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.
Introducing re:think, a thought-leadership magazine from NCWIT that advocates for a more diverse, equal, and inclusive technology industry. Gain insights on inclusion from experts who guide our shifting culture, from technologists whose innovations undoubtedly impact our daily lives, and from change leaders who use their positions of influence to reveal the potential in everyone. It’s time to re:imagine the parts each of us play in creating a better future.
Explore the inaugural issue in full screen mode online, or download a PDF, available at www.ncwit.org/rethink.
Linux Foundation and NCWIT Release Free Training Course on Diversity in Open Source
“The research is clear: a variety of cultural factors and implicit biases prevent many people from meaningful participation in technology cultures,” said Dr. Catherine Ashcraft, Director of Research, NCWIT. “The practices we suggest in the course are intended to address these multiple biases and make the open source community a more inclusive place where currently underrepresented groups are able to thrive and make meaningful contributions to future technical innovations.”
Resources that Support Educators and Benefit Their Students
“For over 10 years, CSTA and the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) have collaborated on a variety of projects and initiatives in support of computer science education for all students in the United States. Teachers are back ‘in’ the classrooms, and while we navigate uncharted waters, we must remain intentional in the way we support and recruit students who are historically underrepresented in computing fields. As the school year progresses, NCWIT remains committed to supporting the educators who influence and reach students, day after day.”
Read the full article by NCWIT K-12 Alliance and TECHNOLOchicas Director Jannie Fernandez online.
NCWIT provides these tools in the hopes that you will find them useful as a starting point for your own evaluations. Along with survey questions, there are interview and observation protocols. Some of the survey instruments have been validated in particular settings, and others just field-tested. Ideally, you will hire a professional evaluator to work with you, but when that is not possible, you can move forward with these tools yourself.
Did you know that inclusive design processes can help correct for unconscious bias in tech product development?
When tech products are designed by people with very similar backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences, the end results tend to reproduce their builders’ unconscious biases. This often leads to innovations that work less well for some groups than for others, or technology that reinforces systemic discrimination. In this Harvard Business Review article, Felix Chang gathers insights from “design and tech leaders with experience at organizations ranging from Microsoft to Airbnb about actions that any product leader or team can take to create more inclusive products and services.” An important first step in inclusive design, he suggests, is to build with, rather than for, diverse communities. For example, Microsoft Devices Inclusive Lead Bryce Johnson advises designers to “spend some time reflecting on your product team’s biases, then identify and build relationships with people who are traditionally excluded from the product development process. Trust their knowledge, lived experiences, and perspectives, and use it to direct product strategy and development.”
In fact, studies find that there are numerous business benefits to building diversity into the design process. This recent blog post by NCWIT Social Scientists Brad McLain and Catherine Ashcraft reviews research showing that team diversity is a major driver of tech innovation. The authors emphasize, however, that it’s not enough to simply assemble a diverse team. “In order to reap the innovative potential of that diversity,” they write, “leaders must activate those different viewpoints and life experiences and encourage influence for ALL team members” by fostering an inclusive workplace culture.
Did you know that CSTA has resources to help educators teach online?
As the pandemic continues to evolve, many educators are finding themselves switching back and forth between virtual and in-person classes – sometimes with little time to prepare. NCWIT K-12 Alliance Member CSTA has put together an extensive collection of resources to support educators who are navigating the challenges of teaching in the time of COVID-19. Organized by categories, this curated selection includes curriculum materials and lesson ideas for bringing computing instruction online; resources for teaching students about topics related to the pandemic; and a special section on self-care for educators themselves.
Educators can also find a collection of ready-to-use activities for teaching computational thinking skills in the NCWIT resource, Computer Science in a Box: Unplug Your Curriculum. Designed for use with students ages 9 to 14, these participatory lessons explain how computers work while addressing critical mathematics and science concepts such as number systems, algorithms, variables, and logic.
Looking for other ideas on how to help students make the connection between computer science and their own lives? The NCWIT resource How Do You Introduce Computing in an Engaging Way? offers several case studies in which teachers model algorithmic thinking while also calling on students’ existing knowledge or interests, a practice which can help students stay engaged in coding classes, even if they don’t have prior programming knowledge.
Did you know that “gatekeeper” courses disproportionately impact students from marginalized groups?
An article by Celia Henry Arnaud in Chemical & Engineering News investigated the ways “weed-out” or “gatekeeper” courses contribute to systemic inequality within STEM fields. Required introductory classes with inflated fail rates prevent many students from advancing toward a STEM degree or career, and these roadblocks disproportionately impact “marginalized groups [that] are more likely than other students to have attended high schools where advanced math and science classes weren’t offered.” The article also covered numerous positive interventions that STEM faculty and departments have developed to mitigate this effect, such as designing true entry-level courses, fostering active and cooperative learning, and offering additional academic support for high-risk students.
The impact of gatekeeper courses as a barrier to participation was one topic addressed in The Color Of Our Future: Black Women in Postsecondary Computing Education, a panel discussion that took place earlier this year as part of a series of conversations hosted by NCWIT. This summary highlights key takeaways about the specific challenges faced by Black women as both college students and faculty, as well as recommendations for how academic institutions can better support Black women in computing programs.
Curriculum design is a key element when it comes to developing computing programs where students with diverse backgrounds and experiences can thrive. This NCWIT resource collection offers several approaches that can improve recruitment and retention rates for students from marginalized groups. Faculty and administrators who are interested in exploring what action steps they can take to make their departments more inclusive can also access the free, self-paced online course, NCWIT 101: Introduction to Diversifying Undergraduate Computing Programs.
Looking for a meaningful and convenient way to contribute toward your corporate volunteer hours? Volunteer to review Award for AiC applications. NCWIT receives thousands of applications each year, and hundreds of volunteers are needed to identify outstanding, aspirational technologists by sharing their insight into the world of computing. Sign up now, and download this flyer to share the opportunity to volunteer with colleagues and peers!