News on the Radar: 4/28/21

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 the pandemic is impacting the careers of many academic women in STEM fields?

A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that “[s]hutdowns and social-distancing measures aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately harmed the careers and well-being of US female academic researchers,” according to an article by Sara Reardon in Nature. The report, released in March 2021, found that out of more than 700 respondents, “28% reported an increased workload, and 25% reported decreased productivity.” Pre-existing structural biases and inequities contributed to the impact on academic women in the sciences. These include factors such as expectations that women take on a disproportionate share of household responsibilities and the fact that “institutions eliminated a number of non-tenured faculty and staff-member positions, which are more likely than other positions to be occupied by women and people of colour.” In addition, the need to rework classes for online instruction forced many academic women to divert time and resources away from their own research and grant-writing activities. While the report holds off on specific policy recommendations, NASEM Committee Member Reshma Jagsi notes that in considering possible solutions, institutions “need to take time with a careful eye to evaluate the impact on all areas.”

A study by NCWIT in collaboration with and the STARS Computing Corps, the Investigating Compounding Impacts of Racism and COVID-19 on Learning and Employment in Computing & Technology (CIRCLE-CT) Study, also investigated the effects of the pandemic and the heightened attention to racial justice on computing professionals in both industry and academia. The first set of results from this study was published in February 2021. Nearly everyone who responded reported that they had been affected in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, “the impact was significantly different for individuals depending on their gender, being a racial/ethnic minority within the field of computing, and identifying as LGBTQIA, including the intersections of these identities. Consistently, when there were significant differences, the underrepresented and minoritized groups were having worse experiences.” With regards to the racial justice movement, the report noted, “While it is clear that individuals from different backgrounds experienced the events and emotions of spring differently, it is also apparent that organizations can make a difference in individual commitment to school or work, and to the technology field in general. When organizations take a meaningful stand, students and employees notice and respond positively.” Findings from Survey 2 will be published soon.

Did you know that the pandemic has created challenges for both teachers and students in K-12 science classes?

In a recent article for Education Week, Sarah D. Sparks discussed several findings from new research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on K-12 science education. While the context of the pandemic made science topics increasingly interesting and relevant for many students, it also created a number of significant obstacles to effective teaching and learning. In one study, “the majority of science teachers reported struggling to include investigations and hands-on learning for students on remote platforms.” Teachers also cited “difficulties in getting students to engage in collaboration and discussions online.” Some educators found that science classes were being deprioritized as more attention was given to remediation in math and language arts. For their part, many high school students also expressed concerns about falling behind in STEM subjects, and students experiencing poverty have been disproportionately affected. For example, one study on AP course completion showed that “72 percent of low-income students didn’t complete their AP physics courses and 63 percent missed AP calculus,” but ‘[a]mong high-income students, only 29 percent missed physics and 21 percent missed calculus.” Across multiple studies, researchers agreed that “science teachers need more training in how to work with students online, use technology tools, and help students engage.”

NCWIT offers a variety of resources and programs that can help educators support students throughout this period of online learning. Explore these ideas and more:

Connect with TECHNOLOchicas. From Q&A sessions about careers in tech to hands-on activities that students can do at home, there are many possibilities when you plan a virtual class visit with a TECHNOLOchicas Ambassador.
Learn from Young Women. This longitudinal study followed a large, diverse sample of women from around the United States to identify the circumstances under which some women persist in computing fields and some do not.
Watch The Color of Our Future. Revisit the first installment of this conversation series to hear from a range of education experts about the experiences of Black girls in K-12 computing education, and learn how teachers can support their success.

Did you know it’s time to interrupt — and recreate — tech workplace cultures?

Have you noticed that the tech industry’s influence on society’s culture is increasingly under the microscope? Even amid acknowledgements of tech’s positive role in helping us cope with COVID through remote work, online commerce, and online schools, the industry is also facing negative heat for everything from democracy-threatening election interference and fake news dissemination to identity hacks and personal privacy concerns. The result has been bipartisan congressional calls for greater regulation and oversight, and a growing international discussion of how to “reign in Big Tech.” The New York Times recently called the situation the “Global Tipping Point.” But, much of this talk about tech’s influence on external worldwide culture, seems to sidestep the growing movement to change the internal culture of tech itself.

Should we be having these conversations together? Might interrupting – and recreating – tech workplace cultures also help address larger societal concerns about the role of tech? We, of course, think the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, we believe that improving and expanding who has influence in tech’s internal culture is the best way to improve tech’s influence on society’s culture.  This involves helping change leaders interrupt everyday biases and inequitable systems in order to create internal cultures with greater diversity, inclusion, innovation, and social responsibility.

For those interested in bringing about this kind of systemic culture change, the NCWIT team of social scientists are spearheading multiple efforts, in partnership with dozens of tech companies—working one team at a time, through internal change leaders empowered with research and well-prepared to swim the stormy seas of organizational change.  Efforts include:

Tech Culture Interrupted Podcast
Whether you’re just getting started or a seasoned change agent, the Tech Culture Interrupted podcast introduces important topics and shares real-world stories from leaders in the tech culture revolution. Subscribe today through your favorite podcast app! Episodes to date have featured:

Kim Vorrath (Vice President of Software Programs at Apple), discussing how her teams worked with NCWIT to acquire skills in interrupting everyday bias
Mary Fairchild (Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at f5), exploring the experience of isolation in tech during the COVID pandemic and its impact on tech team culture
Danny Guillory (Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Dropbox), sharing Dropbox’s use of an NCWIT research-based strategic approach to creating more inclusive cultures
Tracy Stone (from Women @ Intuit), presenting new research being conducted by NCWIT with Intuit support to investigate how power and influence operate on technical teams, who has it, and who doesn’t.
Nancy Phillips and Ryan Heckman (from Rallyday Partners), talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the venture capital world

Inclusive Culture Ambassadors
The NCWIT Intensive Culture Ambassadors change leadership program specializes in development and deployment strategies customized for each company using this powerful approach. The program prepares cohorts of ambassadors to scale culture work throughout an organization. Ambassadors lead cultural exploration sessions about the ways we treat each other at work (consciously and unconsciously). The goal is to build a common language and understanding about inclusive cultures that teams can use to co-identify steps that help them create the kind of workplace culture where all can thrive.
The Tech Inclusion JourneyTM
The Tech inclusion JourneyTM is a powerful and comprehensive, research-based platform that guides change leaders and ambassadors to develop sustained, strategic approaches to interrupting and re-imagining tech culture in ways that produce greater inclusion, innovation, and social responsibility. The TIJ brings together a decade-plus of NCWIT research and experience of working with technology organizations and institutions of higher education.  It is the first of its kind to successfully address the pitfalls of traditional approaches to diversity and inclusion, and utilize whole-system approach to change leadership.

Check out these resources today, and share them with other change leaders. The time is right for us to take advantage of this “global tipping point.” Let’s work together to interrupt and enhance tech’s internal culture, ultimately accelerating its positive impact on society at large.

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