Posts tagged ‘women in computing’
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.
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
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.”
Thanks to Greg Wilson for sending this to me. It takes a while to get to the point about computing education, but it’s worthwhile. The notion is related to my post earlier in the month about engagement and motivation.
I’d been socialised out of using computers at high school, because there weren’t any girls in the computer classes, and it wasn’t cool, and I just wanted to fit in. I wound up becoming a lawyer, and spending the better part of twenty years masquerading as someone who wasn’t part of the “tech” industry, even though basically all of my time was spent online.
And I can’t begin to tell you how common it is. So what if your first experience of “code” is cutting and pasting something to bring back replies because Tumblr took them away and broke your experience of the site.
Is that any more or less valid than any dev cutting and pasting from Stack Exchange all day long?What if your first online experiences were places like Myspace and Geocities. Or if you started working with WordPress and then eventually moved into more complex themes and then eventually into plugin development? Is that more or less valid than the standard “hacker archetype”? Aurynn gave a great talk recently about the language we use to describe roles in tech. How “wizards” became “rockstars” and “ninjas”. But also, and crucially, how we make people who haven’t followed a traditional path feel excluded. Because they haven’t learnt the “right” programming language, or they haven’t been programming since they were four, or because, god forbid, they use the wrong text editor.
Steps Teachers Can Take to Keep Girls and Minorities in Computer Science Education | Cynthia Lee in KQED News
So glad to see Cynthia Lee’s list (described in this blog post) get wider coverage.
Last summer, Cynthia Lee, a lecturer in the computer science department at Stanford University, created a widely-circulated document called, “What can I do today to create a more inclusive community in CS?” The list was developed during a summer workshop funded by the National Science Foundation for newly hired computer science faculty and was designed for busy educators. “I know the research behind these best practices,” said Lee, “but my passion comes from what I’ve experienced in tech spaces, and what students have told me about their experiences in computer science classrooms.”
Too often students from diverse backgrounds “feel that they simply aren’t wanted,” said Lee. “What I hear from students is that when they are working on their assignments, they love [computer science]. But when they look up and look around the classroom, they see that ‘there aren’t many people like me here.’ If anything is said or done to accentuate that, it can raise these doubts in their mind that cause them to questions their positive feelings about the subject matter.”
Yep. Though I’ve seen a lot of in-classroom culture that drives out women, the bigger driver is that computing culture drives out many people, like the Stack Overflow results recently mentioned here.
Engineering classes and assignments do not “weed out” women; indeed, data show that women students do as well or better than male students in their course work. Instead, women students often point to the culture of engineering itself as a reason for leaving engineering.
This starts with activities that are designed to show novices how the profession actually does its work, how to interact with clients and other professionals, and how to exercise discretionary judgment in situations of uncertainty. Many discover that the engineering profession is not as open to being socially responsible as they hoped.
And, during the more informal, out-of-classroom training and socialization, women experience conventional gender discrimination that leaves them marginalized. These factors appear to be the main reasons these accomplished women leave their chosen profession.
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.’