In the News: Missteps and Myths About Diversity in the Technology Industry, 14 Computing-related Activities to Do From Home, and More
March 31, 2020
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.
On March 6, 2020, the Denver ABC News affiliate, ABC-7, shared a piece on women in technology that featured NCWIT AspireIT Program Coordinator Tanner Bergamo and NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Community Member and AspireIT Program Leader Maya Hunter. Maya shared how her program, Huskie Technopreneurs, is getting girls excited about coding, and Tanner explained why it’s important to let kids from underrepresented groups know that a wide range of computing careers are available to them.
Snapshot: Women’s representation in computing jobs today hovers at around 20 percent, after having reached its all-time zenith in the mid-1980s at almost 40 percent. Looking at women in leadership roles, it is even less. And, if applying an intersectional lens, black and Latina women are in the single digits.
The tech industry has struggled and failed to bring those numbers back up for 30 years. Part of the problem is that the side business of diversity and inclusion is mired with misapprehensions and myths about how to solve, or even define, the challenge of women’s underrepresentation. Let social science shine some much needed light on the issue, replacing deceptive nonsense with research-based approaches and tips. This is how to set the stage for success, and sustain it, for years to come.
Read the full article, written by NCWIT Research Scientist Brad McLain, online.
NCWIT announced new digital skills training opportunities available to girls and women across Michigan. Detroit is the second location added to NCWIT Regional Digital Skills Initiatives, an effort made possible by a $4.1 million grant from Cognizant U.S. Foundation.
In honor of Black History Month (February 2020) and Women’s History Month (March 2020), NCWIT celebrates the contributions of black women and girls in computing by hosting a three-part virtual chat: “The Color of Our Future: An Online Conversation Series on the Empowerment and Inclusion of Black Women & Girls in Tech.” The series explores black girls in K-12, black women in postsecondary computing education, and black women in the tech workforce.
This resource, co-branded by the six founding PACE (Partnership for Advancing Computing Education) organizations, explains how computing interests and talents line up with different undergraduate courses of study and the careers that follow.
As COVID-19 has led schools across the country to transition to at-home learning, educators, parents, and caregivers are on the lookout for accessible activities to keep kids’ minds active and engaged. Luckily, there are many ways to translate computing education from the classroom to the home setting. Below is a sampling of ways that adults — regardless of skill level — can help K-12 students continue to explore pathways to tech careers and grow computational skills. These ideas aren’t just for kids, though. Parents and educators who want to learn something new can also get in on the action!
Just because you’re staying home, doesn’t mean your outfits need to be boring. Why not experiment with adding some flashing lights and music to your look? The E-Textiles-in-a-Box resource includes detailed instructions for four lessons that are designed to introduce the basics of programmable fabric crafts. Once you’ve mastered them, then you can let your imagination run wild.
This interactive video leads the viewer through a series of psychological experiments in order to illustrate what unconscious bias is and why it matters for women in technology. Get your household together to watch the video, and talk about your responses to each experiment as you go along.
Computational thinking, or understanding the ways that computers “think” and solve problems, is a vital part of any computing curriculum — and it’s something students can learn without even turning on the computer. The resource Computer Science-in-a-Box: Unplug Your Curriculum contains multiple activities that teach concepts like binary counting, logic, and algorithms.
If you’re looking for a deep dive into computing topics or you’d like to develop skills you can use in your career, check out NCWIT K-12 Alliance Member Khan Academy. On this site, you’ll find free courses for beginning and advanced learners on topics like web design, animation, data analysis, and much more. Students can even use this site to get a jump on AP classes or prep for the exam!
Had enough screen time for one day? Take a book break. Picture books celebrating girls and women in computing can spark conversations about careers in technology and show kids of all genders that women can be computer scientists and engineers, too. Try this picture book adaptation of Hidden Figures or the Hello, Ruby series, or browse your library’s website for titles you can download for free.
For those who like to put things together (and take things apart), Maker Shed offers kits containing everything you need to complete a variety of hands-on projects. You can build an adorable robot out of a toothbrush, launch a rocket using compressed air, and much more.
Looking for some inspirational and uplifting content that you can watch as a family? Browse the TECHNOLOchicas.org website for on-demand videos. You can learn about a wide range of computing career opportunities while getting to know real-life Latinas in tech with diverse backgrounds, each of whom is pursuing her dreams in her own unique way.
Kodable is an online educational tool designed especially for younger learners. With curricula for ages four to seven and eight to ten, kids can explore coding basics and critical thinking skills even before they can read. Kodable is also putting together a new library of video tutorials, guides, and lesson plans to support parents and educators who are currently creating content for home learning due to school closures.
Scratch is a free online platform that uses block coding to teach kids, teens, and adults how to create computer animation. Developed by NCWIT Academic Alliance Member MIT’s Media Lab, Scratch lets users design and share their own interactive stories and games. Try collaborating on an animated video with your family, or hold a mini film festival and cheer for each other’s productions.
Even when kids are stuck at home, they can still make new friends and even find a role model through platforms like FabFems, which connects middle school, high school, and college women with women in STEM careers. This is the perfect time to have students strike up a correspondence and ask their burning questions about what their dream job is like in real life. Adults can also sign up to be role models and share their knowledge and experience with girls who are interested in STEM.
Having the whole family at home together can provide an opportunity for important conversations about your kids’ educational goals and dream careers. If they’re interested in tech, but aren’t sure what they want to focus on, you can use this NCWIT resource to explore how different passions line up with different areas of study within the computing field.
Research shows that explicit encouragement from parents or teachers is a major factor in many girls’ decisions about whether to pursue computing classes or not. You can make a difference by giving kids encouraging feedback while they’re learning at home. Reinforce the message that coding gets easier with practice, and spend some time researching tech careers with your kids or your students so they can better visualize themselves in professional roles. This NCWIT resource has more information about the value of encouragement from adult influencers.
Join us for a virtual experience — a comprehensive series of conversations, Q&As, on-demand videos, and more where you can fully immerse yourself in research-based recommendations and peer-to-peer discussions to further your efforts in creating inclusive cultures.
Registration will open soon. You can expect more details in the coming weeks; we look forward to connecting with you from wherever you are.