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.
New NCWIT Study Outlines Roadmap for Bringing More Girls Into Tech
A six-year study of young women participating in NCWIT Aspirations in Computing leads to practical action items for those with a vested interest in the future of the technology industry.
In a recent Forbes article written by NCWIT K-12 Alliance Member TechGirlz Founder Tracey Welson-Rossman, NCWIT Director of Evaluation and Senior Research Scientist Wendy DuBow discusses key findings from one of the few longitudinal, pervasive studies of girls and women in computing, conducted by NCWIT. Survey participants were “drawn from a database of young women in the U.S. who had either won the Aspirations in Computing Award between 2007-08 or those who registered on the website between 2009-13 but may not have won the award” — spanning women from high school, through college, and into early career who were from all over the country and range in computing experiences.
“DuBow said the study sought to identify which variables in girls’ high school computing experiences best predicted their persistence in computer science (CS) and technology-related majors three years later. The survey asked girls about their interest and confidence in computing and their intentions to learn programming and other technologies. It also asked about social support and girls’ experiences with CS Advanced Placement (AP) exam, out of school activities, and other related computer experiences.”
The key takeaways from the study identify important factors in ensuring a young woman’s persistence in computing. For example:
Encouragement from teachers and parents is vital to providing girls with the support and reinforcement that will help sustain their interest. As cliché as it sounds, even the smallest “you can do it” goes a long way in motivating young women and girls to learn computer science. Bridge the gap by encouraging young women and girls from a “growth mindset,” supporting all aspects of the learning process, including success and failure. Get more tips on practicing encouragement in “Bridging the Encouragement Gap in Computing,” an NCWIT resource.
Teach classes in an inclusive way that resonates with female students. As recommended by NCWIT Extension Services, use everyday examples, meaningful assignments, and relevant courses; or use teaching strategies to keep students engaged and learning together. Find useful NCWIT resources for executing these recommendations and more: www.ncwit.org/recruit-and-retain-strategically.
It’s vital that women in technology or those with technology interests serve as mentors and role models for girls. As covered in “Women in Tech: The Facts,” a report from NCWIT, technical women identify isolation and a lack of mentorship or sponsorship as one of the key barriers to their retention and advancement. Managers can have a profound impact on reducing isolation by recommending or functioning as mentors.
Mentors help provide strategies, advise, and increase employee confidence and empower their mentees. Mentoring programs should be made available to all employees, not just women or underrepresented groups. When creating programs, provide access to a diverse range of mentors—mentors who are both similar and different from the employee from all levels of the organization. Use “Mentoring-in-a-Box,” developed by NCWIT in collaboration with the AnitaB.org, to help you start and sustain a purposeful and rewarding mentoring relationship.
NCWIT Aspirations in Computing helps to address barriers in women’s participation. Technology too often has a culture of invisibility, otherness, self-doubt, and closed doors. AiC program elements turn barriers into possibilities by offering exclusive awards, scholarships, internships, and community — building women’s leadership, technical, and entrepreneurial skills. (Find out more about AiC program elements.)