Posts tagged ‘NCWIT’

Why bother? How hackathons can become more female-friendly

Hackathons seem the antithesis of what we want to promote about computer science.  On the one hand, they emphasize the Geek stereotype (it’s all about caffeine and who needs showers?), so they don’t help to attract the students who aren’t interested in being labeled “geeky.”  On the other hand, it’s completely against the idea of designing and engineering software.  “Sure, you can do something important by working for 36 hours straight with no sleep or design!  That’s how good software ought to be written!”  It’s not good when facing the public (thinking about the Geek image) or when facing industry and academia.

So why try to make them “female-friendly”?

OK, so there are a number of valid reasons women tend to stay away from hackathons. But what can hackathon planners due to get more females to attend their events? I found some women offering advice on this subject. Here are some suggestions for making your hackathon more female-friendly.

Amy Quispe, who works at Google and ran hackathons while a student at Carnegie Mellon University, writes that having a pre-registration period just for women makes them feel more explicitly welcome at your event. Also, shy away from announcing that its a competition (to reduce the intimidation factor), make sure the atmosphere is clean and not “grungy”  and make it easy for people to ask questions. “A better hackathon for women was a better hackathon for everyone,” she writes.

via How hackathons can become more female-friendly | PCWorld.

April 4, 2014 at 1:58 am 9 comments

Revamped computer science classes attracting more girls: Maybe, or maybe they just want CS

Great to see Dan Garcia and his class getting this kind of press!  I’m not sure I buy the argument that SFGate is making, though.  Do female students at Berkeley find out about this terrific class and then decide to take it?  Or are they deciding to take some CS and end up in this class?  Based on Mike Hewner’s work, I don’t think that students know much about the content of even great classes like Dan’s before they get there.

It is a predictable college scene, but this Berkeley computer science class is at the vanguard of a tech world shift. The class has 106 women and 104 men.

The gender flip first occurred last spring. It was the first time since at least 1993 – as far back as university enrollment records are digitized – that more women enrolled in an introductory computer science course. It was likely the first time ever.

It’s a small but a significant benchmark. Male computer science majors still far outnumber female, but Prof. Dan Garcia’s class is a sign that efforts to attract more women to a field where they have always been vastly underrepresented are working.

“We are starting to see a shift,” said Telle Whitney, president of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

via Revamped computer science classes attracting more girls – SFGate.

March 26, 2014 at 1:05 am 1 comment

Depressing story in Washington Post: Keeping women in high-tech fields is big challenge

I know that NCWIT has been exploring how to support male advocates for women.  Overall, this article seemed to be saying that women are leaving tech companies, and there’s not much we can do about it.

But keeping women in those fields — and helping them reach the top — may be an even bigger challenge. A report released Wednesday by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), a research think tank founded by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, finds that U.S. women working in these fields are 45 percent more likely than their male peers to leave the industry within a year.

In addition, the study also found that nearly one-third of senior leaders — both men and women — who work in science, engineering and technology fields reported that a woman would never reach the top position in their companies. “Even the senior guys who are in a position to make change for the women in their company don’t feel like they can do it,” said Laura Sherbin, the director of research for CTI. When that’s the case, she asks, “what’s left?”

via Keeping women in high-tech fields is big challenge, report finds – The Washington Post.

March 14, 2014 at 1:48 am 1 comment

I’m an engineer, not a cheerleader. Let’s abandon silly rules about gender roles.

Reminds me of the “thousand little cuts” story.

The woman standing in front of us turned around to face me. “Are you the cheerleaders?” she beamed. I glanced at my all-girls robotics team with a look of disbelief. As their proud captain, I’ve spent hundreds of hours working with them to build and program a fully-functional robot. Walking into the massive competition arena, I had tuned out the screaming fans and blasting music, focusing on the engineering challenges at hand. But the last thing I ever thought would happen was that my group of twelve girls who routinely wire electronics, design complicated mechanical systems, and write detailed programs would be mistaken for another school’s dance team.

As famed astrophysicist Meg Urry wrote in her Feb. 2005 article in The Post, “discrimination isn’t a thunderbolt, it isn’t an abrupt slap in the face. It’s the slow drumbeat of being unappreciated, feeling uncomfortable, and encountering roadblocks along the path to success.” My science research defines me. Reading journal articles and learning new techniques almost every day, I feel at home in the laboratory. But that isn’t the case for most girls in science and engineering; somewhere along the path to a PhD, girls fall off the scientific bandwagon.

via I’m an engineer, not a cheerleader. Let’s abandon silly rules about gender roles..

