Posts tagged ‘NCWIT’

Discussing the film “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap”

Barbara Ericson and I were invited to be discussants at a showing of “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap.”  I highly recommend the movie.  It was fascinating to watch, made all the more fun by seeing heroes that I know appear, like Nathan Ensmenger, Avis Yates Rivers, Jane Margolis, Ari Schlesinger, Colleen Lewis, and Maria Klawe.

Afterward, I got to make a few comments — expanding on some of the movie’s points, and disagreeing with others.

The movie makes the argument that men and women aren’t wired differently.  We are all capable of learning computer science.  They didn’t have to make a biological argument.  In the Middle East and many other parts of the world, computer science is female-dominated. Clearly, it’s not biology.  (Perhaps surprisingly, I recently got asked that question at one of the top institutes of technology in the United States: “Don’t women avoid CS because their brains work differently?”  REALLY?!?)

The movie talks about how companies like IBM and RCA started advertising in the 1970’s and 1980’s for “men” with “the right stuff,” and that’s when the field started masculinizing.  They don’t say anything about the role that educators played, the story that Nathan Ensmenger has talked about in his book “The Computer Boys Take Over.”  When we realized that we couldn’t teach programming well, we instead started to filter out everyone who would not become a great programmer. For example, that’s when calculus was added into computer science degree requirements.  Women were less interested in the increasingly competitive computer science programs, especially when there were obvious efforts to weed people out.  That was another factor in the masculinization of the field.

Many of those interviewed in the movie talk about the importance of providing “role models” to women in computing.  The work of researchers like the late (and great) Joanne Cohoon show that role models aren’t as big a deal as we might think.  Here’s a thought experiment to prove the point: There are biology departments where the faculty are even more male than most CS departments, yet those departments are still female-dominant.  What we do know is that women and URM students need encouragement to succeed in CS, and that that encouragement can come from male or female teachers.

Finally, several interviewed in the movie say that we have to get girls interested in CS early because high school or university is “way too late.”  That’s simply not true.  The chair of my School of Interactive Computing, Annie Antón, didn’t meet computing until she was an undergraduate, and now she’s full Professor in a top CS department.  Yes, starting earlier would likely attract more women to computing, but it’s never “too late.”

After the movie, an audience member asked me if I really believed that diversity was important to build better products, and how would we prove that.  I told him that I didn’t think about it that way.  I’m influenced by Joanna Goode and Jane Margolis.  Computing jobs are high-paying and numerous.  Women and under-represented minority students are not getting to those jobs because they’re not getting access to the opportunites, either because of a lack of access to computing education or because of bias and discrimination that keep them out.  It’s not about making better products.  This is a social justice issue.

 

April 28, 2017 at 7:00 am 5 comments

NSF Report: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering

A useful report when trying to make an argument for the importance of Broadening Participation in Computing efforts:

Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering provides statistical information about the participation of these three groups in science and engineering education and employment. Its primary purpose is to serve as a statistical abstract with no endorsement of or recommendations about policies or programs. National Science Foundation reporting on this topic is mandated by the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act (Public Law 96-516).This digest highlights key statistics drawn from a wide variety of data sources. Data and figures in this digest are organized into five topical areas—enrollment, field of degree, occupation, employment status, and early career doctorate holders.

Source: About this report – nsf.gov – Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering – NCSES – US National Science Foundation (NSF)

April 12, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

University CS graduation surpasses its 2003 peak, with poor diversity

Code.org just blogged that we have set a record in the number of BS in CS graduates.

University CS graduates have set a new record, finally surpassing the number of degrees earned 14 years ago.With a 15% increase in computer science graduates (49,291 bachelor’s degrees), 2015 had the largest number of CS graduates EVER! The previous high point was over a decade ago, in 2003.

Source: University computer science finally surpasses its 2003 peak!

But look at the female numbers there — they are less than what they were in 2003.  We are graduating 2/3 as many women today as in 2003.  (Thanks to Bobby Schnabel for pointing this out.) We have lost ground.

My most recent Blog@CACM is on the new CRA “Generation CS” report, and about the impacts the rise in enrollment are having on diversity.  One of the positive messages in this report is that departments that have worked to improve their diversity have been successful.  As a national statistic, this doesn’t feel like a celebration when CS is becoming less diverse in just 12 years.

 

April 10, 2017 at 7:00 am 4 comments

Brief from Google on the state of Girls in CS Education

Following up on the brief that Google did last month on Blacks in CS, this month they’ve prepared a brief on the state of girls in CS.

