News on the Radar: 1/31/2018

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.

Survey Says: Half of Americans Think Young People Don’t Pursue STEM Because It's Too Hard

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, 52 percent of adults believe the main reason young people don't pursue science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) degrees is because of the "difficulty of the subjects." Alternatively, 23 percent said the main reason is that young people think STEM subjects are not useful for their careers, while 12 percent said it's that young people think these subjects are too boring.

As explained in the NCWIT Girls in IT: The Facts report, girls do not come by these perceptions, interests, and career decisions innately or in a vacuum. Indeed, these are shaped by the larger society and local environments in which they learn about computing and technology, and this significantly influences what appears to be their "choices" to pursue computing and computing careers.

What can you do to change negative perceptions and encourage computing interests? Girls in IT: The Facts also offers a glimpse of promising programs and recommendations that simultaneously address multiple barriers and have positive evaluative evidence. For example,  have informal conversations with girls (and others) about media and popular culture representations of technology and computing. As appropriate, strike up informal conversations with youth and others about media portrayals regarding technology and technology professionals. Even small comments when running across these representations can "interrupt" the moment and help people question these representations.

Colleges Overflowing With Computer Science Students

In a recent Denver Post article, several Academic Alliance Member institutions, including Colorado School of Mines, CU Boulder, Purdue University, Stanford University, weigh in on surging enrollments.

The article cites the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine: the number of bachelor's degrees awarded nationally in computer and information science has increased 74 percent since 2009 at not-for-profit institutions, compared with a 16 percent increase in bachelor's degrees produced overall.

The study of computer science has experienced boom-and-bust cycles, but the current enrollment surge has been more sustained than in years past.

"Everyone in our community feels this is something different from previous trends," said Tracy Camp, computer science professor at Colorado School of Mines and NCWIT Academic Alliance member representative. "Computing skills have become ubiquitous in our society. Just about every engineering and science discipline needs computer skills and now they are enrolling in our classes."

Universities and colleges are looking for ways to handle the heightened demand for their services and to expand inclusively without inadvertently leaving underrepresented populations behind. (Stay tuned for the recipients of the NCWIT Surging Enrollments Seed Fund who proposed to develop and test approaches to increasing diversity of incoming computing students despite the enrollment surge.)

"While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, all institutions of higher education need to make strategic plans to realistically and effectively address the growing student demand for these courses," Susanne Hambrusch, professor of computer science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

When considering approaches to attract and retain women through revising educational systems for an inclusive experience for all students, utilize resources recommended by NCWIT Extension Services for Undergraduate Programs: ncwit.org/recruit-and-retain-strategically.

How Male Allies Can Start Small and Start Now

A recent Slate article suggests sharing research as one of five things that men can do to be male allies to women at work, citing the NCWIT Male Allies and Advocates: Helping Create Inclusive & Highly Productive Technology Workplaces Toolkit.

Male (or other "majority-group") allies are key for successful change efforts in majority-minority workplaces or environments. While anyone can make change, majority-group allies (e.g., male, white, heterosexual, able-bodied employees) often have more power and are in a better position to make significant change.

You can start small, and start now. The Action section of the Male Allies and Advocates Toolkit offers seven bias interrupters, like how to listen and correct personality penalties or interrupt task assignment bias… For example, you've probably heard someone being described as "pushy" or "bossy" or being told to "tone it down." Or, perhaps someone has labeled you this way at some point. Research repeatedly demonstrates that women experience "personality penalties" (e.g., negative feedback regarding their personality, style, or tone) more often than men. Biases about race and class also result in different manifestations of these personality penalties. While these penalties often occur in formal performance evaluations, they also happen in casual hallway conversation or informal advice-giving, where any observer might intervene. What can you do? Utilize tips from the Toolkit.

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