Posts tagged ‘women in computing’
Farnam Jahanian visited Georgia Tech last month. Farnam is the Assistant Director at the US National Science Foundation, in charge of all computing related funding (CISE Division). He spoke to issues about computing education funding, and I got to ask some of my questions, too.
He said that the Office of Management and Budget has really been driving the effort to consolidate STEM education funding programs. OMB was unhappy that Biology, Engineering, and CISE all had their own STEM education programs. However, CISE got to keep their education research program (as the new STEM-C program) because it was already a collaboration with the education division in NSF (EHR). All the rest (including TUES) is being collapsed into the new EHR programs.
In his talk, he made an explicit argument which I’ve heard Jan Cuny make, but hadn’t heard an NSF AD make previously:
- We have a dramatic underproduction of computing degrees, around 40K per year.
- We have a dramatic under-representation of certain demographic groups (e.g., women, African-Americans, Hispanics), and we can’t solve #1 without solving that under-representation. He says that the basic arithmetic won’t work. We can’t get enough graduates unless we broaden participation in computing.
- We have a lack of presence in primary and secondary school in the United States (K-12). He claims that we can’t solve #2 without fixing #3. We have to have a presence so that women and under-represented minority groups will discover computing and pursue degrees (and careers) in it.
I’ve just started reading the new report, and I’m going to be recommending it often — lots of detail, connections to lots of literature, and useful synthesis. As usual, NCWIT does a great job with resources. They provide the report, and also a nice infographic and charts & graphs for others to use.
Girls in IT: The Facts, sponsored by NCWIT’s K-12 Alliance, is a synthesis of the existing literature on increasing girls’ participation in computing. It aims to bring together this latest research so that readers can gain a clearer and more coherent picture of 1) the current state of affairs for girls in computing, 2) the key barriers to increasing girls’ participation in these fields, and 3) promising practices for addressing these barriers.
We’ve heard stories like this before, about the implicit bias in how STEM professionals are judged. This one is striking because the participants are graduate students, not established researchers who reflect years of experience in the community. These are the new researchers, and they’re already biased.
The research found that graduate students in communication — both men and women — showed significant bias against study abstracts they read whose authors had female names like “Brenda Collins” or “Melissa Jordan.”
These students gave higher ratings to the exact same abstracts when the authors were identified with male names like “Andrew Stone” or “Matthew Webb.”
In addition, the results suggested that some research topics were seen as more appropriate for women scholars — such as parenting and body image — while others, like politics, were viewed as more appropriate for men.
These findings suggest that women may still have a more difficult time than men succeeding in academic science, said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, lead author of the study and associate professor of communication at The Ohio State University.
“There’s still a stereotype in our society that science is a more appropriate career for men than it is for women,” Knobloch-Westerwick said.
Reminds me of the Jump$start program that made students over-confident and worse at making financial decisions. Teach people a little about diversity, and they think it doesn’t exist anymore.
Diversity training programs lead people to believe that work environments are fair even when given evidence of hiring, promotion or salary inequities, according to new findings by psychologists at the University of Washington and other universities.
The study also revealed that participants, all of whom were white, were less likely to take discrimination complaints seriously against companies who had diversity programs.
All these efforts to draw in more girls to computing are great, but the last sentence is a big deal. How do we keep them? How do we help girls to survive the thousand paper cuts?
Girls Who Code is among the recent crop of programs aiming to close the gender gap in tech by intervening early, when young women are deciding what they want to study. With names like Hackbright Academy, Girl Develop It, Black Girls Code and Girls Teaching Girls to Code, these groups try to present a more exciting image of computer science.
The dearth of women in the tech industry has been well documented. Even though women represent more than half the overall work force, they hold less than a quarter of computing and technical jobs, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology based at the University of Colorado, Boulder. At the executive and founder levels, women are even scarcer.
If you haven’t read about “Donglegate,” you should. This piece reminded me of the thousand paper cuts post from last week. Adria Richards spoke out against one of those cuts. There’s a very nice piece on Wired that analyzes these as “microagressions” and why they are significant. ”Sadly, what happened to Adria Richards tells women they’re only welcome in technology if they keep their mouths shut.”
