Did You Know? Group IQ, AP Engineering, the Illusion of Diversity Programs

The Illusion of Diversity Programs

Did you know that simply having a diversity program can sway people into believing that a company treats its employees equally and values diversity, even if its track record shows otherwise? Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California at Santa Barbara found that diversity programs often are perceived to be effective, even when they’re not.

The researchers designed a study to measure the degree to which participants felt a hypothetical company treated its female and minority employees fairly. They found that when a company in the study was described as having a diversity “statement” or training program, the study’s participants were more likely to believe that the company’s practices were fair -- even when presented with evidence that hiring or promotion processes actually “disadvantaged” women and minorities. The researchers also looked at 1,000 federal civil rights legal decisions and found that ‘judges increasingly showed deference to organizations’ diversity management structures’ as ‘evidence of an organization’s compliance with civil rights law’ and ‘assume that diversity programs effectively address employees’ complaints, without questioning whether those programs work.’”

The study’s authors suggest that companies look at data on their own diversity in hiring, promotion, and salary practices, rather than simply relying on the existence of a program to address diversity. “If companies examine diversity-related outcomes, they will be in a better position to recognize diversity approaches that are successful and those that are not.”

NCWIT’s practice on Establishing Institutional Accountability shares tips for how, and how not, to build a diversity program.


More Minority Students in the Sciences

Did you know that Brown University has significantly increased the number of minority students in its life sciences doctoral programs over the last few years? With a grant from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences, Brown developed the Initiative to Maximize Student Development, a three-part strategy for increasing enrollment of underrepresented students across all nine of its life sciences PhD programs. The strategy includes building partnerships with undergraduate institutions that have high underrepresented minority enrollments, to make sure these students are aware of and consider Brown; developing “minicourses” to build the skills needed for doctoral studies (which Brown faculty have found are useful for all undergraduates transitioning to doctoral programs, not just minority students); and ensuring that graduate school faculty are deeply involved in the institutional partnerships and the training and mentoring of admitted students.

Since the program began four years ago, the percentage of all underrepresented life sciences doctoral students enrolled at Brown is up from 17 percent to 23 percent; and about one in five life science doctoral students at Brown is from an underrepresented group, compared to about one in 10 nationally. "The practices described here are generalizable and can be expected to lead to similar outcomes when applied elsewhere," the initiative’s leaders wrote. "As a result, we look forward to seeing measurable advances in the representation of racial, ethnic, and other disadvantaged individuals in the scientific workforce."


Bright Future for IT Jobs

Did you know that tech workers are reporting an optimistic outlook and higher salaries, according to Computerworld’s most recent survey? More than half (57 percent) of survey respondents reported receiving a raise, compared with 47 percent last year. Recruiters also report seeing salary bumps for both permanent and contract positions, and even double-digit increases among developers and software engineers.

But tech workers report increased stresses, too -- 85 percent reported they were under pressure to increase productivity or take on new tasks, and 51 percent said they believe they are underpaid based on their role and responsibility.

The ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) says that, according to the Department of Labor, computing jobs will increase by 150,000 per year over the next eight years. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for tech workers is less than half the overall unemployment rate nationally: 3.3 percent versus 7.8 percent.

Wondering how you compare to your peers? Check out Computerworld’s interactive survey tool.


Increase Your Group IQ

Did you know that group intelligence is not determined by the sum of its individual members? Rather, it turns out that a group’s intelligence is based on how its members interact. A team’s intelligence is malleable (a theme we’ll talk about at the NCWIT Summit) and can be measured and increased, just like an individual IQ. So unless your developers work in a vacuum, you might want to read on for some more interesting facts about how to get the best innovation and problem-solving out of your work teams.

  • Choose team members carefully. The smartest groups consist of people who can read each others’ social cues, according to a study led by Carnegie Mellon University professor Anita Williams Woolley and published in the journal Science. (This might be why groups that contain more women have been found to have greater collective intelligence.)

