Did You Know?

Woman shouting

SUNY Oswego reported this week that it had received a $200,000 “catalyst” grant from the National Science Foundation to study the status of women faculty in the sciences. The grant aims to look at whether policies or practices at the school are preventing women in STEM from being recruited, promoted, and retained. Although the percentage of women STEM faculty increased at SUNY Oswego from 24% in 2007 to 28% in 2009, for example, there are currently no women full professors in STEM departments. PI Dr. Rhonda Mandel, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said although her school has a good reputation for hiring and promoting women faculty, she thinks they can do better. “I do not believe there is bias on the part of people on campus,” Mandel said. “We’re looking for whether there is systemic bias.”

What do you think? Has your institution received a catalyst or transformational grant from NSF to improve the status of its women faculty in the sciences?  What did the research show, and how did your institution change because of it?

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Stephanie Hamilton, NCWIT Program Manager, was cleaning off her desk this week and found an ad she had ripped out of a magazine from PAX World Investments.  It read, “We apply additional criteria to help us identify companies whose policies promote gender equality and women’s advancement. The way we view it, when companies take proactive steps to further the role and reap the full value of women in their workforce, the benefits are felt by everyone – shareholders included.” (We don’t have a copy of the ad, but you can read PAX’s “World Women’s Empowerment Platform”. 

Has your company ever made a public statement like this in your corporate advertising? Would you consider making a statement of commitment focused on technical women's contributions, and would it be considered a marketing effort?

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In her Jobs Blog this week Microsoft’s Eugenia Sawa suggested the “Top three hottest majors for a career in technology,” and her list doesn’t include computer science or electrical engineering. The three “non-traditional” areas she recommends students study are Data Mining/Machine Learning/AI/Natural Language Processing; Business Intelligence/Competitive Intelligence; and Web Analytics/Statistical Analysis. She cites cloud computing and the ability to see trends as skills that will serve students in any position, and points out that all of these areas “apply to the online world we live in and will also be in great demand as we continue to monetize the web.”

It will certainly help Microsoft to see more students develop skillsets in these areas, but what do you think? Are we sufficiently guiding K-12 students towards “hybridized” education in what seems to be an increasingly hybridized world; or does this dilute the power of a computing education? Should we be recommending a more narrow-but-deep focus on computer science?

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Does a science degree really have as much value as we’ve been assigning to it? Inside Higher Ed reports this week that “There is ‘no significant relationship’ between a nation’s economic growth rate and the number of STEM students, according to an analysis by Paul Whiteley, professor of politics at the University of Essex.” In a study that looked at economic growth between 2000 and 2008 in 30 OECD countries, plotted against the number os students studying a variety of fields during the same period, Professor Whiteley found no correlation between particular fields of study and economic growth.  He did, however, find a correlation between economic growth and enrollment/investment in higher education.  Commenters on the article cite the study’s flawed methodology (he should have compared different time periods to account for graduates’ delay in contributions to growth) and note that many STEM graduates leave STEM fields at some point, anyway. 

What do you think?  Is this a question worth asking, and how would you propose to measure the value of a science degree?

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You have to have been hiding under a rock to have missed the explosion of conversations about technology, entrepreneurship, and gender this week! Last Friday, a piece from The Wall Street Journal on the lack of women leading start-ups incited the frustration of TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, who on Saturday implored the community to “stop blaming the men” for the gender gap. Responses to Arrington’s piece have since lit up the blogosphere all week, with people coming down on all sides of the issue.  If there’s one thing we’ve discovered, it’s that when you’re trying to fundamentally change how people look at an issue as big as this one, there may be no such thing as bad press.

WSJ: Addressing the Lack of Women Leading Tech Start-ups

TechCrunch: Too Few Women in Tech? Stop Blaming the Men.

Fast Company: Too Few Women in Tech? Stop Playing the Blame Game.

Jezebel: What Do "Where Are the Women" Shitstorms Achieve?

Fem 2.0: fretting, asking, and begging isn't a plan; a response to TechCrunch on women in technology

The Daily Beast: Is There a Gender Divide in Startups?

Venture Beat: Women in tech: what to do now

Did You Know? is a brief round-up of news, events, resources, and other factoids that crossed our radar this week and we think are worth sharing. Got an interesting conversation-starter to share? Let us know.