March 9, 2014 at 8:14 pm 2 comments

SIGCSE2014 Preview: Engaging Underrepresented Groups in High School Introductory Computing through Computational Remixing with EarSketch

EarSketch is an interesting environment that I got to demo for Jason Freeman and Brian Magerko at the Dagstuhl Livecoding conference. It’s Python programming that creates complex, layered music. The current version of EarSketch isn’t really livecoding (e.g., there’s a “compilation” step from program into digital audio workstation), but I got to see a demo of their new Web-based version which might be usable for live coding .

I got to see the preview talk and was blown away.  The paper is about use in a 10 week programming unit in a high school course, with significant under-represented minority and female involvement. The evaluation results are stunning.  The authenticity angle here is particularly interesting. In the preview talk, Jason talked about “authentic STEAM.” They have audio loops from real musicians, and involve hip-hop artists in the classroom.  Students talk about how they value making music that sounds professional, with tools that professional musicians use.

In this paper, we describe a pilot study of EarSketch, a computational remixing approach to introductory computer science, in a formal academic computing course at the high school level. EarSketch, an integrated curriculum, Python API, digital audio workstation (DAW), audio loop library, and social sharing site, seeks to broaden participation in computing, particularly by traditionally underrepresented groups, through a thickly authentic learning environment that has personal and industry relevance in both computational and artistic domains. The pilot results show statistically significant gains in computing attitudes across multiple constructs, with particularly strong results for female and minority participants.

via SIGCSE2014 – OpenConf Peer Review & Conference Management System.

March 1, 2014 at 1:27 am 1 comment

Mercury News passes the buck: Can early CS education boost number of women in tech?

Check out the headline “Can early computer science education boost number of women in tech?”  Then read the part (quoted below) where they show what works at Harvey Mudd.  I don’t read anything there about early CS education.  I do believe that we need CS in high schools to improve diversity in computing, but I’m not sure that much earlier than high school helps much.  I worry about higher education giving up on issues of diversity, by changing the discussion to K12.

I wish that Mercury News would have really said what they found: University Computing Programs, you have the power to improve your diversity! You can change your classes and your culture! Don’t just pass the buck to K12 schools!

“The difference is, females in general are much more interested in what you can do with the technology, than with just the technology itself,” says Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe, a computer scientist herself.

So administrators created an introductory course specifically for students without programming experience. They emphasized coding’s connection to other disciplines. They paid for freshman women to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a chance to meet programming role models in diverse fields. And they provided early research opportunities for women students to inspire them to stick with the field.

The result? The percentage of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd increased from about 10 percent before the initiatives to 43 percent today.

via Can early computer science education boost number of women in tech? – San Jose Mercury News.

February 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm 12 comments

College Board program to provide funding to districts to start AP courses

Here’s a great answer to the under-representation on the AP CS — the College Board (with funding from Google) will offer grants to help start AP programs, including AP CS (see details for AP CS for STEM Access).

AP STEM Access Program: In fall 2013, the College Board implemented the AP STEM Access program in 335 public high schools across the country. With the support of a $5 million Google Global Impact Award to DonorsChoose.org, these schools started offering new AP math and science courses with the goal of enabling underrepresented minority and female students who have demonstrated strong academic potential to enroll in and explore these areas of study and related careers. Over the next three years, the AP STEM Access program will give an estimated 36,000 students the opportunity to study college-level STEM course work in these newly offered AP classes.

via 10 Years of Advanced Placement Exam Data Show Significant Gains in Access and Success; Areas for Improvement | The College Board.

February 19, 2014 at 1:08 am Leave a comment

Powerful visualization of gender-skew in AP CS from USA Today

The chart below (above, here in the blog) shows the ratio of boy to girl test-takers across AP exam subjects. In subjects whose bars do not reach the orange line, girls outnumber boys. In subjects where the bar extends past the orange line, boys outnumber girls.

via AP Test Shows Wide Gender Gap in Computer Science, Physics – Data Mine usnews.com.

January 30, 2014 at 1:01 am 10 comments

Want More Women in Tech? Tell them what it is. Give them the choice.