  • Take turns. On the most intelligent teams, members take turns speaking. Participants who dominate the discussion, or who hang back and don’t say much, both bring down the intelligence of the group.

  • Talk about process. Many members of teams don’t like to spend time talking about “process,” and instead prefer to get right down to work. But groups that take the time to discuss how they will work together are ultimately more efficient and effective.

  • Make time for face time and down time. Many smart teams make sure they are communicating face-to-face on a regular basis, and build in time to socialize outside of their formal job performance. Even something as simple (and gender-neutral) as taking a group coffee break can help foster collaboration and improve the “gel” factor.

  • Chunk it out. Just because you’re working together doesn’t mean every team member needs to work on every piece of a project; recognize when it’s more efficient to delegate chunks of work to individual members. That said, accolades should go to the entire group, not just individual members, so that every person feels motivated and invested.


AP Engineering?

Did you know that plans are in the works to create an AP Engineering curriculum? Though many might be surprised to learn this STEM staple doesn’t already exist, others have been waiting until K-12 schools were ready to implement such a program and colleges were ready to accept the credits. Auditi Chakravarty (vice president for AP curriculum, instruction, and assessment at the College Board) referred to the Next Generation Science Standards as an example of how schools will better integrate engineering-design practices, and explained that an engineering design curriculum will rely not on a single test, but a “valid and reliable” way of assessing a student’s portfolio of work. The proposed components include presenting a problem and identifying its requirements; generating an original solution; constructing and testing a prototype; evaluating and making recommendations; and documenting and presenting a project.

"This is not a test," said Leigh Abts, a professor of education at the University of Maryland who is a leader in the initiative. "This is people looking at portfolios and awarding some high-stakes performance credit ... This is really going to break the mold for how the College Board and others look at student work."

Organizations involved with the effort to introduce an AP Engineering program include the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, the College Board, and Project Lead the Way. PLTW already has an engineering curriculum that it uses in schools and it has made its beta "innovation portal" free and available. What do you think? Could you see a program like this being implemented one day for computer science?


Incentivizing Men to Help Women at Work

A series of articles in The New York Times last week looked at a range of issues surrounding women, men, work, and gender roles. One piece looked at how gender roles have widened for women, but not so much for men. Another compared the world’s glass ceilings and unveiled some paradoxical findings on workplace flexibility. Fittingly, one article points out how we might use our knowledge about flexible policies and gender roles to create better work/life balance for both men and women, *and* stimulate the economy by maximizing women’s fuller participation in the workforce.

Researchers estimate that millions of women are “under-employed” due to a lack of support for work/life challenges, and believe that if the U.S. could institute policies commensurate with other developed countries, our labor force participation for women would soar. Since women now comprise the majority of degree-earners in the U.S. and are potentially responsible for nearly 20 percent of growth in American productivity over the last 50 years, that’s a big deal. Yet some of the work/life flexibility policies heralded in these developed nations -- mandating the availability of part-time work, for example -- have backfired, resulting in more women “leaning out” into part-time positions instead of “leaning in” to influential, lucrative roles in management, innovation, and leadership.

“In order to prescribe policies that really allow female workers to ‘lean in’ at work,” the author says, “social scientists are trying to find ones that recast social norms and encourage male workers to ‘lean in’ at home.” For example, research has found that when paternity leave was cast as a “money on the table” benefit to fathers, more of them took it; and fathers who took longer paternity leaves were, even years later, more likely to be engaged in childcare and domestic responsibilities at home, with their wives more engaged at work. As the author notes, more companies are extend longer paternity leaves and even lobbying the federal government to help pay for it. “After all,” she says, “unleashing the full potential of the second sex benefits not only this handful of players but the entire U.S. economy, too.”

The most effective way to implement diversity-friendly policies -- for both genders -- is by establishing accountability for these policies within your organization. Find out how to do that at /institutionalaccountability.


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.