Did You Know?

Woman shouting

This week Forbes published a terrific article on serial entrepreneurs featuring profiles of several (technical) women. Instead of taking a gendered lens, however, the author focuses on the qualities that ALL serial entrepreneurs must have in common: tenacity, passion, love for new challenges, and a willingness to take risks. The result is that the women profiled seem to stand out for their accomplishments and skills, rather than simply for being women.

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Even as summer draws to a close, we’re still seeing lots of news about companies sponsoring tech summer programs for girls. This week we saw that IBM hosted a “Girls Go TechKnow” day at its Yorktown, NY facility; and Microsoft sponsored a DigiGirlz camp in Reno, NV (DigiGirlz also is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year!) 

If you’ve thought about hosting or co-sponsoring a summer computing program, don’t forget to check out our resource on this topic, “Offer Computing Workshops and Camps: They Benefit Both Students and the Teachers Who Offer Them.” And if you have an upcoming program that you’d like to promote, please tell us about it – we’d love to help you spread the word!

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In a 2007 NCWIT paper by Joanne Cohoon and Bill Aspray, “Networking and Access to Social Capital: A Review of Research Literature on Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Information Technology Field,” the authors found that access to personal and professional social networks can influence “ the success and survival of an entrepreneur’s business,” and that “women may have less or different access to social capital than men have.”

So what do gender and IT entrepreneurship have to do with car thieves?  If you think that sounds like a chapter from Freakonomics, well, you’re right.  At the Freakonomics blog this week, a column titled, “Why Car Thieves Are Male” looks at the reasons why men are more likely to profit from stealing cars:

“Both male and female thieves are ‘mentored’ by more experienced thieves in much the same way; however, men have an advantage when it’s time to sell the stolen goods. ‘They are more connected to a social network of criminals that provides access to chop shops, where the cars can be dismantled and sold for parts’ … ‘Without these contacts the ability to profit from auto theft was significantly curtailed.’”

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Did you see the piece from The New York Times this week about researchers at the University of Washington who “crowd-sourced” a biotech challenge? After creating a video game that matched human players against software in protein-folding “puzzles,” researchers found that  “video game players matched the results generated by software solutions in three of the puzzles, outperformed them in five cases and found significantly better solutions in two others.”

The research, published in the current issue of Nature, is a wonderful example of how people and computers can improve each other. We also think it has inspiring implications both for fields such as genetics research, and for encouraging people from varied backgrounds to consider CS (and video games, for that matter) as a means to accelerate their careers.

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In her Huffington Post column this week, Caroline Simard writes about  how “The High-Tech Industry Must Adapt to the Reality of Dual-Career Couples.” Research from the Anita Borg Institute shows that 82% of technical women are partnered with someone who works full time, compared to 37% of men. The challenge of juggling family and career, however, is increasingly affecting men, too: according to a 2008 report from the Families and Work Institute, work-life conflict was reported by 59% of the fathers and 39% of the mothers in dual-earner households.

These findings underscore the need for employers to recognize that employees of both genders (whether married or parents or not) benefit from universal policies that allow flexible scheduling, clearly state and recognize employee performance metrics, and examine promotion and task assignment processes for bias. For more information about how to implement policies like this, check out chapter three of Women in IT: The Facts.