Computer science (CS) education is critical in preparing students for the future. CS education not only gives students the skills they need to succeed in the workforce, but it also fosters critical thinking, creativity, and innovation. Women make up half the U.S. college-educated workforce, yet only 25% of computing professionals. This summary highlights the state of CS education for girls in 7th–12th grade during 2015–16. Girls are less likely than boys to be aware of and encouraged to pursue CS learning opportunities. Girls are also less likely to express interest in and confidence in learning CS.

See http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/computer-science-learning-closing-the-gap-girls-brief.pdf

March 22, 2017 at 7:00 am 3 comments

Expanding the Pipeline: Characteristics of Male and Female Prospective Computer Science Majors – Examining Four Decades of Changes – CRN

Interesting report from CRA that offers a nuanced view about gender differences in goals for STEM education and how those interact with pursuing a degree in CS.

Another example of a variable becoming more salient over time relates to one’s scientific orientation. Students of either gender who express a stronger commitment to making a “theoretical contribution to science” are more likely to pursue a computer science major, but over time this variable has become a significantly stronger predictor for women while remaining a steady predictor for men. In other words, it is increasingly the case that computer science attracts women who see themselves as committed to scientific inquiry. While at face value that seems like positive news for the field of computer science, the fact is that women are much less likely than men to report having a strong scientific orientation upon entering college; thus, many potential female computing majors may be deterred from the field if they simply don’t “see” themselves as the scientific type.

Still, there is some positive news when it comes to attracting women to computing. The first relates to the role of mathematical self-concept. Specifically, even though women rate their math abilities lower than men do—and perceptions of one’s math ability is one of the strongest predictors of a major in computer science—the fact is that the importance of mathematical self-concept in determining who will pursue computer science has weakened over time. Thus, despite the fact that women tend to have lower math confidence than men do, this differential has become less consequential over time in determining who will major in computer science.

Source: Expanding the Pipeline: Characteristics of Male and Female Prospective Computer Science Majors – Examining Four Decades of Changes – CRN

March 20, 2017 at 7:00 am 3 comments

Zingaro’s review of Frieze and Quesenberry’s “Kicking Butt in Computer Science”

Carol Frieze and Jeria Quesenberry’s book on women in computing at CMU, Kicking butt in computer science, has been in my Kindle archive for several months now.  Dan Zingaro’s review in this month’s ACM Inroads is moving it up my to-read queue.

For me, the edgy title of the book promised a fiery romp through the halls of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), wherein the stories of butt-kicking women in computer science (CS) are told. Anecdotes of successful women in CS, chronicles of their rise to butt-kicking status—this is what I expected. This is not what I got. What I got was more useful—a careful academic treatise of women in CS at CMU, and a cache of food-for-thought for anyone hoping to improve the women and computer science (women-CS) fit at their schools.

The book’s thesis is simple, if contentious—a focus on gender differences does not work; a focus on culture does.

Source: ACM Inroads: Archive

March 10, 2017 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Why Students Consider Leaving Computing and What Encourages Them to Stay – CRA

One of my favorite papers is the analysis of Stayers vs Leavers in undergraduate CS by Maureen Biggers and colleagues. This new research published by the CRA explores similar issues.

We also looked at words associated (correlated) with these two sets of words to give us context for frequently cited words. When talking about thoughts about leaving, students were particularly likely to associate “weed-out” with “classes”. They were also likely to use words such as “pretty” and “extremely” alongside “hard” and “difficult”, which sheds light on computing students’ experiences in the major. When talking about staying in their major, students cited words such as “prospect”, “security”, “stable”, and “necessary” along with the top two most commonly used words: “job” and “degree”. For instance, one student said: “[I thought about changing to a non-computing major because of] the difficulty of computing. [But I stayed for] the security of the job market.” Yet another student noted: “The competitive culture [in my computing major] is overwhelming. [But] the salary [that] hopefully awaits me [helped me stay].” Furthermore, students used the words “friends”, “family”, and “support” in association with each other, suggesting that friends and family support played a role in students’ decision/ability to stay in their computing major. As a case in point, one student noted: “The material is hard to learn! I had to drop one of my core classes and must take it again. But with some support from friends, academic advisors, more interesting classes, and a more focused field in the major I have decided to continue.”

Source: Why Students Consider Leaving Computing and What Encourages Them to Stay – CRA

February 20, 2017 at 7:22 am 4 comments

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