News On the Radar: 9/30/16

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.

Density vs. Size in the STEM Labor Market

A study led by Dartmouth College, recently mentioned in Science Daily, examined how economic geography, specifically a labor market’s size and density, may affect job matching for STEM workers. The study also looked at whether or not the same effects played out across labor markets for women and other minorities.

The study found that STEM workers are more likely to find jobs in dense STEM labor markets (e.g. Seattle) rather than in large STEM labor markets (e.g. New York), and that when it comes to STEM job matching, women and minorities are indeed better matched in STEM clusters.

It also noted that while women and STEM graduates of color have better luck at finding jobs in a more dense workforce, it hardly improves their matching prospects relative to white men. “Given that this analysis focused on only one aspect of STEM employment -- job matching across the entire category of STEM, unpacking the geography of STEM jobs will surely only further complicate the landscape of an already variable employment terrain,” says lead author Richard Wright, a professor at Dartmouth College.

Collecting baseline data, gathering demographic data within a company and then comparing that data on a national level, is one of two key components for increasing the meaningful participation of women and other underrepresented groups in computing, as outlined in NCWIT’s Recruiting, Retaining, and Advancing a Diverse Technical Workforce.

New Partnership Increases STEM Opportunities for All Students

The Washington Post recently highlighted a new partnership between Academic Alliance Member Virginia Tech and Sustaining Partner Qualcomm that has resulted in a new Thinkabit lab, a STEM-focused learning classroom, on the university’s campus. The initiative will expose and engage students as young as middle schoolers to STEM. According to Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands, in the future every degree from Virginia Tech will involve STEM “one way or another.”

“We want every student to have that experience working in large teams and solving complex problems,” said Sands, who wants to encourage Virginia Tech students to collaborate across disciplines and participate in projects together.

This initiative draws on several research-based practices, such as hands-on experience and engaging curriculum. NCWIT’s Promising Practices: How Do You Introduce Computing in an Engaging Way shows how you can engage students not already drawn to computing by creating academic and social environments where these students feel like they belong.

How to Increase the Visibility of Female Employees

In the Harvard Business Review, Clayman Institute for Gender Research Directors Shelley Correll and Lori Mackenzie discuss how tech companies are failing to retain their female employees, especially women at the senior level. A study from the Center for Talent Innovation finds that 56 percent of technical women leave their organizations at the mid-level points and that the quit rate is more than twice as high for women as it is for men. So, what can companies do to deter their departure? “One critical, but overlooked strategy: Make sure that women have the right kind of visibility within the organization,” said Shelley and Lori.

Chapter six of Women in Tech: The Facts provides a systemic change model on how industries can improve the recruitment, retainment, and advancement of female employees. The model focuses on five areas including:

  • subtle biases in everyday interaction
  • recruitment and selection
  • employee development
  • performance evaluation and promotion
  • support for competing life responsibilities 

​Chapter six also provides tips for addressing each focus area, such as establishing a “growth mindset” among employees to create inclusive environments and making it more likely for employees to develop their full potential. Additionally, NCWIT’s Top 10 Ways Managers Can Increase the Visibility of Technical Women and Top 10 Ways Successful Technical Women Increase Their Visibility offer multiple suggestions that highly successful women and their managers can use in order to increase their visibility throughout the company, industry, and technical community.

It Takes a Village to Prepare Kids for STEM

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and President of Broadcom Foundation Paula Golden believes the same phrase applies to preparing kids for 21st century STEM jobs. In a recent blog on the Huffington Post, Paula discussed how it will take an “ecosystem to effectively move the needle” in children’s STEM education.

“At present, there are currently over 35 robust STEM ecosystems intentionally connecting formal and informal STEM learning stakeholders looking to impart STEM knowledge to kids of all ages. These ecosystems are dedicated to achieving collective impact by bringing STEM education everywhere young people spend their days, evenings, and weekends…” said Paula.

Increasing girls’ (and boys’) participation in STEM requires multiple kinds of change agents taking a multi-faceted approach -- be it a policymaker, a teacher, a parent, etc. The model in section 3, page 40 of NCWIT’s Girls in IT: The Facts report depicts the key areas where systemic change is needed and the key participants who can effect this change.