Did You Know: Tech Is Sexy, Khan Academy, Giraffes and Zebras
August 21, 2012
Flipping the Gender Equity Argument
As you think about the arguments we use for making the case to increase women’s participation in computing, did you know that such arguments used on behalf of men can likewise invoke stereotypes, gender roles, and bias? Last week a USA Today columnist wrote about the need to increase gender equity in primary education, where male teachers are the minority. If you were to find-and-replace men with women in much of his argument, it wouldn’t be dissimilar to the rhetoric around women and computing:
“First, men represent an underutilized talent pool. If we could attract more males to teaching, school districts would have an easier time hiring outstanding individuals. The point is not that men are better teachers, but that highly qualified men are far less likely to apply for teaching jobs. Second, boys in particular benefit from the presence of male role models in the classroom. As Stanford University professor Thomas Dee has documented, in a study of more than 20,000 middle-school students, boys perform better when they have a male teacher, and girls perform better when they have a female teacher.”
Yet it’s clear from the article’s comments that this issue is equally fraught with accusations of bias, gender stereotypes, and broader social implications. What do you think about it?
“A Giraffe in a Pack of Zebras”
Did you know that Virginia Tech has increased the percentage of women enrolling in its engineering program by nearly 30% since 2005? The school credits its growing popularity among female students to increased marketing efforts, a mentoring program, and a residential-dorm community called Hypatia, which provides peer and programmatic support to female freshmen studying the male-dominated discipline. “Sometimes you kind of feel a fish out of water, like a giraffe in a pack of zebras,” remarked student Ashley Taylor.
In the first three years of Hypatia, 90 percent of women who participated were still pursuing an engineering degree. Last year a record number of female students applied to Hypatia and the program was seen as so essential to helping to retain engineering students that the college added a similar program for its men.
Congratulations to AA member Virginia Tech, which is a participant in NCWIT Pacesetters and Extension Services, and to Virginia Tech CS professor Scott McCrickard, who recently received the inaugural NCWIT Undergraduate Faculty Mentoring Award.
NCWIT provides several resources for strategic recruitment and retention: check out Strategic Planning for Recruiting Women into Undergraduate Computing and Strategic Planning for Retaining Women in Undergraduate Computing.
Ladies Learning Code
Did you know about the increasing number of groups providing women-only environments for learning to program? Skillcrush, itself a provider of tech tutorials targeted to women, recently put together a round-up of these proliferating programs - which include Girl DevelopIT, Ladies Learning Code, Girls Who Code, Rails Girls, Black Girls Code, and TechGirlz. Would you appreciate being able to hone your skills in a women-only environment? Do you think it’s a successful way to recruit non-technical women to the field?
Tech is Sexy
Did you know that according to Glamour magazine, “Tech is sexy”? The September issue of the magazine features an interview with Daniela Perdomo, director of user experience at NYC online-security startup Dashlane. However incongruous it may seem to some to find tech talk in the pages of a women’s magazine, the interview provides readers with a nice gotta-see-it-to-be-it example. After she offers some personal security advice and talks about how much she loves her work, she segues nicely into startup cheerleading:
“Take a scary job, a risky one, at an early-stage start-up,” said Daniela. “Don’t worry too much about job title—your role should defy any set description anyway and be defined by the challenge at hand on any given day.”
Hear more stories from technical women and entrepreneurs at our NCWIT Entrepreneurial Heroes page.
Khan Academy Launches CS Curriculum
Did you know that web-based video learning portal Khan Academy this week launched a computer science curriculum? The new platform’s director, John Resig, said that, "Over everything else we wanted to emphasize creativity and exploration and make it approachable for people of all ages, including young kids.”
As Education Week suggests, some welcome the availability of a new and accessible computing curriculum at a time when few schools teach rigorous computing, even as computing jobs flourish. Yet others question the pedagogy used by Khan Academy and the effectiveness of online learning. What do you think? For examples of research-based pedagogies that are effective in attracting girls to computing, check out NCWIT K-12 resources.
Bathroom Locks and Overalls
Did you know which recommendations female engineers gave to Halliburton when it asked their advice on how to attract and retain female engineers? Put locks on the bathroom doors in the oil fields, and provide its overalls in sizes to fit women.
As with computing and IT, the oil and gas industry is eager to increase the number of technical women within its ranks and promote women to leadership positions. “We’re stuck,” said Cindy Bigner, Halliburton’s first global director of diversity and inclusion. “We don’t know how to get to the next level. It’s a huge cultural change for our industry.”
One approach Halliburton is taking is to make women at the company more visible by adding women to its recruiting teams (formerly comprised of older men), grouping women together on its field teams, and asking women to represent the company at speaking engagements. “They just hadn’t been asked before,” Bigner said. Check out NCWIT’s “Top 10 Ways Managers Can Increase the Visibility of Technical Women” for more ideas.
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.