News on the Radar: 1/26/22

Here is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT’s radar recently and which we think will be of interest to you. The practices or content of the news gathered (while not endorsed or vetted by NCWIT) is meant to spark new conversations and ideas surrounding the current diversity statistics and trends in the tech workforce. We encourage you to add your two cents on this month’s topics in the comments below.

Did you know that there are many ways to make your workplace more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing colleagues?

This month, the authors of the blog The Mind Hears released their annually-updated list of recommendations for making workplaces accessible for deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) employees. One key point raised in the guide is that often, accessibility resources focus on actions to be taken by deaf or hard of hearing individuals, rather than structural changes to be made in collaboration with hearing colleagues. The authors call on allies to “share the work” by taking on some of the effort involved in ensuring that meetings, presentations, support services, and other elements of the workplace are accessible to all. For example, if a presenter using a microphone does not repeat a question asked by an audience member, someone who is hard of hearing may not be able to follow the conversation. An ally can help make the presentation more accessible by asking the presenter to repeat the question using the microphone. As the guide explains, “The people who didn’t hear the question are already stressed and fatigued from working hard to listen, so why expect them to do the added work of ensuring speakers repeat questions?” In addition, being proactive about accessibility is a way to support coworkers who may be struggling for other reasons. As the authors of this guide note, “Our spaces become more inclusive for all when we improve access for any subgroup of our community. Consequently, by increasing the accessibility of our workplaces for our deaf and hard-of-hearing (HoH) colleagues, we create a better workplace for everyone.”

Looking for more ways to make your workplace inclusive and accessible? Check out Temple Grandin’s talk on Different Kinds of Minds from the NCWIT Conversations for Change series. In this presentation, Grandin discusses the unique contributions that neurodivergent people, including those with autism, ADHD, and other neurotypes, can bring to the tech workplace. She also outlines several kinds of accommodations that can support these employees’ success. 

Did you know that implicit bias against research topics associated with “women’s issues” can impact academic careers?

A study conducted by a team at NCWIT Academic Alliance Member Stanford University used ​​natural language processing to find out whether perceptions of a research topic as “feminized,” or more closely associated with women’s work or interests than men’s, has an impact on researchers’ prospects for success in academic careers. According to an article published by the Stanford News Service, the study found “widespread implicit bias against academic work that simply seems feminine – even if it’s not about women or gender specifically.” Analyzing nearly one million doctoral dissertations, the team used a variety of methods to identify topics that were more strongly associated with women, including keywords such as “school, teacher, child, parent, culture and participation.” The findings suggested that “scholars who wrote about topics associated with women, or used methodologies associated with women, were less likely to go on to get senior faculty positions than those who did not.” In particular, scholars who “pursued topics and research designs more implicitly associated with women” had a 12 percent lower than average chance of becoming a faculty advisor. Daniel Scott Smith, a co-author of the study, observed, “As a society, we’ve made outstanding progress over the last century in transforming higher education and science institutions… But implicit biases against certain kinds of research undermines our current efforts to make the academy more diverse.”

Unconscious biases that reflect cultural beliefs and stereotypes can creep into hiring and promotion processes, even when we’re actively working to increase diversity and inclusivity in our workplaces. These NCWIT resources can help you identify instances of bias so that you can take a different approach.

  • Interrupting Bias in Academic Settings // This resource includes slides and a discussion guide to help you and your colleagues practice ways to interrupt bias in the kinds of real-life situations that are likely to come up in a higher education environment.
  • Performance Evaluation Toolkit // Research shows that even individuals who consider themselves committed to equality still engage in unconscious forms of bias that negatively affect the evaluations of women and other underrepresented groups at work. This bundle of resources includes tools to help you identify and avoid bias in performance evaluations.
  • NCWIT Checklist for Reducing Unconscious Bias in Job Descriptions/Advertisements // This checklist is designed to help you analyze hiring materials for subtle biases in language, in criteria, and in how you describe your workplace.

Did you know that AP Computer Science Principles (CSP) helps to reduce barriers to participation in computing?

An article by Liann Herder, published on the website Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, explains that the AP CSP course was designed to “not only meet the growing need for computer scientists in the workforce but also [to] address the systemic inequities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).” The results of a recent study by The College Board, which administers AP courses including CSP, suggest that the course has been able to attract students from diverse backgrounds by reducing the barriers to entry and emphasizing topics that connect to students’ real-life experiences. Maureen Reyes, Executive Director of AP Placement at The College Board, notes that CSP shows students that creativity and problem solving are key aspects of computer science. “They’re driving their own learning,” Reyes says. “The students are interested in what they’re building. In other courses, kids might not see how it applies to their lives. But in AP CSP, teachers are helping these students draw real life connections every day.” By removing advanced math prerequisites, the College Board was able to expand eligibility. For the class of 2019, the article states, “68 percent of Black students, 59 percent of Latinx students, and 60 percent of first-generation students who were enrolled in AP CSP were engaging in an AP STEM course for the very first time.”

Looking for more ways to get students from underrepresented groups involved in computing programs? Check out these NCWIT resources:

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