2014 was a big year for diversity in computing, a topic which made headlines almost daily. We shared many of these articles via social media, and this newsletter provides a recap of some of the stories that made the biggest splashes on NCWIT Facebook and Twitter. (Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.)
In May, Google became the first of many large technology companies to publicly release its internal diversity data. Soon, other companies followed, including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, and more. The numbers showed what many already assume, that the tech workforce is predominantly male and predominantly white. The public release of the data, which can also be viewed in this infographic from Information is Beautiful, should be seen as an important step, but also a first step. It’s what these companies do to change these statistics that matters for the future of diversity in tech. To read more about one company’s decision to go public, and what they’re doing to improve diversity, check out this NCWIT blog post about SendGrid.
Made With Code
Google’s Made With Code was announced this summer as an effort to bring more girls into computing through fun and innovative coding projects. According to a Silicon Republic article about the program, Made With Code “aims to inspire millions of girls to learn to code and help them to see coding as a means of pursuing their dream careers.” The latest activity invites girls to write code that can animate the lights in a tree outside of the White House. NCWIT was among many supporters in the project, and in a related blog post, one of the winners of NCWIT’s Award for Aspirations in Computing, Josie Lamp, described a light-up tutu that she created using code.
Megan Smith Named U.S. Chief Technology Officer
Megan Smith was appointed U.S. Chief Technology Officer in September, an announcement that turned into one of the most shared NCWIT Facebook posts of 2014. A Washington Post article about Smith cited both her technological skills, as well as her passion for inclusivity in computing, among her many credentials for the role. The article also quoted President Obama who said, “Megan has spent her career leading talented teams and taking cutting-edge technology and innovation initiatives from concept to design to deployment. I am confident that in her new role as America’s Chief Technology Officer, she will put her long record of leadership and exceptional skills to work on behalf of the American people.” Smith spoke at a White House press conference during CSEdWeek in December, where a new NCWIT initiative for Latinas in technology was announced.
Male Allies and Grace Hopper 2014
This year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), which took place in October, was an inspiring event that brought together thousands of technical women. The subject of male advocacy made headlines throughout the event; the remarks of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and reactions to the Male Allies Panel were widely chronicled and ignited passionate conversations about ways that men can advocate for women in the technical workplace. NCWIT’s “Male Advocates and Allies: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology Workplaces” outlines factors that motivate or hinder men in advocating for gender diversity, identifies specific strategies to increase men’s participation in advocacy, and more. NCWIT also has supplemental resources to this report available at http://www.ncwit.org/resources/customcatalog/male-advocates.
Computer Engineer Barbie
On November 17, the Daily Dot published a story about “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer.” The story was one of many to critique the book for reinforcing stereotypes about women in computer science. In particular, the idea that women are only able to come up with ideas and need men to handle the programming. This story prompted numerous responses, including a letter from NCWIT CEO and Co-founder Lucy Sanders. She wrote, “This representation is not simply a misrepresentation, but is harmful to the young girls who love Barbie and read Barbie books, as well as their parents. We suggest that you replace the book with a story showing boys and girls in technical roles, interacting and sharing ideas respectfully, and making equal contributions to design, story, and coding.” In the ensuing days and weeks, NCWIT’s letter was mentioned on GeekWire and WBUR.
To round out the year, NCWIT, the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC), and Google announced the SET Award for Portrayal of a Female in Technology. This award will honor an on-screen female character, and those involved in bringing her to life, that breaks down stereotypes and elevates the conversation around female ingenuity in technology fields. “Portrayal of a Female in Technology” is the first SET Award to showcase a female’s role in entertainment regarding technology. TechRepublic interviewed NCWIT Chief Strategy and Growth Officer Ruthe Farmer about the award and she explained, “What we’re looking for are nominations of portrayals of women in technology that are positive, realistic, and reinforce the idea that this is a place that women can work and be successful, and be considered contributors to society.” You can make a nomination in the comments of this YouTube video.