Shuchi Grover nails the problem in her EdSurge article linked below.  If you read the Slashdot responses to Barbara Ericson’s AP CS statistics (not on a full stomach, of course), you will see a lot of comments along the lines of “The PC BS has to stop at some point. There are some professions and things that men prefer more than women and others that women prefer more than men.”  But all the evidence that we have suggests that there is a false hidden assumption in that statement: most students (male and female) don’t pick computer science simply because they have no idea what it is.  If students never have access to computer science, never see computer science, never see programming or a programmer or any code, then it’s not a choice.

Here’s news for all: Even today, most children between the ages of 11 and 18 either have no idea about CS or overwhelmingly associate a computer scientist with “building,” “fixing,” “improving” or “studying” computers. While some add ‘programming’ to this list, most don’t see even that within the ambit of computer science.

Research also reports that students finishing high school have a difficult time seeing themselves as computer scientists since they do not have a clear understanding of what computer science is and what a computer scientist does. This is rather unfortunate in light Hazel Markus and Paula Nurius’ powerful study on the idea of “possible selves,” the type of self-knowledge that pertains to how individuals think about their potential and their future.

via Want More Women in Tech? Fix Misperceptions of Computer Science | EdSurge News.

January 27, 2014 at 1:08 am 3 comments

Maureen Biggers leads IU’s Center of Excellence for Women in Technology

Congratulations to Maureen!

The Center of Excellence for Women in Technology (CEWiT) at Indiana University officially launched this month. TechTober, the month-long launch of CEWiT during October, culminates on Monday, October 28, with a keynote address by NPR’s Moira Gunn, followed by a special reception at the IU Auditorium.

CEWiT falls under the Office of the Provost umbrella and is dedicated to promoting success, retention, increased engagement, and promotion of IU women faculty, staff and students from multiple disciplines and career intentions who engage with computation and technology. Alliances have formed for each of these three advocacy groups. The focus hits very close to home for the School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC), given that the School has been named a Pacesetter by the National Center for Women in Information & Technology, which works to increase women’s participation in IT.

The connection between SoIC and the program is strengthened by SoIC’s Assistant Dean for Diversity and Education Maureen Bigger’s role as director of CEWiT. She has made a career out of promoting student retention, leadership, teams, diversity, and broadening participation in computing. Biggers came to the School in 2008 from Georgia Tech. During her tenure, undergraduate female enrollment has more than doubled.

via SoIC’s Biggers leads IU’s Center of Excellence for Women in Technology: News: What’s Going On?: Discover: School of Informatics and Computing: Indiana University Bloomington.

January 25, 2014 at 1:13 am Leave a comment

Hard to measure: Female software engineers may be even scarcer than thought

Thanks to @NCWIT for the link to this article.  I’m not sure that I buy the validity of a crowd-sourced data set, but agree that the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) sampled dataset may be missing the overall picture, too.  Maybe we have to use multiple measures to triangulate for better accuracy.

The data she’s been collecting for about a month now can be viewed via a Google spreadsheet. Taking a look at them, there are already some interesting findings. Based on data reported for 107 companies, 438 of 3,594 engineers (12%) are females, well below the BLS’s 22% finding, backing up Chou’s theory that the numbers may be inflated.

Here are how the some of the more well known companies in Chou’s data rank:

Khan Academy: 6 of 24 engineers, 25%

Medium: 5 of 21, 24%

GoodReads: 5 of 25, 20%

Snapchat: 2 of 13, 15%

Hootsuite: 6 of 41, 15%

Reddit: 2 of 14, 14%

via Female software engineers may be even scarcer than thought | ITworld.

January 9, 2014 at 1:42 am Leave a comment

Girls Who Code aiming to double number of girls they reach

The Girls Who Code program is growing into more cities, including Boston, Miami, and Seattle in addition to NY and Bay Area programs.  They are now recruiting for summer: Summer Immersion Program Interest Form. (Thanks to Leigh Ann Sudol-DeLyser for the pointer.)

Launched in Spring 2012, Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. With support from public and private partners, Girls Who Code works to educate, inspire, and equip high school girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in computing fields.

via Girls Who Code.

January 7, 2014 at 1:40 am Leave a comment

Detailed AP CS 2013 Results: Unfortunately, much the same

Guest post from Barbara Ericson:

I have finished compiling the data for 2013 for AP CS A.  You can download the spreadsheet from http://home.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/556  The spreadsheet has 3 sheets with detailed data by race and gender. The first sheet is from 2006 to 2013 for selected states. The second sheet is the race and gender information for every state for 2013. The third sheet is the race and gender information for every state for 2012.

