Unconscious Bias, When Women Stopped Coding, Support System for Minority Women, Going Beyond the Numbers, STEM Paradoxes

Unconscious Bias

A recent article from Fast Company written by Howard Ross covered the topic of Unconscious Bias. Ross wrote, “How can we hire, retain, and develop the best people and make the best decisions in running our organizations if we are not even aware of the forces that dominate the choices we make?” Ross acknowledged that while it may be impossible to completely eliminate bias, “there are things that we can do to mitigate the impact of biases on our organizational decision-making.”

One of Ross’ suggestions -- “consciously priming people to pay attention to potential areas of bias” -- connects well with a number of NCWIT resources. “Checklist for Reducing Unconscious Bias in Job Descriptions/Advertisements” can help you analyze ads for subtle biases in language, in criteria, and in how you describe your workplace. Other resources on this subject include “NCWIT Tips for Job Description Analysis” and “Unconscious Bias/Stereotype Threats.”

When Women Stopped Coding

The research of NCWIT Social Science Advisory Board member Jane Margolis was featured in a recent NPR Planet Money broadcast called “When Women Stopped Coding.” The goal of the episode was to uncover why in 1984, “the percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged, even as the share of women in other technical and professional fields kept rising.” In the accompanying article, Steven Henn wrote of Margolis’ research: “She found that families were much more likely to buy computers for boys than for girls — even when their girls were really interested in computers.”

NCWIT has an entire workbook dedicated to recruiting women into computing majors. “Strategic Planning for Recruiting Women into Undergraduate Computing” includes strategies, initiatives, and evaluation methods that you can use immediately to bring more women into your department.

Support System for Minority Women

Kathryn Finney, the founder of digitalundivided, was profiled in a recent Metro article written by Lakshmi Gandhi. Digitalundivided is “an organization devoted to engaging minority communities with the tech world,” and according to Gandhi, Finney has “seen firsthand the challenges that many black female entrepreneurs in tech face.” One challenge that Finney specifically points out is that many women of color have “a misguided idea of what working in the field means and are discouraged from pursuing the field before they even begin.”

Finney offers a number of tips and suggestions in the article. “Creating a strong support system for women in tech is key to success down the line,” she said. Mentorship is a key component of any support system and NCWIT’s “Mentoring-in-a-Box: Technical Women at Work” is a great resource that will help you start and sustain a purposeful and rewarding mentoring relationship.

Going Beyond the Numbers

In a recent blog post for the Huffington Post, Symantec Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Cecily Joseph covered the difference between diversity and inclusive culture in the workplace. Joseph wrote, “The big question shouldn't only be, 'how can we bring in more diverse employees?', but also, 'how can we change our organization's culture so that it embraces diversity?' Because if you change the numbers without changing the culture, nothing will truly change.”

Joseph offered seven tips to achieve this goal, including, “Bring diversity to your leadership team (e.g. board of directors, senior teams) to ensure that a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives are represented at the very top.” This approach is reflected in “Establishing Institutional Accountability,” an NCWIT case study available online. Relationships between employees and supervisors are crucial to creating positive work environments. Use NCWIT’s five-part series, “Supervising in a Box,” to gain expertise in a number of areas. This resource covers topics such as: recruitment, team management, and performance reviews.

STEM Paradoxes

In late September, the New York Academy of Sciences released a paper called “The Global Stem Paradox.” In a Washington Post article about the paper, Joanne Weiner wrote, “the report said that ‘while there are greater numbers of STEM graduates worldwide than ever before, STEM jobs continue to go unfilled.’” Weiner pointed out a number of reasons for this paradox including the “sharp decline in the amount of hours spent teaching science in U.S. schools — the number of hours that elementary students spend on science is at its lowest point since 1988.” She also wrote that “kids describe the typical scientist as like Albert Einstein — a crazy-looking, old white man doing something dangerous in a lab.” This perception makes it hard for elementary school students to envision themselves in STEM careers.

These barriers are even more pronounced for girls because they also face the perception that STEM isn’t for them at all. One of NCWIT’s most popular resources, “Girls in IT: The Facts” contains everything you need to know about the current state of girls in computing, the barriers they face, and how to get them more involved.