Ways to Increase Male Advocacy in Gender Diversity Efforts, A Look at What Works in Making Computer Science More Inviting, College Board and NSF Expand Partnership to Introduce Advanced Placement Computer Science Classes to High Schools Across the U.S.

Ways to Increase Male Advocacy in Gender Diversity Efforts

Last month, NCWIT’s Catherine Ashcraft and Wendy DuBow penned an article in Fast Company that offers research-based suggestions on how to get men involved in gender diversity efforts. Titled “The Tricky (And Necessary) Business Of Being A Male Advocate For Gender Equality,” it begins by citing two key reasons that men need to advocate for gender diversity:

  1. It’s a business issue and a human issue, not a women’s issue. Research has shown that businesses profit from the many benefits that diverse perspectives bring to innovation and company competitiveness.
  2. Men more commonly hold positions of power in tech, whether formally or informally, and therefore are able to have a great deal of influence in this area.

As to what men should be advocating for, the authors suggest seeking to change the environment versus advocating for or trying to help specific women; women in tech do not need extra help, but the current environment in which they work does. Sometimes advocating for change at the individual level can be necessary, for example, interrupting bias in the moment when a qualified woman is overlooked for a promotion. But systemic change is critical, working to affect changes of more subtle biases in job descriptions, interview practices, and performance evaluation criteria.

Catherine and Wendy discuss other considerations for male advocates, such as not assuming that all women will want to help with diversity efforts, reframing negative reactions from other potential allies as opportunities for developing empathy, and approaching advocacy with a “growth mindset.” People will make mistakes on their way to creating change. They conclude by acknowledging the potential pitfalls of historical distrust and cultural differences, but they hope that their research findings will help build increased understanding and facilitate men and women tackling the diversity issue together.

The article cites NCWIT resources that add more depth to this topic:

A Look at What Works in Making Computer Science More Inviting

A recent New York Times article highlighted NCWIT’s work in helping colleges recruit and retain more women in their computer science programs. The article notes that there is criticism of programs that change curriculums to attract more women or offer classes specifically for women because it singles them out, and many students say they want to be seen as a computer scientist, not a female scientist. But NCWIT CEO and Co-founder Lucy Sanders contends that the American computer science curriculum needs to be overhauled as a whole, not just for women. “I don’t particularly think that the existing computer science curriculum has been effective for anybody,” she said. “It needs to be situated in a real-world or meaningful context so people understand why they’re doing it. That doesn’t make it less rigorous — students learn the same things, but in a different way.”

The article highlights the efforts of computing and engineering departments at Indiana University, Michigan State University, and the University of Washington — recipients of the NCWIT Extension Services Transformation (NEXT) Award, sponsored by Google.org. The Award recognizes NCWIT Extension Services for Undergraduate Computing Programs (ES-UP) client departments that have shown significant positive outcomes in women’s enrollment and graduation rates, and have excellent potential for building on these gains. Find out more at www.ncwit.org/nextawards.

NCWIT Promising Practice “Small Steps Toward Systemic Change (Case Study 1)” takes a look at several computing departments at universities across the country that have been implementing changes to the educational system experienced by all students to increase women’s representation in computing.

College Board and NSF Expand Partnership to Introduce Advanced Placement Computer Science Classes to High Schools Across the U.S.

The College Board and the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced an extension of their partnership to support teachers and schools in offering the new Advanced Placement (AP®) course, Computer Science Principles, in the fall of 2016.

With NSF support, the College Board began developing this new course in 2009, in response to declining numbers of high school students taking computer science courses and the underrepresentation of female, African-American, and Hispanic students in these classes. The course and corresponding exam, developed by more than 30 teachers and university faculty, are designed to be challenging, engaging, and relevant to all students. The AP Computer Science Principles has already been piloted in hundreds of schools across the nation, and it will be rolled out formally in the fall of 2016.

"Working with the College Board is an important part of NSF's strategy to enable access to high-quality, exciting computer science courses for high schools across the country," noted Jim Kurose, head of Computer and Information Science and Engineering at NSF.

"The College Board is committed to making computing science education possible for all students and empowering them to develop skills that will be critical to the jobs of today and tomorrow," added David Coleman, College Board President and CEO. "Together with NSF, we have designed AP Computer Science Principles to appeal to a wider range of students, investing in new programs to support successful implementation in schools, and providing professional development opportunities for teachers to ensure that the course delivers opportunity to students everywhere."

NCWIT’s Talking Point resource, “Moving Beyond Computer Literacy: Why schools should teach computer science,” offers steps schools can take to successfully incorporate computer science education. Additionally, NCWIT’s Girls in IT: The Facts provides an overview of the current state of girls and computer science education as well as recommendations for what parents, teachers, and policymakers can do to help address barriers to increasing girls’ participation.