Posts tagged ‘women in computing’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%
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.
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
Director, Computing Outreach
College of Computing
I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. It’s informing my next round of research proposals.
We know more about how to retain students these days, the “hold” part of Dewey’s challenge mentioned below — consider the UCSD results and the MediaComp results. But how do we “catch” attention? We are particularly bad at “catching” the attention of women and minority students. Our enrollment numbers are rising, but the percentage of women and under-represented minorities is not rising. Betsy DiSalvo has demonstrated a successful “catch” and “hold” design with Glitch. Can we do this reliably? What are the participatory design processes that will help us create programs that “catch”?
So what can parents, teachers and leaders do to promote interest? The great educator John Dewey wrote that interest operates by a process of “catch” and “hold”—first the individual’s interest must be captured, and then it must be maintained. The approach required to catch a person’s interest is different from the one that’s necessary to hold a person’s interest: catching is all about seizing the attention and stimulating the imagination. Parents and educators can do this by exposing students to a wide variety of topics. It is true that different people find different things interesting—one reason to provide learners with a range of subject matter, in the hope that something will resonate.
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
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.
The NYTimes just had a piece about the lack of women in computing.
There is, of course, no pop-culture corollary for computer science. A study financed by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that recent family films, children’s shows and prime-time programs featured extraordinarily few characters with computer science or engineering occupations, and even fewer who were female. The ratio of men to women in those jobs is 14.25 to 1 in family films and 5.4 to 1 in prime time. Whenever high-ranking people in the tech industry meet, whether at the White House or a Clinton Global Initiative conference, one executive says, “we almost always walk away from the discussion having come to the conclusion we need a television show.” Nearly every tech or nonprofit executive I spoke with mentioned their hope that “The Social Network” has improved the public’s perception of programmers. They also mentioned how bummed they were that the hit film didn’t include more prominent female characters. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences now offers a program called the Sciences and Entertainment Exchange that gives writers and producers free consultation with all kinds of scientists. Natalie Portman’s character in the superhero movie “Thor,” for instance, started out as a nurse. After a consultation with scientists introduced through the exchange, she became an astrophysicist.
It’s a big and complicated issue why there are so few women in computing in the US. The author of the NYTimes article thinks that it’s about exposure.
Part of the issue, it seems, is exposure. Most people don’t come into contact with computer scientists or engineers in their daily lives, and don’t really understand what they do. American schools don’t do a great job of teaching computer science skills either.
Trying to remedy this are numerous nonprofit and educational organizations, among them Code.org, which lobbies to get more computer science classes in schools. Others try to provide computer science lessons outside of a traditional school setting. Girls Who Code, for example, has eight-week boot camps that teach middle and high school girls programming skills – in languages like Java, PHP, and Python – as well as algorithms, Web design, robotics, and mobile app development.
Which seems to say that it’s mass media (like Hollywood) that deters women from computer science — the argument suggested below. I disagree. Yes, students are getting uninformed ideas about computer science from mass media, but that’s because they don’t see the real thing anywhere. People don’t leave Disneyworld thinking that six-foot rats can talk — because they have some other experience of rodents. Our real challenge is giving students the opportunity to see a real programmer, real programming, real program code.
There’s a well-researched, much-fretted-over dearth of women in the tech sector, more specifically in the field of computer science. According to the Times’ Catherine Rampell, the dismal numbers of women majoring in computer science, or becoming computer programmers don’t seem to be improving, either: just 0.4 percent of all female college freshmen say they plan on majoring in computer science, despite the fact that, as far as professional fields go, computer science and engineering offer college grads some of the most promising employment opportunities. We need computer programs and bridges, college, not another pack of aimless fedora-wearers chain-smoking Parliaments outside of the liberal arts building.
Brand new data, same old story.
As you can see, a majority of bachelor’s degrees in some STEM fields — psychology, biosciences, social sciences — were actually given to women in recent years. And women’s participation in these fields has also risen, on net, since 1991, even if there has been some erosion in biosciences in recent years. Women receive less than half of physical sciences degrees, but they earn a much higher share than they did two decades ago.
Now take a look at the trends in computer science and engineering. Engineering is slightly more female-heavy than it was in 1991, but not much: 15.5 percent then versus 18.4 percent in 2010, the most recent year in the report. Computer science actually is more male-dominated today than it was two decades ago: Women received 29.6 percent of computer science B.A.’s in 1991, compared with 18.2 percent in 2010.
The #include Fellowship to high school students from she++: Inspiring Women to Empower Computer Science
Sign up by Dec 11! (Remind students that Stanford is a fabulous place to visit.)
The #include Fellowship provides resources and content to ambitious high school students who wish to cultivate their own technical skills and facilitate conversations within their communities about computer science & the importance of diversity in technology.
Each High School student will work with a College mentor to bring technology into their communities. High School students may apply to present their work over the course of the year at the #include Summit (April 3-5) at Stanford University.
This article highlights Georgia Tech as a negative example: “Just 37% of this year’s freshman class at Georgia Tech is female. And that’s increase over previous years, thanks in part to the school’s dedicated women’s recruitment team.”
But I think that the author doesn’t really get what draws women into STEM (or any other field). Below, the argument is that there are so many women in CS in Qatar because the government emphasizes it. I visited Qatar, and spoke to women in CS there — no one once said that they were there because their government encouraged them. It had far more to do with values and family concerns. I’ll bet that Georgia Tech has a far larger recruitment effort than at Harvey Mudd, even though Harvey Mudd is getting more success drawing women into computing. It’s way more complicated than recruiting and emphasizing.
Getting young women interested and immersed in computer science programs comes at a time when one million new jobs in tech-related fields will be created in the next decade.
But fewer women are going into these fields. Just about 2% of women have a degree in a high-tech field, according to Catalyst.
Currently, a quarter of all Americans in computer-related occupations are women, compare that figure to countries like Oman and Qatar, whose governments emphasize girls’ education and STEM fields.
I’m glad to hear that Marvel wants to get involved in drawing more women into STEM. The involvement of Natalie Portman is interesting, but also challenging. There are these interesting studies showing that role models of women in STEM can trigger a kind of stereotype threat: “That can never be me, so I’d better not even try.” They’ll have to be careful in how they frame her involvement in science. Since I’ve been thinking about live coding, I’ve been wondering more about the importance of seeing embodiments of STEM workers that are otherwise invisible. Perhaps Marvel can provide that through this effort.
Marvel has announced the Ultimate Mentor Adventure, part mentor program, part contest, that gives American girls in grades 9-12 the resources to find and interview professional women in science, technology, engineering, and math, and then rewards them for doing it.
Natalie Portman has always been a consistent voice for greater screentime and opportunities behind the scenes for female characters and real women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that she’s the first face you see on the Ultimate Mentor Adventure’s explanatory video. Portman talks about her character Jane Foster, an astrophysicist, amid finished and behind the scenes clips of Jane in Thor: The Dark World, and, while the bombastic music of the trailers plays, she says, “the truth is, I really do love science. And the role gave me an amazing opportunity to explore science in all its possibilities.”