looking for changes in the CM program that might have triggered change, it is true that we recently made CM harder.  Two years ago, we found that CM students were struggling too much in graphics, so we added a new requirement: a challenging course in data structures and algorithms — the same one that the CS majors take.  CS and CM are virtually identical for the first two years.  Did making CM harder drive away men without driving away women?  Seems unlikely, but it’s possible.

Here’s yet another hypothesis: CM has become “feminized.”  See http://brookekroeger.com/the-road-less-rewarded-as-professions-become-female-dominated-status-and-pay-seem-to-slip-now-researchers-are-asking-why-and-turning-up-some-surprising-conclusions/ for some discussion of what happened in psychology as it became female-dominant, a UNESCO report on the feminization of education, or see a more detailed and academic consideration here:

https://www.academia.edu/3811483/Gender_work_in_a_Feminized_Profession.

When a field becomes feminized, it is perceived as “softer” and less-desirable by men.  CM enrollments started declining in 2011, after the percentage of females in CM passed 30%.

So here’s this wonderful result, that CM is nearly at gender-parity, with this strange additional observation — men are less interested in CM now.  We’d rather have gender balance and stable (or preferably, growing) numbers of both genders. The success of CM is the major story here, and we want to keep women in CM.  It’s an interesting question of where the men went.  Can we keep the successes of CM, and get men interested, too?


Matthew Guzdial, Jane Margolis, and Lecia Barker reviewed earlier drafts of this post and gave me very useful comments that I have incorporated.  My thanks to all of them!  I did not however use all of their comments, so hold me alone responsible for these comments.

 

 

September 2, 2014 at 8:08 am 3 comments

More tech companies release diversity figures: They look a lot like Google’s and Yahoo’s

Below is the article on Facebook’s diversity figure release. (Google really did lead the pack here.)  Here’s Twitter’s, LinkedIn’s, and EBay’s.  For those of us doing this work, these are not surprising results.  But they are super important for showing us where we are now.  We have very little diversity in the computing industry.  This gives us a sense of what we need to work on, and how to measure progress.

Sadly, Facebook’s numbers look a lot like the other four. I’ll let the figures speak for themselves:Globally the company is 69 percent male, 31 percent female. In terms of ethnicity the company is 57 percent white, 34 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, 3 percent two or more races, 3 percent black and 0 percent other.Scrutinized further, in the tech force of Facebook, 85 percent are male and 15 percent are female. In terms of ethnicity in the tech division 53 percent are white, 41 percent are Asian, 3 percent are Hispanic, 2 percent are two or more races, 1 percent is black and 0 percent is other.

via Facebook releases diversity figures: They look a lot like Google’s and Yahoo’s – Salon.com.

August 12, 2014 at 8:51 am 3 comments

A Stanford female considers brogramming and the women-in-tech question

An interesting and insightful reflection by a female at Stanford about why she thinks women don’t go into computing.

I find the question about getting more women in technology an interesting and relevant one. Harvey Mudd’s President, Maria Klawe offered an explanation: “We’ve done lots of research on why young women don’t choose tech careers, and number one is they think it’s not interesting. Number two, they think they wouldn’t be good at it. Number three, they think they will be working with a number of people that they just wouldn’t feel comfortable or happy working alongside.”

Klawe’s findings are just one of many attempts to answer the women-in-tech question. Several articles cite surveys that find girls are avoiding tech careers—ostensibly because we’re shallow and afraid of the stereotype affiliations of being socially awkward, or we’re singularly focused on computers, or we’re physically unattractive. However, I find the female vanity explanation out of touch with the reality of what I’ve experienced as a female undergrad interested in pursuing a career in technology.

via Brogramming and the women-in-tech question | Stanford Daily.

August 7, 2014 at 8:16 am Leave a comment

Why MOOCs don’t help CS Education: Learning to lighten up

Last year, Peter Denning approached me about contributing a post to an on-line Symposium that he was going to hold in the  ACM Ubiquity magazine.  The opening statement was written by Candace Thille  — I am a big fan of Candace’s work, and I really liked her statement. I agreed to provide a response for the symposium.

My article has just been published (here). The whole symposium with all the preceding posts is here.  But the ending I quote below is not the ending it had originally.

Back in May, when I originally wrote the ending, I was concerned that so many Computer Scientists were working in MOOCs.  MOOCs don’t address the critical needs of CS education, which are broadening participation and preparing more teachers. The real worry I had was that MOOCs would suck all the air out of the room. When all the attention is going to MOOCs, not enough attention is going to meeting our real needs. MOOCs are a solution in search of a problem, when we already have big problems with too few solutions.

My original ending took off from Cameron Wilson’s (then director of public policy for ACM, now COO of Code.org) call for “All Hands on Deck” to address issues of broadening participation and teacher professional development. Extending the metaphor, I suggested that the computer scientists working on MOOCs had gone “AWOL.” They were deserters from the main front for CS education.

This was the first article that I’ve ever written where the editor sent it back saying (paraphrased), “Lighten up, man.” I agreed. I wrote the new conclusion (below).  MOOCs are worth exploring, and are clearly attractive for computer scientists to work on. Researchers should explore the avenues that they think are most interesting and most promising.

I’m still worried that we need more attention on challenges in computing education, and I still think that MOOCs won’t get us there.  Critiquing MOOC proponents for not working on CS ed issues will not get us to solutions any faster.  But I do plan to keep prodding and cajoling folks to turn attention to computing education.

Here’s the new ending to the paper:

MOOCs may be bringing the American university to an end—a tsunami wiping out higher education. Given that MOOCs are least effective for our most at-risk students, replacing existing courses and degrees with MOOCs is the wrong direction. We would be tailoring higher education only to those who already succeed well at the current models, where we ought to be broadening our offerings to support more students.

Computer science owns the MOOC movement. MOOC companies were started by faculty from computing, and the first MOOC courses were in computer science. One might expect that our educational advances should address our educational problems. In computing education, our most significant educational challenges are to educate a diverse audience, and to educate non-IT professionals, such as teachers. MOOCs are unlikely to help with either of these right now—and that’s surprising.

The allure of MOOCs for computer scientists is obvious. It’s a bright, shiny new technology. Computer scientists are expert at exploring the potential of new computing technology. However, we should be careful not to let “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.” As we develop MOOC technology, let’s aim to address our educational problems. And if we can’t address the problems with MOOC technology, let’s look for other answers. Computing education is too important for our community and for our society.

via Ubiquity symposium: MOOCs and technology to advance learning and learning research.

July 31, 2014 at 8:54 am 4 comments

Things you Love are Made with Code: $50 million Google coding initiative targets girls

The website https://www.madewithcode.com/ is really nice, with high-quality videos.  I like the direction.  It’s not clear to me how all the different Google initiatives in CS education integrate.  Does MadeWithCode, CS First, their new CS teaching repository, and the CS Fellows program all fit together in a strategic direction?

Made with Code’s mission is anchored by a website where girls can use basic coding technique to make bracelets and other items; Google also will dole out grants to host girl-coding parties at Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs around the country, as well as fund a range of marketing and other awareness campaigns.The idea is to de-couple coding with dry tech chores, and instead show how the skill is vital to everything from movie-making to helping cure malaria.

via $50 million Google coding initiative targets girls.

July 6, 2014 at 8:51 am Leave a comment

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