Did You Know?

Woman shouting

We know from research on entrepreneurship that success often correlates with the strength of one’s network, and that male and female entrepreneurs have differing access to networks; but did you know that this is also true of faculty? New research from an NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) reveals the degree to which the “complex structure” of university interactions influences female faculty’s ability to succeed in their careers.

“The project mined the Internet for information about who at NJIT collaborates with whom, constructing an interactive database containing over 7,200 publications produced between 2000 and 2008 by NJIT faculty. Statistical modeling and visual mapping of this data established a strong correlation between collaboration and career advancement. It also revealed hidden gender patterns, some of them predictable, others surprising. Predictably, male faculty tended to collaborate with other male faculty far more than with female faculty. Surprisingly, for women faculty, network structure --in particular, being connected to well-connected colleagues -- was a more reliable predictor of career success than number of publications.”

What do you think? Have you considered the impact that your network has had on your academic career?

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Have you heard about the pipeline project in Arizona?  “Prime the Pipeline Project (P3): Putting Knowledge to Work” is a program designed to increase the number of high school students who excel and earn degrees in STEM disciplines. Since 2007 the program has been working after-school and during the summer with high school students and teachers across the state, bringing them together at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus to work in “scientific villages” on STEM-related projects. Students who participate in the program have shown higher GPAs, take a greater number of math, science, and technology courses in high school, are more likely to attend college, and are more likely to major in a STEM discipline than the control group. Today, three years after the $1.35M NSF grant was implemented, the P3 program has been funded by the Helios Foundation to expand to middle school students and teachers.

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Did you know that some people consider the U.S. on the verge of another tech revolution? Derek Thompson of The Atlantic thinks that technology will lead the U.S. out of its economic doldrums and, specifically, that the convergence of a growing tech sector with the growing service industry will mark the sweet spot of this revolution. To make his case he points to the recent article in The New York Times about young college grads who are starting their own companies, and the fact that many of these companies are providing personal or professional services we didn’t know we needed. “One story that could emerge from the rubble of the recession is a generation of new Web entrepreneurs harnessing the Web's low-barrier, wide-access potential to create ever cheaper, easier, more efficient ways to participate in the service economy. That means monitoring our money, monitoring our health records, finding an internship or job, communicating with friends, making presentations for work, managing work flow and worker productivity, and the list goes on. Even better, in a global economy, an American edge in Web-based service products could make us tens of billions every year in licensing and service exports overseas.”

What do you think? Will the next tech revolution be borne of the web, and will it have greater sustainability than the last?

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Did you ever attend a single-sex school? An article in Slate this week looks at a recent survey of 7,000 students by the South Carolina Department of Education, showing that students participating in single-sex classes report increased self-confidence, motivation, and desire to finish high school. But the article’s real goal is to show that the survey is highly flawed: the survey, it purports, represents only students’ opinions rather than evidence of reduced achievement gaps; it was administered only to students currently enrolled in single-sex education, rather than including a control group; and when asking whether single-sex classes had increased or decreased students’ confidence and motivation, the survey failed to give students the option of selecting “no change.”

The article points out that a 2005 report from the U.S. Department of Education found “little evidence of any difference in outcomes between gender-segregated and coed classrooms or schools. Some studies even report negative effects in single-sex settings, including more stereotyping by gender role, more behavioral problems, and lower academic achievement. Unlike the flawed South Carolina survey, the DoE report restricted its analysis to rigorous, scientifically valid data culled from more than 2,000 independent studies.”

What do you think? Is single-sex education a good option for some subjects or some students, or is it being hyped as a panacea for schools that fail to adequately educate all kinds of students?

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Did you mark your calendars yet for the 2011 NCWIT Summit on Women and IT, May 23-25 in New York City? We read this week in Wired magazine about the “white hot” race for tech talent currently heating up in NYC, among both large companies and startups. From Foursquare and Pfizer to Gilt Groupe and Google, NYC companies are searching for tech talent; Mayor Michael Bloomberg has touted NYC as the next tech mecca. Those of you who are based in Silicon Valley or other tech hubs like Redmond, Boston, Denver/Boulder, or the Research Triangle know that clusters like this can breed a culture of innovation, attracting an abundance of new ideas and businesses but also leading to a talent shortage. We’re eager to build some momentum among NYC companies for the idea that engaging women will help them both to fill a talent-pool shortage and gain a competitive edge with increased innovation, and we hope you are planning to join us in May!