In the News: Ending Salary Negotiations as a Way to Eliminate Gender Bias, One-Third of College STEM Majors Switch Fields Before Graduation

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This newsletter provides a monthly recap of the biggest headlines about women and computing, news about NCWIT, and links to resources to equip you as change leaders for increasing women’s participation in technology. Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.


Women & IT News

Ending Salary Negotiations as a Way to Eliminate Gender Bias

MoneyCircleThumbIn the ongoing challenge to eliminate gender bias in the workforce, especially in the technology field, Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao has taken a new and interesting tack: ending salary negotiations during the hiring process. The goal of the initiative is to avoid rewarding people who are better at negotiating — generally men — with more compensation, thereby providing a more level playing field for all potential hires. A recent Fast Company article explored reaction to Pao’s announcement, which came on the heels of her losing a gender-discrimination lawsuit against venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers last month. Although the individuals interviewed for the article generally applauded Pao’s decision, there remained some skepticism and uncertainty about how easily Reddit will be able to carry out the initiative.

As an example, Vaibhav Mallya, founder of, which provides engineers and tech workers with negotiating and career advice, believes that if Reddit wants to eliminate unfair pay practices it needs transparency, meaning that every new hire needs to be able to see what others in the company are making. “If Reddit makes a single offer, it will be what they feel is fair, but because there’s no transparency, there’s no broadcasting of what actually is going on,” he noted. “I can’t actually trust that. What does fair mean in that context? There’s a lot that needs to be done before general inequity in the landscape can be resolved.”

Another question is what Reddit will do if it finds that pay disparity already exists for the candidate being interviewed. The company will have to go a “step further” in its hiring process and evaluate whether seemingly objective criteria, like past salary, should have an effect on the offer, noted Noreen A. Farrell, executive director at Equal Rights Advocates, a women’s rights advocacy organization based in San Francisco. “If objective criteria closely tied to job qualifications and job performance cannot explain pay differentials between some men and women doing the same job, Reddit should equalize salaries of those employees, through pay or other benefits,” she added.

One-Third of College STEM Majors Switch Fields Before Graduation

A recently released study by RTI International found that although almost a quarter of high-performing students began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a STEM major between 2003 and 2009, nearly a third of them had transferred out of STEM fields by spring of 2009. Xianglei Chen, a research education analyst at RTI, noted, “In light of the nation’s need to build a strong STEM workforce to compete in the global economy, it is important to understand why college students are leaving STEM majors. Our results indicate that students’ intensity of STEM coursework in the first year and their performance in STEM courses may have played an important role in their decision to switch majors.” The study noted a distinction between low-performing students, who left STEM majors because they dropped out of college, and high-performing students, who mostly left to pursue non-STEM majors.

The authors attribute the high degree of STEM attrition to the fact that the students didn’t have a sufficient background in STEM when they entered college. By not building early momentum in STEM coursework, they suggest, students may abandon pursuit of a STEM degree later on, especially if they are not performing well. “An increasing portion of students who leave STEM majors are top performers who might have made valuable additions to the STEM workforce had they stayed in STEM fields,” noted Chen. “Results from this study will be useful for guiding policies to ensure that more students remain in STEM fields.”

NCWIT offers a number of resources to encourage students, particularly women, to stick with their computing education, including the case study titled “How Can Encouragement Increase Persistence in Computing? One Professor’s Approach to Broadening Participation in Computing.”


NCWIT In The News

  • Apple announced that the 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference will take place during the week of June 8th in San Francisco. NCWIT was among 20 STEM organizations chosen to receive scholarships for attending the conference. NCWIT Alliance Members and students who are 13 years of age or older were eligible to apply.

  • NCWIT Entrepreneurial Alliance Member Beneath the Ink appeared on a recent episode of Shark Tank (S6 E25)! Before the episode aired, they sat down with NBC affiliate 9NEWS:

  • 2014 National AiC Award Winner Pooja Chandrashekar earned admission to all eight Ivy League schools, and others:


New Resources

  • BytheNumbersCircleThumbWomen in IT: By the Numbers
    Updated for 2015, NCWIT’s Women in IT: By the Numbers presents the most compelling statistics on women’s participation in IT on a single page.

  • Top 10 Ways Families Can Encourage Girls’ Interest in Computing
    Now available in Spanish, this resource offers 10 ways that you, as a family member, can encourage the girls in your life to study, and have a career in, computer science and related technology fields.

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