Did You Know?

Did you know that recent research on sex hormones has found that these hormones may have a strong influence on occupational choices? Penn State researchers compared teenagers with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) — a genetic condition in which people were exposed to the male sex hormone, androgen, in the womb — to teenagers without CAH. They found that young women with CAH were significantly more likely to express interest in careers “relating to things”, such as engineer or scientist; young women without CAH were more likely to express interest in careers “related to people”, such as social worker or teacher. (Researchers found no significant differences in young men tested.) “We found there is a biological influence on that interest toward things, so maybe women aren’t going into STEM careers because what they’re interested in — people — isn’t consistent with an interest in STEM careers,” said [researcher Adriene M.] Beltz. “Maybe we could show females ways in which an interest in people is compatible with STEM careers.” 
What do you think? Is this really “proof” of biological interest, or does it simply prove that teenagers associate gender stereotypes with particular occupations?

Did you know that, according to research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, women are more active users of social networking sites than men? Gender stereotypes about technology mean it’s often men who are a technology’s creators and early adopters; but studies of networks like Facebook and Twitter have shown that women actually comprise an active majority of users when it comes to social media. This might be why many were surprised when Google+ initially sent out invitations to what seemed to be  a mostly male audience; according to recent studies, Google+ still has a user base that’s two-thirds men. 
With women representing such an enormous slice of the consumer market, it’s imperative that you’re representing both genders’ perspectives in your products and services. If your business is being marketed to a broad audience that includes both genders, have you looked to make sure your marketing is gender-blind?

Did you know that 84% of executives think their organization “plays favorites”? According to a recent survey of business executives conducted by Georgetown University, most of these executives say that favoritism — defined as “preferential treatment based on factors unrelated to a person’s abilities, such as background, ideology or gut instincts” — is a determining factor in employee promotions. Interestingly, although 84% of those surveyed say favoritism takes place at their own organizations, just 23% acknowledged practicing it themselves, and only 9% say it was a factor in determining their last promotion. Despite having fair and meritocratic criteria in place for promoting employees, many of those surveyed said there were other factors — like whether a person fits into the corporate culture or is perceived as trustworthy — that come into play. 
With research showing that this kind of favoritism can inordinately affect those who are part of a minority in the workplace, and with an increasing focus on sponsorship as a way to identify and promote talented members of minority groups, it’s more important than ever to have unbiased, merit-based systems in place to promote employees. Check out the NCWIT report, “Women in IT: The Facts”, for tips and suggestions on building these systems into your organization. 

Did you know that the federal government is taking steps to build up the nation’s cybersecurity workforce? A recently formed public-private partnership, the U.S. Cyber Challenge program, seeks to fill the estimated millions of new IT security jobs by recruiting at least 10,000 people to IT-related career fields. The program is using scholarships and boot camps to appeal to young people; but as some have pointed out, the focus on military contexts and war might well be turning girls off. A separate initiative launched by the White House is the the National Initiative on Cybersecurity Education (NICE), which is supported by NIST, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Personnel Management. This initiative likewise has the goal of attracting more future technologists to careers in federal IT by focusing on K-12 students; however, advocates are finding that the infrastructure to make these efforts possible  — more rigorous computing education in more schools, professional development for computing teachers, for example — needs a ton of support. Expect to hear more about efforts like CS Principles, 10K Teachers, and the Computer Science Education Act, which would help provide this support and make computing education the priority the U.S. Government wants it to be.

Did you know about the term, “collaboration by difference”? Cathy Davidson, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Duke University and author of  Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, uses this term to refer to “… different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.” In an excerpt from her book at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Davidson describes how  our education system needs to do more to encourage collaboration by difference, and encourages innovative approaches that give students opportunities to work together to do well: “If you give people the means to self-publish—whether it’s a photo from their iPhone or a blog—they do so. They seem to love learning and sharing what they know with others. But much of our emphasis on grading is based on the assumption that learning is like cod-liver oil: It is good for you, even though it tastes horrible going down.”
Many of you have experimented with pair programming or other forms of collaborative learning; what do you think? Do you agree with professor Davidson?
Did You Know? is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT’s radar this week that we think might be of interest to you. Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.

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