News on the Radar: 8/29/2018

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.

What We Say Can Unknowingly Perpetuate Stereotypes

Perhaps, you have heard someone say, “Girls are just as good as boys at math.” (Or, you might have even said so yourself.) Did you know this statement can inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes or a misguided belief that innate gender differences account for disparities in tech?

This article unpacks the grammar involved in this statement that is often used well-meaningly, as studied by Stanford Scholars Eleanor Chestnut and Ellen Markman: “On the surface, the sentence tries to convey that both sexes are equal in their abilities. But because of its grammatical structure, it implies that being good at math is more common or natural for boys than girls.” The implication results from the “subject-complement” structure (i.e., “just as good as”), which is commonly used by English speakers “to compare one object to another that’s considered more typical or common.”

While Chestnut underscores that “we should critically analyze our language so that we can identify and then correct the ways we implicitly reinforce the belief that men are the dominant, higher-status gender,” the notion that “math is more common or natural for boys than girls” needs unpacking as well...

The statement indicates a misguided belief that innate gender differences –- whether in terms of ability, interests, or preferences -– are the primary cause for underrepresentation in computing (or other gender disparities). In case you missed it, this NCWIT blog presents a wealth of evidence to the contrary:

This “Back to School” season, disrupt the myth of computing skills being “innate” by employing a “growth mindset” with students that focuses on developing intelligence through effort and practice. For example, explain that mental effort actually changes the brain and increases its capacity: the brain responds to mental effort the way our muscles respond to exercise. When students understand that fact, they are more likely to persist in the face of challenges. Find more tips in NCWIT’s “Ways to Give Students More Effective Feedback Using a Growth Mindset:”

Companies Do Not Have to Lower the Bar to Hire Diverse Candidates

Headed to the 2018 Grace Hopper in Computing Celebration or other conferences to recruit talent? Remember: women in tech raise the bar (and, they don’t need it lowered anyways). This NCWIT blog presents a few reasons to stop asking, ‘Do tech companies have to lower the bar to hire diverse candidates?,' followed by a few alternatives to ask instead…