Did You Know?

Did you know that the “tipping point” for ideas and beliefs can be reached with adoption from just 10% of the population? Using computational models of social cognitive networks, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that when “just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.” The researchers modeled different kinds of social networks with different levels and points of influence. Interestingly, they found that the percentage of people who need to hold that opinion for it to “tip” or influence the majority of society holds steady at 10 percent, regardless of how or where an opinion starts.
The research was performed by the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) with funding from the Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance (NS-CTA), the Army Research Office (ARO), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and clearly this finding has socio-political implications. But it might be a fitting bit of knowledge for us as well in changing beliefs about computing careers and who should do them.
A few weeks ago we reported that the National Research Council had released a report called “Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.” Recently the NRC put out a more detailed set of recommendations for science education in the U.S., titled “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.” As you might expect, this follow-up report stresses the need to improve the way the sciences are taught so that students are educated to compete and innovate in a global society. However, as the Computing in the Core (CinC) coalition points out, neither this new “Framework” nor the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) (which defined K-12 standards for mathematics and language arts) puts sufficient emphasis on computing education. The National Science Teachers Association and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recently joined the CinC coalition, and we look forward to seeing the increasing impact among policymakers as NCWIT, CinC, and others stress the importance of computer science at the K-12 level.
Did you know that Campbell Soup Company is about to install its first female CEO? On August 1, Denise Morrison will take over from the recently retired CEO and President, Doug Conant. Conant was a vocal proponent for diversity and inclusion at Campbell and believes that “when a CEO visibly stands for openness, diversity, and inclusion, it sends an essential message to the organization.” In a blog for Harvard Business Review, he goes on to say that “In too many companies, the managerial ranks lack role models for women, people of color, and the LGBT community. But in my company’s (Campbell’s) case, diversity is about more than breaking glass ceilings — whether color, sexual, or generational. It’s about mirroring our consumers, 80% of whom are women from all ethnicities and walks of life. How can we possibly serve them well if the managers in our company don’t viscerally understand them?” Conant then provides five clear actions for increasing inclusion within your company:

Confront the brutal facts.
Create a disciplined plan.
Declare yourself.
Educate the organization.
Deploy mentors and support networks.

Did you know that the federal government wants to teach you how to start a company? The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps is a new effort to increase innovation and boost technology transfer from the lab to the marketplace by training scientists in the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Grants of $50,000 to 100 teams will sponsor them through an intensive education program at Stanford University (run through the noted Stanford Technology Ventures Program), and the program is open to applicants with an active NSF award in a science or engineering field.
Did you know that between 1984 and 2006, the percent of computer science degrees obtained by women dropped from 37% to just 20%? So begins a recent blog from Fog Creek Software, which looked at society’s perceptions of computing over the last few decades as a point of influence for the number of women applying for and obtaining internships at its company today. Fog Creek, co-founded by noted software guru Joel Spolsky, stresses a supportive environment for its software developers as the key driver in innovation and productivity. In this post, the company interviews its lone female intern for some feedback on her experience and her advice for recruiting more women. Here’s an excerpt:

“… one thing I noticed is that … you really stress how the developers here are the best and all the perks that you offer. But, to be honest, that doesn’t really differentiate Fog Creek from Google or Facebook because they also have awesome developers and loads of perks. Whereas what I think your internship offers that you don’t stress quite as much is all the close mentorship we get. Here, we’re a trusted part of the team. We get to be a part of actual decisions about the code that ships. I don’t think that interns at larger companies get to work so closely with mentors or are as included as part of the team. And, basically, these things that have to do with collaboration and learning appeal a lot more to female candidates than talking about the best developers in the world or all the perks. Honestly, when you hear the phrase “the world’s best developers,” you see a guy. And, for women, that can be alienating.”

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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