Regional Celebrations of Women in Computing – R-CWIC (Case Study 1)

An Example of Intentional Role Modeling

The Indiana Celebration of Women in Computing (InWIC) and the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing (OCWIC) are small regional conferences modeled after the International Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Attendees number about 100, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and industry professionals in computing. Activities involve a keynote speech by a highly successful technical woman, panels about careers in industry and academia, technical paper presentations, and undergraduate research posters. These conferences are developed and supported by the ACM-W.

Like the Grace Hopper Celebration, the R-CWICs intend to provide social support for women in computing, and they feature role modeling and networking.

EVIDENCE OF EFFECTIVENESS

Given that women leave the computer science major at higher rates than men, role modeling is an important practice that can increase women’s intentions to enter and persist in the field. Unfortunately, the many programs that employ role models seldom measure outcomes. R-CWICs and the Grace Hopper Celebration are, to some degree, exceptions. Surveys indicate that almost all InWIC attendees considered their time to be time well spent (97%), would like to attend again in the future (98%), and would recommend it to a friend (93%). Similar results were obtained for OCWIC. Likewise, more than half (57%) of InWIC attendees felt that it reinforced their computing career plans. Evaluations of the Grace Hopper Celebration found that women who had attended in the past returned, in large part, because they valued being with technical women like themselves and the inspiration the experience provided solidified their decision to major in computing. These findings document the positive assessment attendees have and their enhanced commitment to computing, but they relate these outcomes to the use of role models only by implication.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES AND ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

Speakers are selected to represent the various career interests and educational backgrounds of attendees. In this way, women who are academic and computing professionals, computing graduate students, and computing undergraduate students, made presentations.

Only the keynote speaker was coached in advance to focus on her personal experiences and to highlight obstacles that she had overcome. (To maximize effectiveness, the literature indicates that all intended role models should be encouraged to include similar information.)

For more specific information, contact Bettina Bair, bbair@cse.ohio-state.edu, or Gloria Townsend, gct@depauw.edu, for a copy of “A How-to Guide for Planning, Executing, Enjoying, and Evaluating your own R-CWIC.” This detailed booklet provides step-by-step advice from the rationale for holding the event to raising funds and measuring its success.


Resources

  • Several papers by Penelope Lockwood are a good source of research on role modeling.
  • Marx, D. M. & Roman, J. S. (2002). Female role models: Protecting women’s math test performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(9), 1183-1193.
  • Townsend, G.C. (1996). Viewing video-taped role models improves female attitudes toward computer science. SIGCSE Technical Symposium (pp. 42-46).

View related research:

 

Authors: Lecia Barker and J. McGrath Cohoon