Did You Know: Tech Gender Pay Gap, CS Ed Policy Update, Lean In for Men

Do Women with "Options" Avoid STEM?

Did you know that a recent study found that women who are strong in both verbal and mathematical skills tend to select non-STEM occupations? Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education examined data and survey responses from 1,490 college-bound American students, including their SAT scores, motivational beliefs and values, and occupations at age 33. They found that students with high scores in both math and verbal abilities—a group that contained more women than men—were less likely to have chosen a STEM occupation than those who had “moderate” verbal abilities.

“Our study suggests that it’s not lack of ability or differences in ability that orients females to pursue non-STEM careers but, because they’re good at both, they can consider a wide range of occupations,” says Ming-Te Wang, principal investigator of the study. He said the findings suggest that “educators and policy makers may consider shifting the focus from trying to strengthen girls’ STEM-related abilities to trying to tap the potential of these girls who are equally skilled in both mathematics and verbal domains.”

Something else to consider: as an article in Quartz points out, personality differences between men and women are largest in more prosperous, egalitarian, and educated societies, ostensibly because prosperity and equality bring greater opportunities for self-actualization -- perhaps wealth, freedom, and education empower men and women to “be who they are.” Could it be that women are less likely to enter STEM fields because “they don’t have to?” What do you think?


Do You Still Teach Cobol?

Did you know that many university departments don’t teach Cobol anymore? A recent survey of academics at 119 universities worldwide found that 73% of those teaching computing or information technology no longer teach the Cobol programming language, despite the fact that 71% of them believe businesses will continue to rely on applications running Cobol for at least the next decade.

Some of those polled cited Cobol as being old and out-of-date compared to more modern languages, which make programming easier and more useful. Others cite the fact that it’s “verbose” and not “mathematically oriented” as a reason why it’s not commonly taught at universities.

But according to software provider Micro Focus, Cobol underpins 85% of all daily business transactions. Michael Coughlan, a professor of computer science at the University of Limerick, says it's important to teach students Cobol to fill a gap in IT skills. "The number of Cobol programmers around the world is declining because they're retiring and dying," he said. "But the Cobol systems are still there so they have to be maintained."

As programming languages evolve, industry demands graduates fluent in the latest languages. How do you decide which programming languages to teach students? Do you choose the ones considered “edifying,” or “modern,” or a little of both?


No Gender Pay Gap in Tech

Did you know that the results of a new survey from Dice.com show the pay gap between men and women in technology jobs has all but disappeared? Men and women also are about equally satisfied with their compensation; 58 percent of women are happy with their pay, and about 56 percent of men state the same.

However, men still do out-earn women in technology careers overall: men had an average annual income of $95,929, compared to $87,527 for women. The pay gap disappears only after the data are controlled for differences in job level, education, and experience. In fact, men and women in technology tend to hold different positions: the only occupation that makes to top five for both genders is Project Manager.

According to Dice, “Whether this is by choice or institutional bias cannot be determined from these results.” If you’d like to step up your game and move into a more lucrative tech career, consider these tips for increasing your visibility and this advice for negotiating your salary.


Gender Bias in Job Ads

Did you know that your job advertisements may be exposing unconscious gender bias? New research from Duke University’s Dr. Aaron Kay (who spoke about this topic at the 2012 NCWIT Summit) and collaborators found that the mere presence of “masculine words” in job listings made women less interested in applying — even if they thought they were qualified for the position.

In the research study, profiled in Wired, researchers created both a “masculine” job listing and a “feminine” job listing for fake jobs in male-dominated professions (engineers, plumbers), female-dominated professions (registered nurses, administrative assistants), and neutral professions (real estate agent, real estate sales manager). The researchers found that the computer programming listing with feminine words made the participants believe more women worked for the company, while they guessed that there were more men at the companies with masculine-worded listings. The wording of the listing did not affect women’s perception of their ability to perform the job, just their perception of the job’s appeal and the degree to which they thought they would belong there.

Interestingly, when study participants were asked what made them think a company had more men or more women, not one of them mentioned the wording used to describe the job listing. (Unconscious bias is, well, unconscious.) Want to find out more about bias and how to kick it to the curb? Check out NCWIT CEO Lucy Sanders’ talk at Andreesen Horowitz last month, or NCWIT’s online talking points about bias.


CS Education and Policy Update

Did you know that the Computing in the Core coalition (CinC) has been working with House and Senate staff to introduce a revised version of the Computer Science Education Act? There’s been increased interest in K-12 computing education, due in part to the recent launch of code.org and the expansion of Girls Who Code, and there are new efforts to generate bi-partisan support for the bill.

Did you know that during his recent testimony at a hearing of the House Science Subcommittee on Research, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) CEO Vince Bertram said that the non-profit was preparing to add computer science and software development to its curricula? PLTW is in more than 4,700 schools and impacts 500,000 students, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Students who participate in PLTW courses are more likely than their peers to study a STEM-related field in college, and 70% of PLTW students go on to pursue post-secondary degrees in areas like engineering and computer science.

Did you know that the State of Washington House of Representatives just passed a bill that would that computer science classes to count as a math or science requirement toward high school graduation? In the U.S. today, only 9 states allow CS classes to count towards high school graduation. High school computer science classes in Washington currently are counted as electives and don’t receive a math or science credit. A STEM survey in Washington found that 3 in 4 voters wanted to see computer science and engineering classes count towards graduation, and the bill passed by of vote of 95 to 3 (it now moves on to the state Senate.)


What Sheryl Sandberg’s Book Offers Men

By now you’ve probably heard that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has published a book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Some in the media have called Lean In a “manifesto” for women, but as a columnist in The Guardian points out, the book isn’t just for women:

“Why should a man be unable to fully appreciate the challenges that face his female employees? After all, every man has a mother; many have a wife or girlfriend; still others have daughters and sisters. Men have friends, confidantes, neighbors and co-workers who are women (some of whom have even gotten pregnant). In the year 2013, when women are as likely as men to graduate from college and enter the workforce, don't men have a responsibility to understand the challenges facing women in the workplace? So, as I read Sandberg's book, I kept asking myself: why are men being let off the hook?”

As Kara Swisher reports in All Things D, Cisco CEO John Chambers isn’t letting anyone off the hook, himself included. He’s asked top managers to read the book and come up with accountability actions they can take to increase the advancement of women at the company. Here’s what he said in a memo to employees:

“While I have always considered myself sensitive to and effective on gender issues in the workplace, my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency to make the progress we haven’t made in the last decade … After reading Lean In and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk … What we have been doing hasn’t worked, and it is time to adjust.”

Read more about the powerful role of men advocating for technical women, and find out what other companies are doing to recruit and retain women when they decide it’s “time to adjust.”


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.