Did You Know?

Woman shouting

A study released this week by global consulting firm McKinsey finds that a paucity of coaching and career development is to blame for the lack of women advancing to higher-level positions. Noting the low numbers of women in leadership roles, the study recommends that companies could increase the number of women who rise within their ranks by "systematically watching these women at the middle management level and putting in programs that would help them develop and get over the next [promotion] hurdle."  As further encouragement, the report said that the performance of top managers should be judged partly on their ability to groom and promote female talent. "A diversity program by itself, no matter how comprehensive, is no match for entrenched beliefs that prevail."

What do you think? Should companies design special development programs for women? Or should they reform their corporate culture to accommodate workers with multiple responsibilities, systematize sponsorship programs, and make the promotion ladders more transparent?

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A conference this week on "Women in the Economy," sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, discussed the advancement of women into leadership roles across our country's major economic sectors. Bank of America's president of global wealth and investment management denoted the importance of sponsorship over mentoring programs. Consulting firm McKinsey cited the need for professional development programs targeted at moving middle management women into higher positions. And the first female engineer at Google, now a prominent vice president, shared the company's practice of working to ensure gender equity by including at least one woman on every interviewing and hiring committee.

While many of the practices recommended at the conference are targeted at "leveling the playing field" between genders, it's interesting to note that these kinds of practices could benefit men, too. Instituting these practices into corporate culture, then, isn't just a way to increase diversity; it's good business sense.

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Congratulations to Mark Guzdial and Barb Ericson for receiving the 2011 Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award from the Association for Computing Machinery! The prestigious Karlstrom Award honors educator who are “advancing new teaching methodologies, or effecting new curriculum development or expansion in computer science and engineering, or making a significant contribution to the educational mission of the ACM.”

Over the last decade, Mark and Barb have made great strides in making computing more accessible to more students: Mark's media computation classes at Georgia Tech teach "computing in context," and attract more women and minority students; and the Georgia Computes! program improves K-12 computing education through teacher training and expanded curricula and pedagogy.

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Computer science professors at the University of Alberta recently completed a study on whether game design is an effective way to attract and retain female students, and guess what? Like many pedagogies that teach computing in a global or creative context, it turns out that game design appeals to girls. The study found that, even compared to male participants who had more gaming experience, the girls who participated were as enthusiastic as the boys about designing games; they preferred game design to other "creative" activities; they built games of commensurate quality; and they acquired fundamental computer science knowledge in the process.

Says one of the study's authors, "If you want more females in computing science, you need to radically change the curriculum. You need to provide activities that are more gender neutral so that they'll be attracted to the discipline."

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TechCrunch featured a story this week about the Pipeline Fund announcing its inaugural class of Fellows and Mentors (among whom is our own NCWIT board chair, Brad Feld.) The Pipeline Fund was founded by Natalia  Oberti Noguera to increase the number of women who become angel investors and social venture capitalists. The Fund's Fellows will be asked to invest $5,000 in a collective fund, help select a woman-led company in which to invest an additional $50,000, and help run pitch events.

The story expresses some concern that the Pipeline Fund might distract the Fellows' giving to charitable organizations, and an editor's note at the bottom of the story says "While optimistic about programs that support a diverse investment and entrepreneurial community, TechCrunch will be interested to see if these newly-minted angels continue to invest in businesses led by women after the session ends." Do you think this skepticism is merited? In what ways do you think this program might change how women investors make decisions?

Did You Know? is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT’s radar this week that we think might be of interest to you. Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.