Diversity Policies (Alone) Can Backfire Against Women and Minorities, Several Colleges’ Strategies for Graduating More Women in Computing, How the ESSA Can Shape Computing Education

Diversity Policies (Alone) Can Backfire Against Women and Minorities

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article examines the effect of workplace diversity programs and policies, as found in a longitudinal study of over 700 U.S. companies conducted by Tessa L. Dover, Brenda Major, and Cheryl R. Kaiser. The article notes how diversity policies can have an adverse effect or be counterproductive, based on several implications of the study, including the following:

  • Participants from ethnic minorities viewed a pro-diversity company as no more inclusive, no better to work for, and no less likely to discriminate against minorities than a company without a pro-diversity stance.
  • Groups that typically occupy positions of power may feel alienated and vulnerable when their company claims to value diversity.

Despite the well-meaning intentions of diversity policies, the sole existence of a policy is not enough to create organizational change.

“Without adopting effective management structures for implementation, a diversity policy alone is nothing but a communications exercise. If the article is to be believed, then most policies fail to achieve even that goal,” said Y-Vonne Hutchinson, executive director of diversity recruitment firm ReadySet, in a followup to the HBR article on Inc.

NCWIT has created a number of resources on how managers and others can move beyond mere policy statements and more effectively create inclusive environments for all employees, including “Recruiting, Retaining, and Advancing a Diverse Technical Workforce: Data Collection and Strategic Planning Guidelines” and “Supervising-in-a-Box Series: Full Series."

Several Colleges’ Strategies for Graduating More Women in Computing

In a recent piece for MarketWatch.com, Reporter Jillian Berman highlighted what several colleges are doing to graduate more women in science, engineering, and math fields — consequently putting these women in better positions to fill high-paying STEM positions that narrow wage gaps. As noted in the NCWIT Scorecard, women who work in computing-related occupations earn a median income that is 81% of men’s median income.

“If you care about earnings inequality across gender then getting women into higher-paying occupations is a priority and one way to get women into higher paying occupations is to make sure they’re studying in fields that are preparing them for higher paying occupations,” said Jonathan Rothwell who conducted a study of Department of Education data for MarketWatch.

Jonathan studied schools where female earnings after 10 years most outperformed those from other schools with similar student profiles and that came closest to gender parity in STEM graduates. Example school strategies mentioned in the article include using computing skills to solve “big societal issues, such as the quality of life for seniors,” hiring more women faculty, giving freshman women the opportunity to work alongside professors in labs, and more.

Want more tactics? NCWIT’s “Recruit and Retain Strategically” highlights strategic, sustainable approaches recommended by NCWIT Extension Services for Undergraduate Programs for revising educational systems for an inclusive experience for all students, as opposed to changing the students to fit these systems.

How the ESSA Can Shape Computing Education

During President Obama’s final State of the Union address, the President proclaimed, “In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.”

The President’s comment follows the recent adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Many are calling ESSA an educational milestone because it includes computer science among other core subjects, such as writing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as part of a "well-rounded education."

Furthermore, as noted by Tanya Roscorla, managing editor of the Center for Digital Education, in an EdTech.com article, “When state and local policymakers see that computer science is a component of a well-rounded education, that will help them make decisions about where to use federal dollars that go toward activities and support for well-rounded education subjects."

This article also points to some cities that have already begun expanding computer science in their schools, as reported last year. In September, the New York City Department of Education announced plans to make computer science education available to 1.1 million students in its public schools over the next 10 years. Additionally, Chicago Public Schools plan on becoming the first urban school district to offer computer science courses from kindergarten through eighth grade.

NCWIT Talking Points “Moving Beyond Computer Literacy: Why schools should teach computer science” dives deeper into the importance of computer science education, covering what you can tell school decision-makers about computer science, what your school can do to successfully incorporate computer science education, and more.

P.S. Did you know that President Obama gave remarks about the importance of computer science for all students at the first-ever NCWIT Innovation and Diversity Town Hall, co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), back in 2006? Watch the video from our archives: http://bit.ly/1J2YZB5.