Did You Know? Worthless GPAs, Bathroom Lines, Future Librarians

Hailing the Humanities

Did you know that last year, only 20 percent of Harvard undergraduates majored in the humanities -- compared with 36 percent in 1954? Last week the American Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, responding to a request from Congress, published a report calling for increased recognition and support for the humanities. “The Heart of the Matter” states three goals that, taken by themselves, might be indistinguishable from those found in the 2007 National Academies report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which called for the United States to increase its focus on STEM education, research, and innovation: educate Americans with 21st-century skills; 2) foster innovation and competitiveness; and prepare leaders for a global, digital society. However, it’s the addendum to those goals that sets the tone for the report: “These goals cannot be achieved by science alone.”

Also published last week was an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, describing the disconnect between what colleges think employers want and what employers actually say they want. For example, 93 percent of employers surveyed said that "a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate's] undergraduate major," and “More than 75 percent of employers say they want more emphasis on five key areas, including critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings."

Has the focus on science and technology caused us to ignore the importance of the humanities, and do we do so at the risk of understanding and communicating the value of the STEM disciplines now in favor? Do we need more interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches like STEAM or HASTAC? Tell us what you think.


“Yesterday’s Librarian Is Today’s Tech Geek”

Did you know that Library and Information Sciences was ranked by Forbes as the #1 worst Master’s Degree for getting a job, due to slow growth and low median pay? As you can imagine, Computer Science ranks as the #2 best degree for employment, and it makes us wonder why more people -- women, especially -- don’t connect the two disciplines. More than 80% of credentialed librarians (those who hold a Master’s of Library and Information Sciences) are women; yet women earn only 27% of Computer and Information Sciences Master’s  degrees.

As the role of librarians becomes more technical and demand increases for people who can deftly organize, retrieve, systematize, and archive information, it’s a great time to encourage women to pursue graduate programs in computing and information sciences: job prospects are bright and salaries are high. Simple encouragement to pursue CIS gives women broader career opportunities and gives your department greater gender diversity. Check out NCWIT resources for recruiting and retaining female graduate students in CIS.


Tech Conferences and Bathroom Lines

Did you know that there are some venues where the line for the men’s bathroom is longer than the line for the women’s bathroom? Of course you did, because if you’ve ever attended a technical conference, you’ve probably noticed that women typically comprise a tiny percentage of the attendees. A CNet editor who attended the Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) last week tweeted this photo of the men’s room line with the caption, “WWDC explained in one photo.” While waiting in line for the bathroom may be annoying, it’s an annoyance we’d gladly wish for if it meant greater parity at tech conferences … and it looks like we’re not alone.

Attending technical conferences -- especially as a speaker or panelist -- is a terrific way to raise your visibility as a technical woman and enhance your career development. Would you attend more tech conferences if you knew other AGA members were attending, too? Let us know.


GPAs are “Worthless” in Hiring

Did you know that Google’s Senior VP of People Operations recently divulged some of the remarkable insights the company gleaned when it crunched data on its own employees? With Google’s reputation as a data-driven company it’s no surprise that it would turn its analysis inwards, but some of the findings might surprise you. For example:

  • Everyone thinks they’re good at hiring, but in reality few people are, and it’s unclear what makes people good at hiring. Google found little correlation between interview ratings and how people ultimately perform at the company (specialized areas excepted.)

  • Puzzle questions and brain teasers are a waste of time. Google now uses “behavioral interviews,” with a “consistent rubric” for assessing candidates.

  • The attributes of good leadership are different from the attributes of good management. Google's 8 qualities of good managers checklist is highly “actionable,” whereas the company found leadership to be “a more ambiguous and amorphous set of characteristics,” including by consistency and fairness.

  • Annual “upward feedback” surveys gather employees’ rankings of their managers, and are used to incent low-ranked managers to change their conduct.

  • GPAs and test scores are “worthless” as predictors of future performance. Only for recent college grads did the company see any correlation, which disappears once the employee has been there more than a few years. In fact, up to 14 percent of some Google teams don’t have a college education at all.

Want more insights? Read how Google changed its practices to hire and retain more technical women, and more research-proven tips for hiring and keeping female employees.


Expanding CS in K-12 Schools

Did you know that Virginia’s Albemarle County School District recently launched five CoderDojo sites, expecting 50 students to show up, and instead ended up with a list of more than 1,000 students wanting to participate? CoderDojo is a free after-school coding club staffed by volunteers who help students learn Scratch, Alice, HTML, and Kodu. Volunteers follow a hands-off approach where only the students are allowed to touch the computers, says district CIO Vincent Scheivert. "We try our best to stay out of the kids' way," he says. "We're promoting the idea that they are producers of technology, not just consumers."

CoderDojo, Bootstrap, Globaloria, and CodeEd are just a few of the many after-school and curriculum-based programs aiming to integrate computing concepts into K-12 learning, and soon be thousands more high schools around the country teaching AP Computer Science. The College Board recently announced that it has received a $5.2 million NSF grant to implement AP Computer Science Principles, a new course “designed to help students explore the creative aspects of computing while also providing a solid academic foundation for understanding the intellectual concepts and practical contributions of computing.” CS Principles will seek to increase both the number and diversity of students studying computer science at the K-12 level, with the first AP exam slated to be administered in May of 2017.

Want to bring CS Principles to your school, but you’re not sure how to make the case with administrators? Show them this web teaser produced by NCWIT with the NSF.


Men & Workplace Flexibility

Did you know that while workplace flexibility has been on the rise since 2005, there is still an unspoken stigma around employees who use flexible work options? This stigma differs between men and women. When women use flexible work options, studies have found that employers often defer to motherhood as the cause. However, when men take advantage of work flexibility, studies have shown that they are often reprimanded more severely than women. These men may be viewed by employers as being more “feminine” and as having strayed from their traditional male role. “For women to be able to take advantage of these arrangements without judgment, men need to use them freely, too.”

Is there an unspoken stigma around workplace flexibility at your company? Do men and women use flexibility options equally? Here are some tips for making workplace flexibility work:

  • Create telework, flexwork, and on- and off-ramp opportunities that make it easier for employees to take time off and return to work.

  • Ensure that taking advantage of flexible work or on- and off-ramp opportunities is valued for both women and men. Look for ways that flexible schedules are subtly or explicitly penalized in promotion decisions and provide ways to remedy this problem. Examine resource allocation policies to see if they unfairly penalize flex-time workers or teams with flex-time workers.

  • Model flexible practices at the executive and supervisory levels. This helps make these practices culturally acceptable.

Find more tips in NCWIT’s Supervising-in-a-Box series.


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.