Did You Know?

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Many of you probably took note of our own Jane Margolis being interviewed in The New York Times a few weeks ago for an article on the dearth of women among Wikipedia editors. In the weeks since, it seems the topic of women in open source generally has gained some traction. First, the Wikipedia story was picked up by several other news outlets. Then we heard about the launch of the Ada Initiative, which seeks to increase the number of and support women engaged in open source work. Finally we point you to an article which argues that open source, in its very nature, has the potential to be the bridge that attracts more women to technology. What do you think? If you’re not familiar with open source culture, we recommend you to The Culture of Open Source Computing, an informative lit review authored by a grad student of Joanne Cohoon, Andrea Holliger.


We want to bring your attention to a terrific article from the Brown Daily Herald about the lack of women in computer science, “Algorithms Can’t Solve CS Gender Gap.” The piece touches on some of the problems – and solutions – well-known to many CS departments, such as attracting more diverse students to the major, implementing intro courses with broader appeal, developing affinity groups for women students, and staffing classes with women faculty and TAs. It discusses the importance of outreach to K-12 and helping to clear up misconceptions about CS. It then describes the changes put into effect at Harvey Mudd College, where the percentage of women enrolled as CS majors has increased from 10 to 42 percent.

When you read a piece like this, we hope that you will turn to NCWIT for help and inspiration.  For example, Brown applied for and won an NCWIT AA Seed Fund award to implement its Artemis Project, in which undergraduate women in CS reach out to 9th-grade girls to encourage their participation computing. NCWIT promising practices on introductory computing and workbooks on recruitment and retention are free downloads from our site. Extension Services offers department-level support for implementing changes that improve gender diversity.

Do you have a story to share? Please let us know - we’d love to share news about your efforts and results with a larger audience.


Tristan Walker of Foursquare recently posted a topic at Quora called, “Startup America Needs to Look More Like America.” In it he shares some thoughts from another startup founder, Kalimah Priforce, about the need to look beyond the where-are-the-women question and think about why more people of color are not starting tech companies, getting VC, or achieving high-profile recognition. The post has stimulated a productive conversation, but Quora users hardly represent “America.” What do you think? How do we get tech startups to look more like America?


It’s award season here at NCWIT! We’ve been busy lately celebrating the 35 national winners, 225 regional affiliate winners, and 133 runners-up of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which recognizes high school women for their computing aspirations and achievements. Affiliate award ceremonies are taking place already around the country and the national ceremony happens March 12 at Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte, NC. With your support, as well as the participation of NCWIT members across the country, this award so far has honored more than 850 young women – and it’s growing like crazy! We’re excited to introduce you to some of the winners at our 2011 Summit in New York City; here’s an example of one of them:



“Last year I conducted a study on the development of gender biases in Computer Science. I surveyed second through twelfth grade students at my school and found that that perceptions of male superiority in science increase with age, going from approximately 0 percent in 2nd grade to 60.7 percent in 6th grade to 90.5 percent in 12th grade. My research was accepted into the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing, where I presented this fall. I was the first high school student to present at this conference.”



Bank of America has been instrumental in making this award happen and Microsoft, Motorola, and Google have been instrumental in helping it grow. This year we’re thrilled to be able to recognize (with support from Google) 20 of the outstanding educators who endorsed and encouraged the winners, with the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Educator Award. All the award-winners, runners-up, and educators will receive a packet of resources, some of which are brand new and targeted directly to girls. (Thanks to ACM for its input!) If you haven’t yet checked them out, you can find “How can I prepare for a computing major?” and “Which computing majors are right for me?” at our website.


NPR reported this week on research from Carnegie Mellon University identifying one possible reason for the gender pay gap: women don’t ask for raises as often as men do. "They wait to be offered a salary increase," said researcher Linda Babcock. "They wait to be offered a promotion. They wait to be assigned the task or team or job that they want. And those things typically don't happen very often." However, Babcock’s research also shows that when women do ask, it can backfire. When she showed people videos of a man and a woman each asking for a raise, following the same script, viewers (of both sexes) said they thought the woman was too demanding and aggressive.

The article goes on to explore some of the methods being offered to help women improve their negotiation skills in a way that doesn’t challenge preconceived notions about appropriate gender behavior. But in the end, isn’t that just attempting to “fix the woman”, rather than “fix the system”? If you’re wondering how to develop a merit-based system for hiring, promoting, and managing women and other underrepresented groups, we can help. Check out our Supervising-in-a-Box series and Women in IT: The Facts for tips and tools.

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.