Posts tagged ‘BPC’
I agree with the author of this recent NYTimes post. Women do seem to be more attracted to socially meaningful work than males. I don’t think that’s the complete solution, though. We have evidence that women are more likely to pursue studies in computer science if encouraged (see Joanne Cohoon’s work) and if they feel a sense of “belonging” with the department (see our work in Georgia). If we want more women in engineering, we have to think about recruitment (as this article does) and retention (as other work does).
Why are there so few female engineers? Many reasons have been offered: workplace sexism, a lack of female role models, stereotypes regarding women’s innate technical incompetency, the difficulties of combining tech careers with motherhood. Proposed fixes include mentor programs, student support groups and targeted recruitment efforts. Initiatives have begun at universities and corporations, including Intel’s recent $300 million diversity commitment.
But maybe one solution is much simpler, and already obvious. An experience here at the University of California, Berkeley, where I teach, suggests that if the content of the work itself is made more societally meaningful, women will enroll in droves. That applies not only to computer engineering but also to more traditional, equally male-dominated fields like mechanical and chemical engineering.
Bobby Schnabel has just been named the new CEO of ACM. This is a big win for computing education. Bobby has been an innovator and leader in efforts to improve computing education policy and broaden participation in computing. Now, he’s in charge of ACM overall, the world’s largest computing professional organization. That gives him a big pulpit for promoting the importance of computing education.
Schnabel has a long history of service to the computing community. He has served in several capacities, including chair, of ACM’s Special Interest Group on Numerical Mathematics (ACM SIGNUM). When Schnabel assumes his role as CEO, he will step down as founding chair of the ACM Education Policy Committee, which led to the creation of Computer Science Education Week in the US, and the formation of the industry/non-profit coalition, Computing in the Core. Schnabel also serves as board member of code.org, and as a member of the advisory committee of the Computing and Information Science and Engineering directorate of the National Science Foundation. He has served as a board member of the Computing Research Association.
Dedicated to improving diversity in computing, Schnabel is a co-founder and executive team member of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), a major non-profit organization in the US for the full participation of girls and women in computing and information technology. He also serves as chair of the Computing Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Institutions Advisory Board.
Lucy Sanders is terrific as always in this NYTimes piece. I particularly like that the article draws on evidence, which is too rarely used in making CS Ed decisions.
The focus on recruiting and retaining women might increase their numbers but also singles them out, say some critics of programs that change curriculums to attract more women or offer classes specifically for women. Students often say they want to be seen as a computer scientist, not a female computer scientist.
But Ms. Sanders says the American computer science curriculum is in need of a complete overhaul, not just for women.
“I don’t particularly think that the existing computer science curriculum has been effective for anybody,” she said. “It needs to be situated in a real-world or meaningful context so people understand why they’re doing it. That doesn’t make it less rigorous — students learn the same things, but in a different way.”
New Video “Code” and the Quest for Inclusive Software, and a big question for Broadening Participation in Computing
The article quoted below is about a new documentary on gender issues in the computing industry. More interestingly, the article raises an important question for broadening participation in computing: Can we come up with examples of where a lack of diversity impacts the software product?
“Code” also addresses a question that has been discussed less often. When Reynolds described the film’s theme to her mother, her mother asked, “Well, Robin, why does it matter who’s coding as long as we have the products?” It’s a valid question: If women don’t want to program, what’s the harm? Reynolds told me that it led her to seek out, in her interviews, cases in which less diverse engineering teams created worse products than they otherwise might have. “I said, ‘Can you give me an example of where not having a diverse coding team has affected the product?’” she recalled.
Maria Klawe Won’t Let CS Remain a Boys’ Club, and other schools are going to try to follow the HMC model
Always fun to read articles about Maria Klawe and the work going on at Harvey Mudd. The part that I found really interesting was the quote below. I hadn’t heard about this new program to try to replicate the interventions from Harvey Mudd at other schools. I suspect that the real challenge is getting the commitment (as described below) and understanding from the top down. I have heard administrators claim “We’re doing the same things as Harvey Mudd” when they very clearly aren’t. I suspect that the administrators don’t really understand what Harvey Mudd College is doing.
What the article doesn’t talk about is the bottom up support at Harvey Mudd. The “CS For All” course that HMC CS faculty created has four authors (see book here). HMC has 10 tenure track CS faculty (see list here). 40% of their faculty put time into creating materials for a new approach that engaged more female students. I know several of the other faculty in the department, and I know that they were supportive, even if not named authors. I bet that the broad-based support among faculty in the department had more to do with change at HMC than any top-down commitment.
Ms. Klawe, 63, is not content with gains at her own institution, however. Late last year, she announced a program, financed by companies including Google and Facebook, to export and adapt the changes made at Harvey Mudd to 15 other universities. Many of them, such as Arizona State University and the University of Maryland at College Park, are public and much bigger than her science-focused college of 800 students.
Getting women into computer science, and into engineering more generally, requires commitment from the top down, Ms. Klawe says. But it starts with a simple reframing. “It’s creative problem-solving,” she says. “It’s hard to find a young woman who doesn’t want to be seen as creative. They also like problem-solving.”
New AAUW Report: Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing
Important new report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). I particularly like the detailed analysis of what happened at Harvey Mudd, with a lot of credit to Christine Alvarado as well as the other excellent faculty who created initiatives there. As Maria Klawe keeps saying, it wasn’t just her.
More than ever before, girls are studying and excelling in science and mathematics. Yet the dramatic increase in girls’ educational achievements in scientific and mathematical subjects has not been matched by similar increases in the representation of women working as engineers and computing professionals. Just 12 percent of engineers are women, and the number of women in computing has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to just 26 percent today.
The numbers are especially low for Hispanic, African American, and American Indian women. Black women make up 1 percent of the engineering workforce and 3 percent of the computing workforce, while Hispanic women hold just 1 percent of jobs in each field. American Indian and Alaska Native women make up just a fraction of a percent of each workforce.
End the ‘leaky pipeline’ metaphor when discussing women in science: Technical knowledge can be used in many domains
I’m familiar with the argument that we shouldn’t speak of a “pipeline” because students come to STEM (and computing, specifically) in lots of ways, and go from computing into lots of disciplines. The below-linked essay makes a particular point that I find compelling. By using the “leaky pipeline” metaphor, we stigmatize and discount the achievements of people (women, in particular in this article) who take their technical knowledge and apply it in non-computing domains. Sure, we want more women in computing, but we ought not to blame the women who leave for the low numbers.
However, new research of which I am the coauthor shows this pervasive leaky pipeline metaphor is wrong for nearly all postsecondary pathways in science and engineering. It also devalues students who want to use their technical training to make important societal contributions elsewhere.
How could the metaphor be so wrong? Wouldn’t factors such as cultural beliefs and gender bias cause women to leave science at higher rates?
My research, published last month in Frontiers in Psychology, shows this metaphor was at least partially accurate in the past. The bachelor’s-to-Ph.D. pipeline in science and engineering leaked more women than men among college graduates in the 1970’s and 80’s, but not recently.
Men still outnumber women among Ph.D. earners in fields like physical science and engineering. However, this representation gap stems from college major choices, not persistence after college.
Other research finds remaining persistence gaps after the Ph.D. in life science, but surprisingly not in physical science or engineering — fields in which women are more underrepresented. Persistence gaps in college are also exaggerated.