Transgender Experience in the Workplace, The Most Gender-Balanced Computing Program, Mentorship and Male Allies, Technology and Sexuality

Transgender Experience in the Workplace

An article from The New Republic published in late August covered workplace gender dynamics from the perspective of transgender men and women. Author Jessica Nordell wrote, “Because trans people are now staying in the same careers (and sometimes the very same jobs) after they change genders, they are uniquely qualified to discuss the difference between how men and women experience the workplace.” Nordell argued that trans people’s experiences can help “isolate gender as a variable in the real world and watch how it affects a person’s day-to-day experience.”

While there is limited research on this subject, NCWIT has a number of resources about gender diversity in the workplace and specifically unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is an important concept to understand because the barriers encountered by women in tech aren’t always overt. Learning to identify hidden roadblocks will help you hire and retain technical women. NCWIT’s first interactive video, “Unconscious Bias and Why It Matters for Women in Tech,” is a great tool to get you started on this subject.

The Most Gender-Balanced Computing Program?

NCWIT Academic Alliance Member Georgia Institute of Technology was featured in a post on the Computing Education Blog authored by Dr. Mark Guzdial, which described its Computational Media program as the “most gender-balanced computing program in the U.S.” Dr. Guzdial wrote, “The gender diversity in the BS in CS is improving significantly — from 9% in 2004, up to 19.91% this year. But it’s the CM major that I find most intriguing. It’s gone from the 25-30% female up to 45.32%. At 45% female, I believe that it may be the most gender-balanced ABET-accredited computing undergraduate major at any U.S. state university.” Guzdial offered a variety of explanations, but, ultimately he concluded with a question: “The success of CM is the major story here, and we want to keep women in CM. It’s an interesting question of where the men went. Can we keep the successes of CM and get men interested too?”

Looking for advice on how to retain undergrads in your computing department? NCWIT’s “Key Practices for Retaining Undergraduates in Computing” outlines a model to help departments create and sustain excellence through diversity.

Mentorship and Male Allies

The Washington Post recently published an excerpt from “Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology” by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya. The excerpt, written by Google Director of Global Entrepreneurship Outreach Mary Grove and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith focused on various methods of removing the invisibility of women in technology. Grove and Smith cite mentorship as one such method. They wrote, “We have both been helped tremendously throughout our career by amazing mentors, both male and female (Mary cites Megan as one of the most influential mentors in her life). Seek them out. And, when you’re in a position to be able to give back and do the same, pay it forward wholeheartedly.”

Male advocacy is an important part of increasing women’s success in tech careers. Use “NCWIT Tips: 8 Ways to Identify Male Advocates” as a first step in the process of finding and working with male allies. The resource includes the following suggestion: “Consider speaking with men who have daughters and/or wives who have worked in the workplace. While not all men who fit this bill will want to become gender advocates, they are often more likely to have had pivotal experiences that predispose them to care about these issues.”

Technology and Sexuality

NCWIT Senior Social Scientist Dr. Catherine Ashcraft recently published an article in ‘Learning, Media, and Technology’ entitled “Technology and Sexuality - What’s the Connection?”

In the article, Ashcraft argued that those of us interested in increasing girls’ participation in computing need to pay more attention to youth sexualities. She noted, “We often talk about making computing relevant for girls, yet these programs rarely consider addressing sexuality issues – perhaps one of the most relevant topics for youth.” She explored how this results in at least two potential problems. “First, we remain unaware of significant ways sexuality may be thwarting our efforts to increase girls’ participation in technology and how we might improve these efforts. Second, we remain oblivious to how we might use girls’ interest in sexuality as a potentially powerful resource for fostering their interest in computing.”

In addition to this article, NCWIT has a number of resources related to sparking girls’ interest in technology including, “Top 10 Ways to Increase Girls’ Participation in Computing Competitions.”