Did You Know?

Some of you may recall that earlier this year, DARPA issued a call for programs that would measurably increase the number of students choosing to study computer science at the K-12 level. This week we saw articles providing more details about the winning “CS-STEM” DARPA grant programs, and how these programs will work together. 

DARPA says that CS-STEM will have three main components: a curriculum-based online community, an online robotics academy, and an extracurricular, “self-guided” online community. The University of Arizona received $1.4M to build the first online community piece, called “Teach Ourselves,” which will use Facebook and other social networking tools to engage middle and high school students and teachers in interactive problem-solving and learning activities. The second piece, the robotics academy, will be led by  Carnegie Mellon University. CMU was awarded $7M to create the Fostering Innovation through Robotics Exploration (FIRE) online academy, which will use robotics curriculum and robotics competitions to teach computer science and programming concepts. The final piece, an extracurricular online community, will seek to provide students with activities, games, puzzles, discussion groups, and other self-guided learning modules. TopCoder Inc., which runs online programming competitions, won $5.57M from DARPA to build this community piece and says it will allow students to help guide how it is developed and run. We look forward to seeing these pieces of the program implemented and finding out from you how you, and/or your K-12 audiences, are getting involved with them!


Remember NCWIT’s May Summit keynote from Brian Nosek about implicit bias? A professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has just won a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a video game that targets implicit bias regarding women and minorities in the sciences. Molly Carnes, director of UW’s Center for Women’s Health Research, will work with the campus’ Games and Simulation for Learning group and enlist the participation of faculty and graduate students in building the game. She says she "approaches implicit bias in decision-making as a bad habit that can be changed with practice," and hopes that by bringing implicit bias to light she can help even people who purport to support diversity in STEM to reimagine their hiring and promotion decisions. The three-year grant, named the NIH Pathfinder Award to Promote Diversity in the Scientific Workforce, is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. An all-faculty survey at UW planned for 2013 will allow the game’s developers to look at differences in attitude between faculty who played the game and those who didn’t.


Forbes released its “100 Most Powerful Women” list this week, and of the women selected Forbes identifies only 8 of them as falling under the “tech umbrella”:

  1. Ursula Burns, CEO, Xerox
  2. Arianna Huffington, Editor and Co-founder, The Huffington Post
  3. Tina Brown, Editor and Co-founder, The Daily Beast
  4. Carol Bartz, CEO, Yahoo
  5. Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay and CA gubernatorial candidate
  6. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and CA senatorial candidate
  7. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
  8. Sun Yafang, Chair, Huawei Technologies

Upon closer inspection, however, it’s clear that only three of these eight  -- Ursula Burns, Carol Bartz, and Sun Yafang – are actually “technical women”, defined as women with technical degrees or experience who rose to the C-suite by climbing a technical ladder.  The rest have other backgrounds such as business, marketing, or media, and two are no longer even affiliated with  the tech workforce.

While we laud Forbes for highlighting powerful women in global leadership positions and welcome women in the C-suite at technical companies regardless of the path they took to get there, we’d like to see more attention placed on recognizing, grooming, and elevating women on the technical track. Fortunately, over at Businessweek, Telle Whitney and Vivek Wadhwa have collaborated on an article giving concrete steps companies can take to develop more women leaders.

Is your company taking steps to promote technical women into leadership roles? Tell us.


Have you seen “The Social Network” yet? In addition to telling the (exaggerated) story of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to fame with Facebook, it features some pretty negative depictions of women. The movie’s writer and director Aaron Sorkin defends the characterizations by saying, “These aren’t the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80's. The women they surround themselves with aren’t women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)” A few days after the launch of the movie, TechCrunch was back in the fray with two new articles on women and startups: Penelope Trunk’s “Women Don’t Run Startups Because They’d Rather Have Children,” and Vivek Wadhwa’s rebuttal, “Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different.” On the one hand, we’ve got stereotypes about male startup nerds (bitter, socially challenged), and on the other, stereotypes about women entrepreneurs (not as committed, interested). Stereotypes may be exaggerations of the truth, but are they true?  Is Silicon Valley’s mostly male startup culture unfriendly to women, and do women need to pass on the Silicon Valley startup life if they want to start families?


A new study looking at “Americans and their gadgets” from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project contains some interesting findings related to gender and race. First, the numbers that may not surprise you: 85 percent of all Americans own cell phones, and fully 96 percent of 18-29-year-olds own a cell phone. Seventy-six percent of adults own a computer, and of these, 52 percent own a laptop as opposed to a desktop, up from 30 percent in 2006. Adults who attended college are twice as likely as those who didn’t complete high school to own a computer. Parents (64 percent) are nearly twice as likely as non-parents (33 percent) to own a game console.

Now, try these numbers on for size: Hispanic respondents were more likely than Blacks or Whites to own a game console or tablet, and their cell phone ownership is about equal to that of Whites.  Black respondents were slightly more likely than other groups to own e-readers. In every gadget category -- computer ownership, cell phones, mp3 players, game consoles, and tablets – women trailed men in ownership by five percentage points or fewer.  Women actually led men in ownership of e-readers, five percent to four.

What do you think? Do these findings reflect any shifts in the technology access gap, or do they reflect changes in behavior that might better position women and minorities to become not just consumers, but creators of technology?