News On the Radar: 4/30/16

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.

Social Good and Emotion Can Supplement the "Business Case"

Business-related reasons are often a motivation behind organizational change, and research does show that increased diversity leads to increased performance and productivity for technology businesses. However, in a recent Harvard Business Review article, Todd L. Pittinsky questions whether or not the “business case” is the right case to sell Silicon Valley on diversity and inclusion. “The Valley’s tech workers are overwhelmingly men (83%) who are white or Asian (94%). Yet Silicon Valley is also by far one of the most innovative collections of people not only in the U.S. today but perhaps anywhere, ever. This might explain why the creativity and innovation arguments for workplace diversity, while seemingly compelling at first blush, haven’t had the expected impact on business investment in diversity,” argues Todd.

As an alternative or supplemental “case,” Todd offers social good and emotion. “Put simply, the negative emotions that tend to go along with bias — fear, anger, contempt, and the like — are damaging. Replace those feelings with positive emotions and we all will benefit,” explains Todd. By encouraging positive emotions through diversity, workplaces may find improvement in its capacity for innovation.

Encouragement Can Lead to Women Exploring Next Chapters in CS Education

The Vancouver Sun recently shared Conversations that Matter’s video featuring Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College (Academic Alliance member). Maria has over 30 years of experience in working to recruit, retain, and advance women’s opportunities in computer science fields and gave great advice in the segment on how to increase a more gender balanced workforce in computer science fields. In the video, broken into three segments, she discussed the multiple causes of the currently dismal gender diversity statistics in STEM fields, stating that the problem goes all the way back to when computers first started coming into homes, but that it’s a relatively easy problem to fix. Some of her solutions included making introductory computer science courses in higher education less intimidating for everyone and to encourage the women in the courses to continue exploring the next chapters in their CS education.

Maria went on to say that engaging young women and encouraging them to continue their STEM education will increase the percentage of women majoring and pursuing careers in computer science and that there is currently tremendous opportunity for a woman at any stage in her life to pursue the computer science field. One way to create a more appealing learning experience for all students is to utilize NCWIT EngageCSEdu. It offers thousands of unique course materials to foster diversity in introductory CS courses.

NASA Increases Its Efforts to Involve More Women in the Space Apps Challenge

Fast Company recently chatted with Beth Beck, NASA’s open innovation project manager, on her efforts to get more women to participate in NASA’s Space Apps Challenge, which has consistently struggled to get women involved in past events. Her goal was to identify the key levers that would better attract women to what is known as one of the world’s largest hackathons. Among the trends that emerged, it was discovered that women care about having a safe and supportive environment, preparation time for the event, provided childcare support, and to be able to contribute to the hackathon experience. By implementing Beth’s research findings, NASA anticipates appealing to a wider range of female participants and boosting their attendance for future Space Apps Challenges.

A few simple steps can go a long way toward increasing women and girls’ participation in computing competitions. NCWIT’s Top 10 Ways to Increase Girls’ Participation in Computing Competitions offers straightforward suggestions on how to make competitions appeal to a wider range of female students. It pairs well with Revolutionize Your Computing Competitions and Tournaments to Increase Diversity, workshop slides from the 2015 NCWIT Summit that explore practices in creating a more inclusive computing tournament. Both are ideal resources to utilize in creating a more successfully inclusive event for all students.

"The Bar" Says A Lot About Your Company 

Laura Weidman Powers is tired of hearing, “If there are qualified blacks, Latinos, and/or women out there, we’d love to hire them -- but we’re not going to lower the bar.” In her recent article on LinkedIn, Laura, Co-Founder and CEO of CODE2040, discusses two faulty assumptions embedded in this statement. First, it presumes that companies are being asked to “lower the bar” when, in fact, no one “seriously dedicated to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace” is asking anyone to relax hiring standards. Second, it presumes that there is an “actual, objective, predefined bar with clear methods for measuring against it.” But, “hiring is not that scientific.” The “best” candidate is not always a clear-cut choice, and candidates are frequently hired or turned away for vague reasons such as “cultural fit.” As Powers notes, “’the bar’ and who clears its hurdle says just as much about the company and the interviewer representing it as it does the candidate applying for the role.”

Instead of worrying about not “lowering the bar,” companies need to treat the development of a diverse workforce like any other critical business issue. The research shows that creating a more diverse workforce leads to superior productivity and financial performance, leaving a positive impact on technology businesses. NCWIT has developed multiple resources like Recruiting, Retaining, and Advancing a Diverse Technical Workforce: Data Collection and Strategic Planning Guidelines and the Manager Recruitment/Selection Program in-a-Box to help businesses get started on attaining their diversity goals.

"Techies" Showcases Diversity in Silicon Valley

In a recent Fortune article, Kia Kokalitcheva spoke with Helena Price on her latest photography project called “Techies.” The three-month-long portrait-project showcases the stories of 100 members of the tech community whose backgrounds are diverse and unique in Silicon Valley. The project’s two main goals are to show the outside world a more comprehensive picture of people who work in tech and to bring a bit of attention to people in the industry who stories have never been heard, considered, or celebrated. “I want people from outside of tech to realize that there are lots of different people here in tech,” said Helena.

Displaying the diversity in the tech industry, like it is in “Techies,” can be a great way to increase girls’ interest in computing and help close the gap between potential talent and opportunities in tech. NCWIT programs like Aspirations in Computing share real-life female role models in the tech industry that young girls interested in computing can look up to. The TECHNOLOchicas campaign also features the stories of Latinas passionate about technology and offers great resources (in English and Spanish) to help families encourage the young women in their lives to pursue opportunities and careers in technology.