Some say she should have gone to the conference organizers first. As someone who has repeatedly gone to conference organizers (with offers of constructive help, no less!) on sexist behavior, panel lineups, and more, and been basically patted on the head over and over, I can tell you that’s also not the first avenue of action for many women experiencing sexist behavior. We’ve been Skinner-boxed and Pavloved into believing that “going to the authorities” isn’t going to change anything. That may or may not be true for PyCon–they (happily) have a code of conduct that includes harassment, so they may have been more open to a complaint. But again, we can’t ignore the cultural baggage that we all bring to this kind of table.
What a sad posting. It’s particularly sad because it’s 10 years after “Unlocking the Clubhouse.” Really? Haven’t we figured out how to do this any better yet?
My college classes have next to no women in them. A professor makes creepy comments about “geeky girls” during class. One of my few female classmates tells me she’s just doing this to prove her father wrong. Classmates don’t take me seriously until I scream. The first time I learned that you get to be a bitch or you get to be ignored – a choice that would later follow me to the working world. Four years of paper cuts. Four years of pushing myself too hard because I wanted to prove something.
I found the study linked below fascinating, in part because I saw myself making exactly these mistakes. I have absolutely described jobs in those masculine terms instead of the more neutral terms. I didn’t realize that those were terms that would dissuade females from applying.
When we teach classes on designing user interfaces, a key idea that we want students to learn is that “Thy User is Not You.” Don’t design for yourself. Don’t judge the interface only from your own eyes. You can’t imagine how the user is really going to use your interface. Try it with real users. Get input from real users. You can’t design interfaces for yourself and expect them to be usable for others. (Just like you can’t develop educational software for the developed world and expect it to work in the developing world.)
I heard the same lesson in this study. If you want to hire employees different than you, find out what you need to put in your job ad to attract them. You do not know how they will read your ad. Get input from others (who see things differently than you), and use expert guidance. Thy employee is not you.
The paper — which details a series of five studies conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo and Duke University — found that job listings for positions in engineering and other male-dominated professions used more masculine words, such as “leader,” “competitive” and “dominant.” Listings for jobs in female-dominated professions — such as office administration and human resources — did not include such words.
A listing that seeks someone who can “analyze markets to determine appropriate selling prices,” the paper says, may attract more men than a list that seeks someone who can “understand markets to establish appropriate selling prices.” The difference may seem small, but according to the paper, it could be enough to tilt the balance. The paper found that the mere presence of “masculine words” in job listings made women less interested in applying — even if they thought they were qualified for the position.
The March issue of IEEE Computer is going to be devoted to fostering gender diversity in computing. It looks like it’s going to be a great issue, including a piece by my school chair, Annie Anton.
Why is this important to us? Computing and information technology are among the fastest growing U.S. industries: technical innovation plays a critical role in every sector of the U.S. and global economy, and computing ranks among the top 10 high-profile professions. However, as a nation, we are not prepared to attract and retain the professional workforce required to meet future needs. By 2018, US universities will produce only 52 percent of the computer science bachelor’s degrees needed to fill the 1.4 million available jobs.
A lack of diverse perspectives will inhibit innovation, productivity, and competitiveness. In addition to failing to attract new and diverse talent, industry is also losing trained professionals who are already interested in technology. While 74 percent of professional women report “loving their work,” 56 percent leave at the career “midlevel” point just when their loss is most costly to the company—this is more than double the quit rate for men.
The growth of departments in the Taulbee report is astonishing, but what Computerworld got wrong is calling it “computer science enrollments,” as opposed to “computer science enrollments in PhD-granting institutions.” The Taulbee report doesn’t cover all CS departments, and that’s why the new NDC survey has been launched.
The Taulbee report also indicates that the percent of women graduating with a Bachelors in CS has risen slightly, while the Computer Engineering percentage has dropped. Both are well south of 15%, though — a depressingly small percentage.
The number of new undergraduate computing majors in U.S. computer science departments increased more than 29% last year, a pace called “astonishing” by the Computing Research Association.
The increase was the fifth straight annual computer science enrollment gain, according to the CRA’s annual surveyof computer science departments at Ph.D.-granting institutions.
In the context of David Notkin’s receipt of the 2013 Computing Research Association A. Nico Habermann Award for outstanding contributions to supporting underrepresented groups in the computing research community, Lecia Barker of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (we hosted their Washington State Awards for Aspirations in Computing last weekend) sent us the chart to the right, comparing UW CSE’s performance to the national average in granting bachelors degrees to women.
