Did You Know: Brogramming, Harvard, Stereotype Threat, & Male Influencers

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We know that stereotype threat can negatively impact the performance of those perceived to be less capable of particular endeavors, but did you know that stereotype threat can actually hinder the performance of those who supposedly excel at the endeavor, too?Researchers at the University of Illinois found that children's exposure to broad generalizations associating the abilities of a particular social group – say, boys or girls — to "natural talent"  led the children to perform worse on a challenging activity, regardless of whether they themselves were a member of that group.

“These findings suggest we should be cautious in making pronouncements about the abilities of social groups such as boys and girls,” the study's author said. “Not only is the truth of such statements questionable, but they also send the wrong message about what it takes to succeed, thereby undermining achievement – even when they are actually meant as encouragement.”

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Did you know that students at Harvard are working to revive the school's Women in Computer Science group? Women comprised 42% of the computer science concentrators (majors) in Harvard's class of 2013, but only 22% of the class of 2014. Professors and students at the school believe that having a women in CS group will provide vital visibility, support, networking opportunities, and social gatherings to help attract and retain more women in the program. “Harvard does a good job with classes like CS50 that make computer science accessible to everyone, including women. However, there aren’t many female role models,” said one organizer.

NCWIT has seen evidence that a strategic approach, combining several recruitment and engagement techniques at once, is effective in increasing female computing students. Does your school have a women in computing group?

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Did you know the term "brogrammer" has gone viral? We first heard it a few months ago when one of our high school award-winners, now a computer science major at an Ivy League university, told us the men in her department were ignoring objections to make brogrammer t-shirts for a hackathon. A few days later we got a call from a journalist about the term, and suddenly now it feels like it's everywhere. Ironic as it sounds, the explosiveness of the "brogramming" meme (see Quora) could actually be helping to raise awareness about stereotypes and bias, and help prevent episodes of biased behavior like those that have plagued several startups recently (see Path, Squoot, Geeklist). As Google product manager Dan Shapiro said recently, “If we keep this … up, we’re going to crap all over another generation of women tech entrepreneurs. Think before you open your mouth. And if you see someone doing this, call them on it.”

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Did you know that two newly released reports identify K-12 STEM education as critical to U.S. economic competitiveness and global security? The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee report, "STEM Education: Preparing for the Jobs of the Future," addresses the disconnect between the abundance of scientific jobs projected for the U.S. workforce and the inadequate training being provided to the students who would fill them. The report cites the how 15-year-olds in the U.S. Rank 25th in math and 17th in science, among OECD nations, and notes that the share of STEM doctorates awarded to domestic students at U.S. colleges has declined from 74% in 1985 to 54% in 2006.

Meanwhile, a report from the Council on Foreign Relations, "U.S. Education Reform and National Security," finds that K-12 schools are not preparing kids to grow up to protect the U.S. "For starters, we don't have nearly enough people who are capable in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math," said former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, a member of the council's task force.

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Top Ten Ways Male Advocate Cover
 Did you know that evidence points to men as significant influencers in whether women choose and stick with technical careers? The president and CEO of IDG Enterprises, publishers of CIO magazine, wrote recently about feeling encouraged by a growing number of CIO positions at major companies being held by women. He noted that as the father of two daughters, he thinks about their own experiences and whether it's a career he would recommend. We hope he does, because the research tells us fathers have significant influence on their daughters' career choices: one survey of technical women we conducted with the Girl Scouts found that 40% of these women had a father who worked in a scientific career (the correlation didn't exist with mothers.)

This is a great time for us to tell you about a new resource, Top Ten Ways to Be a Male Advocate for Technical Women. If you're coming to our Summit next month, make sure to stop by our resource table to pick up a copy!

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Did you know The Wall Street Journal's second annual Women in the Economy Conference is going on this week? The paper is featuring some accompanying articles about women's participation in the workplace that are worth a read. From "How to Stay Off the Glass Cliff" to "The Four Rules of Pregnancy Leave" to "The Case for Female Quotas," there are some interesting insights and pieces of advice about how to negotiate a corporate ladder that, at many workplaces, hasn't changed to accept women or minorities.

In one piece, Shelly Lazarus, chair of ad agency Ogiivy + Mather, gives an inspiring interview where she describes her firm as a true meritocracy: "I've been saying for years that women don't need remedial help. We don't need programs and mentors more than anybody else does. What we need is a true even playing field and equal opportunity to perform and be recognized."

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.