News on the Radar: 12/27/2017

Here is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT's radar recently and which we think will be of interest to you. The practices or content of the news gathered (while not endorsed or vetted by NCWIT) is meant to spark new conversations and ideas surrounding the current diversity statistics and trends in the tech workforce. We encourage you to add your two cents on this month's topics in the comments below.

How Computing Compares to Other Occupations

A recent New York Times article highlighted that computing technology roles outweigh the traditional sciences when it comes to job opportunities and salary potential in STEM fields.

The article cites that earlier this year, Glassdoor.com ranked the median base salary of workers in their first five years of employment by undergraduate major, and computer science led the list at $70,000. Similarly encouraging statistics can be found in the NCWIT Scorecard: in 2013, bachelor’s degrees in computer science and computer engineering yielded two of the highest starting salaries (about $60,000) for new graduates.

Not only do computing careers pay well, but they are also in high demand. By 2024, 1.1 million computing-related job openings are expected. At the current rate, only 45% of these jobs could be filled by U.S. computing bachelor’s degree recipients (www.ncwit.org/bythenumbers).

When considering a career in computing, students often question pay, availability, and additional factors, like, “What are the work hours like?” Help students explore how computing compares to other occupations they may be considering with Computing: Get the Most Out of Your College Degree.

Racial Disparities Are Far Worse Than Gender Disparities in the Tech Industry

The number of technical occupations held by women are especially troubling when examining how the pattern varies by race. In 2016, women held 57 percent of all professional occupations, yet they held only 26 percent of all computing occupations. And, the numbers are even lower when considering women of color; for example, Asian, Black, and Hispanic women hold only five percent, three percent, and two percent of these jobs, respectively. (www.ncwit.org/bythenumbers)

As discussed in a recent CityLab article, a new report from the Ascend Foundation examines how executive positions in the tech industry vary by race, finding that racial disparities are a larger problem than gender disparities. Analyzing data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the San Francisco Bay Area, the Ascend report found that in 2015, the racial gap in tech leadership positions between white men and minority men was larger than the gender gap between white men and white women. Furthermore, white women were 91 percent more likely than Black women, 178 percent more likely than Hispanic women, and 246 percent more likely than Asian women to be executives in the tech industry.

The Ascend Foundation suggests that tech companies stop investing in vague, broadly defined “diversity” goals and start actively targeting minority women for recruitment and promotion. As written in this NCWIT blog post, without explicit and careful attention to intersectionality, diversity efforts often default to a focus on straight, middle or upper class, white women — thus marginalizing the concerns of women of color, LGBTQIA people, working class women, and women with disabilities (to name just a few). Whether intentional or unintentional, we cannot allow this to be the “default.” We must consider intersectionality in all that we do: www.ncwit.org/intersectionalityblog.

How School Counselors Can Help Promote Computer Science Studies

A recent Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) newsletter article offered several ideas for how to engage school counselors as outreach and awareness allies.

For example:

  • Computing teachers can promote a greater understanding of computational thinking by inviting counselors to classrooms for an introductory lesson or “unplugged” activity.
  • Teachers can also encourage enthusiastic students to drop by the counseling center and share what they have created with computing.
  • Additionally, teachers can provide input for course scheduling to avoid conflicts that could adversely impact diverse enrollment in CS courses.

As with the general public, counselors may not realize that all job sectors involve computing in some way. By helping them understand that having a background in computing can make their students highly employable, they can help expand student access to computing classes and open doors to future career opportunities in computing.

The article cites the following NCWIT resources for increasing diversity in computing classrooms:

Further, the article recommends leveraging NCWIT Counselors for Computing (C4C) to help support students as they explore computing education and careers.