News On the Radar: 7/27/16

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.

What Works (and Doesn’t Work) in Diversity Programs

In the Harvard Business Review, Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev analyze where diversity training, hiring tests, performance ratings, and other common tools in top-down diversity efforts can go wrong, based on decades worth of data from hundreds of U.S. firms. Frank and Alexandra stress that solutions often backfire when negative incentives, required mandates, or potential restrictions on decision making are incorporated.

For example, when diversity training is required for managers, “Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance — and many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward.”

So, what does work? Frank and Alexandra note, “A number of companies have gotten consistently positive results with tactics that don’t focus on control. They apply three basic principles: engage managers in solving the problem, expose them to people from different groups, and encourage social accountability for change.”

In a recent OpenView webinar, NCWIT Senior Research Scientist Dr. Catherine Ashcraft presents 10 Actionable Ways to Actually Increase Diversity in Tech to help companies accomplish the above mentioned principles resulting in meaningful change efforts. The presentation covers the benefits a diverse team can bring to the table, the role societal biases play in startups and business processes, and more.

A Little Encouragement Can Go A Long Way

A recently published study from Colorado State University, mentioned in both Education World and the Denver Business Journal, found that women are 1.5 times more likely than men to leave the STEM pipeline after taking Calculus I, which is a class that most universities require in the pursuit of a STEM degree. According to the three researchers of the study, the prime reason for women and girls leaving is their lack of confidence as opposed to lack of ability in Calculus I, and that while men and women experience a loss of confidence at similar rates throughout the rigorous math class, women have a lower confidence rate to begin with. The researchers stated that the key to boosting the number of women who make it through Calculus I “lies in teaching quality and encouragement.”

Encouragement increases self-efficacy, and encouraging girls to persevere through math could be a way to push more women into the STEM pipeline. But, as noted by the CSU researchers, encouragement needs to be paired with quality teaching which includes effective feedback. When teachers give effective feedback, they give their students information they can actually use to increase their future learning performance. NCWIT’s Tips: 8 Ways to Give Students More Effective Feedback Using a Growth Mindset offers ways in which teachers can develop intelligence through effort, practice, and “wise feedback” that spurs additional effort from their students.

Gender Reform Is Also About Men

A recap of the male advocacy panel from Internet2's 20th anniversary Global Summit highlights how men play a pivotal role in advancing women in tech. For example, “Since men remain the leaders, power holders, and gatekeepers in the tech workplace today, enlisting their participation is vital for change to occur,” notes Marla Meehl, the networking manager for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Marla’s point is one of three key reasons as to why it’s important to investigate how men think about and advocate for diversity in the tech industry. NCWIT’s “Male Advocates and Allies” full report includes the other two reasons:

  1. Women report that support and encouragement to pursue and persist in technical careers often comes from men. Given this fact, men already play a significant role in improving conditions for women in technology and computing.
  2. Gender reform is not a women’s issue; it is also about men... Women and men need to work together as allies in order to change work cultures that prevent all of us from realizing our full potential.

NCWIT’s “Male Advocates and Allies” full report is part of the “Male Allies and Advocates Toolkit,” which also includes resources for putting together an event or series of events to raise awareness about the role male (or other majority-group) allies can play in increasing diverse participation in technical workplaces: ncwit.org/ma-toolkit.

States Respond to the Call for Creating CS Standards

The June edition of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) policy update declares that state boards across the nation are “poised to deliver on the call in the Every Student Succeeds Act to provide quality computer science instruction as part of a ‘well-rounded education.’” The update acknowledges, however, that challenges lie in formalizing computing instruction and standards — many states are “playing catchup.” Nevertheless, several states are actively working together to develop such frameworks. Maryland, for instance, is developing a toolkit with free instructional resources to support implementation of their standards and are allowing school leaders to apply for Reserve Fund grants, which supplement equipment and teacher professional development.

While states are better preparing to teach computing concepts, you can make the case for improving computing education and make sure that this is an important component of educational policies. Use NCWIT’s “Girls in IT: The Facts” full report to find out what legislators and educational policymakers, as well as educators and others, can do to change the current state of affairs for girls in technology: ncwit.org/thefactsgirls.