Did You Know? Fake Names, Preaching to the Choir, a "Young Man's Game"

Stereotype Threat + Fake Names

You’ve heard about stereotype threat and how it impacts women’s performance on, say, math tests; but did you know that the impact of stereotype threat disappears when women take a math test using a fake name? A research study recently published in Self and Identity asked 110 women and 72 men to answer 30 multiple choice math questions, priming them beforehand by telling them that men typically outperform women. The authors also asked some of the volunteers to take the test under one of four aliases: Jacob Tyler, Scott Lyons, Jessica Peterson, or Kaitlyn Woods.

As you can imagine, the women who took the test under their own identities performed worse than the men, confirming what researchers call “self-reputational threat,” or the fear of confirming a stereotype. But the women who took the test under one of the aliases, regardless of whether it was a female or a male name, performed as well as the men on the math test. The study’s authors recommend that in subjects where stereotype threat may exist, exams be administered using non-name identification procedures.

Read more about stereotype threat here and here.


Learning Communities Boost Women in STEM

Did you know that only one out of every four STEM degrees are held by women? Being so outnumbered can have a detrimental effect on women’s persistence in STEM fields, which is why many schools are implementing outreach and mentoring programs to address the problem. "We're really trying to build that community so if they are the only woman in a class or on a project team they don't feel like the only one," says Tricia Berry, who directs the University of Texas at Austin’s Women in Engineering program.

UT Austin and Virginia Tech are two institutions that have created campus learning communities -- including residence halls, mentoring programs, intramural sports, and volunteer projects -- where female students have opportunities to interact with and support each other. "It was really cool because I would go to class and look around and see maybe one or two other women, then go home and my area was all women, so I didn't notice so much," says Kaitlyn Bunker, now a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering at Michigan Tech and the collegiate director for the Society of Women Engineers.

The success of these learning communities isn’t just apparent in the enthusiasm of their participants, however, but in their persistence rates. At Virginia Tech, for example, where about 1,000 of the school’s 1,300 freshman engineering students were male last year, the five-year graduation rate for women in the residence communities was 82% -- vs. 65% for all students.

Does your institution implement learning communities, or similar programs?


Preaching to the Choir

Did you know that Belinda Parmar, founder of British women-in-tech advocacy group Lady Geek, caused a stir last week when she announced that she would no longer accept speaking engagements at women-centered events? “I want to speak at events where women AND men are listening,” she says in an op-ed. “This is not a ‘women's problem’. It's a ‘society problem’. And we need the whole of society to change it.” She goes on to say that “Business can feel like a boys' club, but the answer is not to set up a rival girls' gang, it's to open membership to all.”

Perhaps you’ve had a similar thought -- that the very audience who most needs to hear about women’s increased participation in technology is often absent from the conversations about it. NCWIT’s new report, “Male Advocates and Allies: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology Workplaces” takes a look at the factors that influence men to become champions for technical women. Want to include a man you know in the conversation? You can share the Top Ten Ways to Be a Male Advocate.  


An AP Computer Science MOOC

Did you know that media mogul Rupert Murdoch is getting into the CS education scene? Murdoch is behind a new online computer science course, or MOOC, that’s set to launch this fall. The two-semester course will focus on a rigorous, Java-based curriculum and is designed to prepare students to take the AP Computer Science A exam in Spring 2014. Students can take the course free of charge, and an additional “local” support package is offered to schools for $200. The course’s instructor is Rebecca Dovi, an experienced CS teacher and CSTA leader who also is helping to pilot CS Principles, the College Board/NSF initiative to improve and broaden K-12 computing education.

Recently the Computer Science Education Act was re-introduced in the U.S. House of representatives, and it would assign federal funding to CS education. The CS Principles initiative has received funding and is underway. But until computing education becomes stronger throughout the U.S., do you think MOOCs present an appealing option for those who lack access to rigorous instruction?


Is Tech a “Young Man’s Game”?

Did you know that, according to Payscale.com, one quarter of tech companies surveyed have employees with a median age of 30 or younger? The Department of Labor reports that the median (meaning, there’s an equal number of employees older and younger) age of U.S. employees in the workforce overall is 42. It makes sense that older, more established tech companies tend to have older, more experienced employees. But Payscale speculates that there are other factors at work, too. “The firms that are growing or innovating around new areas tend to have younger workers,” said Katie Bardaro, the lead economist at PayScale. One reason for this, she said, was a function of skills. “Baby Boomers and Gen Xers tend to know C# and SQL,” she said. “Gen Y knows Python, social media, and Hadoop.”

Payscale also looked at self-reported employee data on 32 tech companies and found that tech workers, unsurprisingly, skew male -- though the percentages of women range from 8% up to 58%. The company also provides data on employee satisfaction, length of tenure, starting and median salaries, and the educational backgrounds of those getting hired.

As data collection becomes more common and more students and job candidates use and share their data with online employment resources like Payscale, those data become part of the decision-making process itself. Does your company use data to tweak its hiring process? And how would you feel about potential employees using publicly available data to help them decide whether they want to work for your company?


Did You Know? is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT's radar recently and which we think might be of interest to you. Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.