News on the Radar: 8/28/19

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 can computing education be improved to be more engaging and relevant for everyone?

NCWIT CEO and Co-Founder Lucy Sanders answers this question, and others, on Quora: www.ncwit.org/quora!

A wealth of broader educational research rooted in constructivist, constructionist, and culturally relevant learning theories has long emphasized the importance of connecting instruction to students’ interest and prior knowledge and of using active and collaborative learning pedagogies (see the NCWIT report “Girls in IT: The Facts” at www.ncwit.org/thefactsgirls.) This research highlights how these approaches are important not only for improving learning for girls and other underrepresented students, but for all students.

For example, culturally responsive pedagogies (CRP) share much in common with constructivist approaches, but they also stress the importance of paying attention to how students’ interests, needs, and prior experiences vary in terms of race, class, gender, ability, and sexual orientation. CRP helps students connect learning to these multiple, intersecting identities and to consider how issues of power, equity, and culture relate to education and to society at large. (Check out the COMPUGIRLS case study within the NCWIT “How Can You Engage A Diverse Range of Girls in Technology?” Promising Practice at https://www.ncwit.org/compugirls.)

NCWIT has responded to this research by creating the NCWIT “Engagement Practices Framework.” Developed for computer science instructors, the Framework highlights teaching practices that research suggests have the biggest impact on recruiting and retaining women in computing majors. It’s organized around three principles that answer the question of why these practices--all of which are simply good teaching practices--are effective in recruiting and retaining girls and women to computing. It also includes practical tips for implementation and examples of real computer science assignments that use them. (Check it out on the EngageCSEdu platform: https://www.engage-csedu.org/engagement/make-it-matter.)

Making curriculum relevant and employing inclusive pedagogies consistent with sound learning theory, such as hands-on activities, collaborative work, and project-based learning, are important. These reforms, of course, are not enough and cannot be made in isolation or without the support of other parts of the K-12 Systemic Change Model, as illustrated in the NCWIT “Girls in IT: The Facts” report www.ncwit.org/thefactsgirls.

What are some practical strategies companies can use to reduce implicit bias in hiring processes?

NCWIT CEO and Co-Founder Lucy Sanders answers this question, and others, on Quora: www.ncwit.org/quora

Often, implicit biases are difficult to recognize because they are embedded into the “normal” operations of recruiting and appear to be “just the way it is.” When left unchecked, however, they cause hiring managers and others to miss out on finding and hiring many highly qualified candidates. Remember diversifying the tech workforce is NOT about lowering standards; it is about making sure that you’re not missing out on “highly qualified” talent even when it’s right before your eyes. Implicit bias plays out in institutional practices related to recruiting: job ads, the recruiting process, the interview and selection context, and the physical office environment.

  • Examine job announcements/criteria for bias. Consider the following kinds of questions: Does the language subtly reflect stereotypically masculine or feminine characteristics? Are all of the criteria listed relevant for the job, or do some criteria reflect biases about the kind of skills needed to do this job well? Could additional criteria be included that would open up possibilities for a wider range of candidates who might still do an excellent job? (Check out the NCWIT Checklist and Tips for Writing Better Job Ads to assist you in creating better job ads www.ncwit.org/jobdescriptionanalysis.)

  • Advertise and recruit in a variety of venues that target diverse audiences. Recruit where women and underrepresented minorities have group memberships. For example, consider universities that have clubs and programs for underrepresented computing professionals.

  • Analyze the physical office environment. As you prepare to bring in candidates for interviews, review the physical space. Just as you want to “tidy your house” for guests, you want to give job candidates a welcoming first impression of your office. (Explore the NCWIT Promising Practice, “How Does the Physical Environment Affect Women’s Entry and Persistence in Computing?” at www.ncwit.org/physicalspaceuw.)

  • Consider anonymous resume and interview processes. New software and interview protocols purport to assuage such biases. Although not currently tested in research, there is potential to explore anonymous review further given success in some other industries.

  • Ensure diverse interview teams. Just as research shows that diverse work teams make better, more innovative decisions, we can apply this same logic to interview teams. If your technical team is currently all male, invite employees from other areas to be involved in the hiring committee. And remember, diverse hiring teams are good for all candidates, not just underrepresented ones, as such interview teams can engage in thoughtful and even divergent decision-making conversations together to make the best choices.

The Industry Systemic Change Model, as illustrated in the NCWIT Women in IT: The Facts report, available at www.ncwit.org/thefacts, discusses these and additional approaches that companies should take to encourage diverse talent to come, stay, and thrive.

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Check out the candid, engaging answers from Lucy Sanders, and upvote and share your favorites: www.ncwit.org/quora!