Here are some interesting findings from this data:

  • No females took the exam in Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming.
  • For states that had some females take the exam the percentage female ranged from 3.88% in Utah to 29% in Tennessee.
  • 11 states had no Black students take the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • The following states had the most Black students taking the exam: 1) Maryland with 170, 2) Texas with 132, 3) Georgia with 129, 4) Florida with 83, 5) Virginia with 78, 6) California with 74, 7) New York with 68, 8) New Jersey with 34 9) Mass with 34 and 10) North Carolina with 28. The pass rates for Black student in these states: Maryland 27.06%, Texas 48.48%, Georgia 21.7%, Florida 19.28%, Virginia 28.21%, California 56.76%, New York 33.82%, New Jersey 47.06%, Mass 38.24%, and North Carolina 21.43%.
  • The pass rate for Black students in states that had at least 5 Black students take the exam ranged from 19% (Florida) to 75% (Alabama) with 6 of 8 passing.
  • 8 states had no Hispanic students take the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
  • The following states had the most Hispanic students taking the exam: 1) Texas with 751, 2) California with 392, 3) Florida with 269 , 4) New York with 150, 5) Illinois with 142, 6) New Jersey with 96, 7) Virginia with 90, 8) Maryland with 88, 9) Georgia with 71, and 10) Mass with 56. In report the Hispanic numbers I cam combining the College Board categories of Mexican American, Other Hispanic, and Puerto Rican. The pass rate for Hispanic students in these states: Texas 44.47%, California 47.45%, Florida 44.61%, New York 35.33%, Illinois 39.44%, New Jersey 52.08%, Virginia 46.67%, Maryland 44.32%, Georgia 40.85%, and Mass 39.29%

You can also see historical data for all states for AP CS A at http://home.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/321

Barbara Ericson
Director, Computing Outreach
College of Computing
Georgia Tech

January 1, 2014 at 1:12 am 26 comments

NCWIT Launches first Crowd-Funding Campaign for AspireIT #CSEdWeek

NCWIT has launched their first crowd-funding campaign. The campaign supports AspireIT a middle school outreach program that matches NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing recipients with participating NCWIT member organizations to create and run computing-related outreach programs for middle school girls. The Aspirations award is a wonderful program that both recognizes high school girls with an interest in computing, but also generates a community. There are groups of Aspirations award winners at schools like MIT that offer peer-support through undergrad.

The idea of AspireIT is to fund these award recipients in setting up middle school programs such as after-school programs, summer camps, clubs, or weekend conferences. Inspired by the desire of young women in computing to "pay it forward," AspireIT aims to employ a "near-peer" approach that provides middle school girls with a positive, sustained experience of learning and creating computing alongside their peers in high school and college. 

The link for the crowd-funding campaign is here: http://bit.ly/AspireIT 

December 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

STEM Role Models for Girls: The Story of Robot Designer Cynthia Breazeal #CSEdWeek

As part of my Cyber Monday advertising email onslaught, I got this interesting ad from the National Academic Press (not a phrase one often writes).  They have a whole series of books on STEM role models for girls, including this one on Cynthia Breazeal, roboticist.  Have any of you read these?  Do you recommend them?

Cynthia Breazeal is a creature creator. Armed with electronic gadgets, software programs, and her endless imagination, she creates lifelike machines that can respond to the world around them. Cynthia Breazeal is a roboticist, a scientist who designs, builds, and experiments with robots. As a child, she relied on movies to see robots in action. Now robots are part of her daily life at the MIT Media Lab. There, she and her students use their computer science and engineering skills to work on marvels like Leonardo, a robot that interacts with people in ways that seem almost human. Cynthia s other world-famous projects include Kismet, an emotionally intelligent robot that smiles, frowns, and babbles like a baby. Why create robots like these? Cynthia can picture a future where sociable robots exist to benefit people. She works hard every day to turn that dream into a reality. Firsthand accounts from Cynthia and from those who know her best combine to tell the inspiring story of a curious, sports-loving girl who went on to become a worldclass roboticist. Robo World is also a Captivating story of high-tech invention where the stuff of science fiction becomes real in today’s labs.

via Robo World: The Story of Robot Designer Cynthia Breazeal.

December 12, 2013 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

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