Posts tagged ‘NCWIT’
I’m a fan of these first person female perspectives on what it was like to be a CS student. (Recall the Stanford one I posted recently.) I met Satoe at Snowbird last month.
When I approach female friends with the question “Why don’t you try computer science or computer engineering?” I often hear responses such as “I’m not good at math,” or “Do I look like a gamer boy to you?” The low participation of women in technical fields like computing can be seen as a vicious cycle: women feel as though they do not “belong” in technical fields to the degree that men do, leading women to avoid or shy away from those fields (Cheryan et al., 2009; Good et al., 2012; Lewis et al., 2016), potentially perpetuating women’s underrepresentation in technical fields. According to a report by Jane Stout, director of CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline and Tracy Camp, a CRA-W board member, “at all levels of the academic computing pipeline, men outnumber women by at least 3:1,” (Stout & Camp, 2014) indicating issues with mentorship and role models. In order to better examine this issue, I categorize the issue into two parts: barriers put up by the women themselves and external pressures. External pressures explain the male oriented culture and stereotyping. Women are disadvantaged by gender biases in the workplace as seen through the application process and promotion consideration. They also feel like they don’t belong in a world of ‘gamer nerds.’
College of Computing Using Google Funding to Close CS Diversity Gap: Barb Ericson’s Project Rise Up 4 CS
Project Rise Up 4 CS and Sisters Rise Up 4 CS are really great ideas (see previous blog posts on the work presented at SIGCSE and at RESPECT) — though I’m obviously biased in my opinion. I’m grateful that Google continues to support Barb’s project, and the College did a nice write up about her efforts.
In fact, according to ongoing data analysis by Barbara Ericson, director of computing outreach for the Institute for Computing Education (ICE) for the Georgia Tech College of Computing, “The disparity here is so great that in 2015 10 U.S. states had fewer than 10 girls take the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) A course exam while 23 states had fewer than 10 black students take the exam.”
In an interview with the New York Times late last year Ericson said working to solve tech industry’s gender and racial diversity gap is important “because we don’t have enough people studying computer science in the United States to fill the projected number of jobs in the field.”
To address this problem and prepare more high school students for computer science careers, the College of Computing established RISE Up 4 CS in 2012.
Leveraging Google RISE Award funding, the RISE Up 4 CS program offers twice-a-week webinars and monthly in person sessions at Georgia Tech to prepare underrepresented students to succeed in taking the APCS A course exam and class. For the webinars, students use a free interactive e-book developed by Ericson to learn about searching and sorting data, and the fundamentals of JAVA.
Annie Murphy Paul is talking about inclusive teaching here, but she could just as well be talking about active learning. The stages are similar (recall the responses to my proposal to build active learning methods into hiring, promotion, and tenure packages). These are particularly critical for computing where we have so little diversity and CS teachers are typically poor at teaching for diverse audiences.
Stages of Inclusive Teaching Acceptance
Denial: “I treat all my students the same. I don’t see race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation/nationality/disability. They are just people.”
Anger: “This is all just social science nonsense! Why won’t everyone just get over this PC stuff? When I went to grad school, we never worried about diversity.”
Bargaining: “If I make one change in my syllabus, will you leave me alone?”
Depression: “Maybe I’m not cut out to teach undergraduates. They’re so different now. Maybe I just don’t understand.”
Overwhelmed: “There is so much I didn’t know about teaching, learning, and diversity. How can I possibly accommodate for every kind of student?”
Acceptance: “I realize that who my students are and who I am influences how we interact with STEM. I can make changes that will help students learn better and make them want to be part of our community.”
Casey Fiesler and Miranda Parker did a wonderful remix of the original computer engineer Barbie (see Guardian article about that). Great to see that Mattel did a better job the next time around, and Casey loves it. I love the point she makes below, which echoes a concern I’ve voiced about open source software.
This is particularly important is because as much as we don’t want to suggest that girls can’t code, we also don’t want to suggest that coding is the only path to working with computers or games. Sometimes other parts of computing—like design or human-computer interaction—are delegitimized, considered less rigorous or less important. Or maybe they’re delegitimized in part because they happen to be the parts of computing where there are more women present (in other words, more inclusive), which is even worse.
“I had so many advantages, and I barely made it”: Stanford alumna and Pinterest engineer on Silicon Valley sexism
I’m a believer in empirical evidence, and I worry about getting a representative sample. Sometimes, the right size sample for the question is one. CS is now the biggest major among women at Stanford (see article here). Do the issues that Jane Margolis and Alan Fisher described in Unlocking the Clubhouse still exist there?
As the article linked below describes, women don’t always feel welcome in CS at Stanford. It’s hard to address the issues of classroom culture described. Having separate classes for different groups of students with different backgrounds/interests (as at Harvey Mudd does) might help.
I know of even worse experiences at other CS departments. The Stanford CS teachers actively encourage women. There are still CS teachers who discourage women in their classes. It’s hard to get administrators to focus on broadening participation in computing in the face of overwhelming enrollment. It’s even harder to push better teaching from the top down. “Teachers have academic freedom,” is a common response to requests to change teaching (see my efforts to incentivize active learning) — we allow teachers teach anyway they want. It isn’t clear that still makes sense when there are empirically better and worse ways to teach. That’s like letting modern doctors use bloodletting or not wash their hands (see NPR piece making that argument).
At Stanford, I took two introductory computer science classes. I soon became convinced that I was much too behind my male classmates to ever catch up. I was surrounded by men who’d breezily skipped prerequisite courses. As freshmen, they’d signed up for classes that I was intimidated to take even as a sophomore. They casually mentioned software engineering internships they had completed back in high school, and declared they were unfazed by any of the challenges professors might throw our way. My classmates bragged about finishing assignments in three hours. I told myself that they were quantifiably five times better me. I remember the first “weeder” computer science course I took–meant to discourage the unworthy from pursuing the major. My classmates bragged about finishing assignments in three hours. Listening to them chat, I felt mortified: the same work had taken me 15 hours of anguish at the keyboard to complete. They are quantifiably five times better than I am, I told myself.
So what does convince people about a need to change? Stories? Personal experiences? Poking around on the Web, you can find lots of pages about motivating change and salesmanship, but I’m more interested in the question of how do we get people to recognize the Platonic cave. What they think is true is measurably and provably not true.
Now, a new study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) shows another level of bias: Many men don’t believe this is happening.When shown empirical evidence of gender bias against women in the STEM fields, men were far less likely to find the studies convincing or important, according to researchers from Montana State University (MSU), the University of North Florida, and Skidmore College.
Betsy DiSalvo and I did a study of women in computing who chose not to participate in our OMS CS program. One of the reasons we heard was that these women were experienced with computing education. They all had undergraduate degrees in computing. Every one of them talked about the sexism rampant in their classes and in the industry. They were unwilling to be in a mostly-male online program.
We used to talk about getting the word out to women about the great job available in the tech industry, and about how that would attract more women. I fear that women today who are choosing not to go into the tech industry are doing so because they do know what it’s like.
A new study finds that sexism is rampant in the tech industry, with almost two-thirds of women reporting sexual harassment and nearly 90 percent reporting demeaning comments from male colleagues.The study, called “Elephant in the Valley,” surveyed 200 women who work at tech companies, including large companies like Google and Apple as well as start-ups. The study focused on women who had 10 years of experience in the industry, and most worked in Silicon Valley.