It was really great to see these results in the U. Washington CSE News, but it got me to wondering: Did all the big R1 institutions rise like this, or was this unusual at UW? I decided to generate the GT data, too.
I went to the GT Self-Service Institutional Research page and downloaded the degrees granted by college and gender in each of 2005, 2006, and on up to 2011. (All separate spreadsheets.) I added up Fall, Spring, and Summer graduates for each year, and computed the female percentage. Here’s all three data sets graphed. While GT hasn’t risen as dramatically as UW in the last two years (so UW really has done something remarkable!), but GT’s rise from 2005 far below the national average to above the national average in 2009 is quite interesting.
Why is UW having such great results? Ed Lazowska claimed at SIGCSE 2013 that it’s because they have only a single course sequence (“one course does fit all,” he insisted) and because they have a large number of female TAs. I don’t believe that. I predict that more courses would attract more students (see the “alternative paths” recommendation from Margolis and Fisher), and that female TA’s support retention, not recruitment. I suspect that UW’s better results have more to do with the fact that GT’s students declare their major on their application form, while UW students have to apply to enter the CSE program. Thus, (a) UW has the chance to attract students on-campus and (b) they have more applications than slots, so they can tune their acceptances to get the demographics that they value.
An interesting excursion into the history of computing. One of the first two PhD’s in Computer Science in the United States went to a female and a member of a religious order! I would never have guessed.
But at virtually the same time in June 1965, two other degrees were completed: Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, BVM, earned a Ph.D. from the Computer Sciences Department at the University of Wisconsin, and Irving C. Tang earned a D.Sc. from the Applied Mathematics and Computer Science Department at Washington University in St. Louis. The purpose of this article is to show that in the United States, Keller and Tang were not just earlier but also first, thereby providing a more accurate historical record.
If the reporter really understood NSA’s strategies for building up their cybersecurity workforce, they would said “personpower” instead of “manpower.” NSA is a big supporter of the Anita Borg Institute and the Grace Hopper Conference. They recognize that they’ll need women to help fill those cybersecurity ranks.
When Stuxnet—a massive computer worm that damaged a uranium enrichment plant in Iran—was discovered in 2010, cybersecurity experts marveled at its intricacy and power.
But maybe just as impressive as the exploit itself was the fact that the National Security Administration was able to find the manpower needed to design the attack.
That’s because the NSA, CIA, the Army’s Cyber Command, and private companies are quickly learning there aren’t enough cybersecurity experts steeped in the skills needed to wage cyberwarfare.
Experts have suggested that the United States government will need to hire at least 10,000 cybersecurity experts over the next several years, while the private sector will need even more. While most of those jobs are in defense, there’s also a growing need for people who are able to hack into complicated networks.
How Can We Get More Boys Into Ballet? Response to an argument against getting more women into computing
Do we have a desperate need for more ballet dancers? Has ballet dancing become the lifeblood of our society? If so, then we really should try to get more boys into ballet. Or maybe ballet dancers made much more than average. Then getting more boys into ballet (or figuring out, at least, why they weren’t there) would be about being fair, giving everyone a chance at the high-paying jobs by making sure that there weren’t any accidental barriers or implicit bias.
Fortunately, we’re talking computing, not ballet, and we know the answers to many of those questions for computing. Computing is ubiquitous in our society and is critical to our economy. We face a labor shortage of skilled computing professionals. Computing professionals are rarely female. There are forms of bias that prevent many women from engaging and persisting in computing. Finally, when there are more diverse teams, design gets better. For all these reasons, we need more women in computing. There are answers beyond a “positive discrimination policy.” Changing what we do can making computing education more attractive and engaging for women, and make it better for men, too. Curb cuts help everyone.
I have a great amount of respect for the efforts of others in doing what they can to try to redress these outmoded stereotypes. I’m just not sure that I agree completely that a positive discrimination policy is an effective solution. This issue is not confined to just this sector of tech and computing but applies in many others. In our school there is one boy in the GCSE Textiles class and 3 boys in the GCSE Food class. I wonder if as a society we should question whether we celebrate the differences between male and female or seek to remove and reduce them. When I stand up on the bus to offer my seat to a lady or hold the door open for a female colleague, am I being courteous, chivalrous or disrespectful to men?