In the News: NCWIT Headlines (September 2014)

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Headlines from NCWIT

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 in the News

Mirroring and Unconscious Bias

In a recent Mercury News article, Michelle Quinn raised some important questions regarding the trend of tech companies releasing their diversity data. She asked, “Do the similar profiles at each firm mean that no one company is actively discriminating against a certain group?” Quinn argued that it is not “overt discrimination,” but rather unconscious bias that contributes to the lack of diversity. She wrote, “And what often happens, diversity experts say, is what’s called ‘mirroring’ — companies started by white men tend to hire and promote people who look and act like themselves — meaning more white men.” Have you checked out the “NCWIT Checklist for Reducing Unconscious Bias in Job Descriptions/Advertisements“? This tool can help you analyze job ads for subtle biases in language and criteria, and it could be useful for crafting recruiting language for board members as well.

Megan Smith Named U.S. CTO

By far, the most popular NCWIT social media share of the month was a Washington Post article announcing Megan Smith’s appointment as the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. The article cited Smith’s experience in technology and her commitment to inclusiveness. “Before Google, she was the CEO of the online LGBT community PlanetOut. And, she has worked to bring more women in the engineering and technology fields, including through the company’s WomenTechmakers program.” In a related article from Wired, the author Issie Lapowsky wrote, “In all likelihood, Smith’s time will be more than occupied leading this effort to modernize government. That means encouraging more diversity in tech may well become a secondary mission. And yet, having a woman fulfill one of the top roles in tech will likely have its own halo effect.” Join the conversation about this story on Facebook.

Transgender Experience in the Workplace

An article from The New Republic published in late August covered workplace gender dynamics from the perspective of transgender men and women. Author Jessica Nordell wrote, “Because trans people are now staying in the same careers (and sometimes the very same jobs) after they change genders, they are uniquely qualified to discuss the difference between how men and women experience the workplace.” Nordell argued that trans people’s experiences can help “isolate gender as a variable in the real world and watch how it affects a person’s day-to-day experience.”

While there is limited research on this subject, NCWIT has a number of resources about gender diversity in the workplace and specifically unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is an important concept to understand because the barriers encountered by women in tech aren’t always overt. Learning to identify hidden roadblocks will help you hire and retain technical women. NCWIT’s first interactive video resource, “Unconscious Bias and Why It Matters for Women in Tech” is a great tool to get you started on this subject.

NCWIT in the News

Technology and Sexuality

NCWIT Senior Social Scientist Dr. Catherine Ashcraft recently published an article in ‘Learning, Media, and Technology’ entitled “Technology and Sexuality – What’s the Connection?” In the article, Ashcraft argued that those of us interested in increasing girls’ participation in computing need to pay more attention to youth sexualities. She noted, “We often talk about making computing relevant for girls, yet these programs rarely consider addressing sexuality issues — perhaps one of the most relevant topics for youth.” She explored how this results in at least two potential problems. “First, we remain unaware of significant ways sexuality may be thwarting our efforts to increase girls’ participation in technology and how we might improve these efforts. Second, we remain oblivious to how we might use girls’ interest in sexuality as a potentially powerful resource for fostering their interest in computing.”

In addition to this article, NCWIT has a number of resources related to sparking girls’ interest in technology including, “Top 10 Ways to Increase Girls’ Participation in Computing Competitions.”

Women in Computer Science

A recent article published in the News-Gazette profiled the computer science program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, a member of NCWIT’s Academic Alliance. According to the article, “‘This has been a bumper year as far as recruiting women to the freshmen class,’ said Lenny Pitt, a UI computer science professor and director of undergraduate programs. ‘After several years of hovering at or below 11%, the percentage of female undergraduates in computer science at the UI rose to 16.5% this fall.'” Also quoted in the article was NCWIT Senior Research Scientist Lecia Barker who covered some of the challenges of getting more girls and women into the pipeline. Barker said, “Unlike biology and chemistry, computer science (the real science, not how to use apps) is rarely taught in high school. Some good news here is that girls and boys take math at equal rates and are about equally successful. Some bad news is that they often don’t know what to do with their love of math.”

NCWIT Newsletters

NCWIT’s Accepting Applications from Technical Young Women and Educators Who Support Them

In our latest newsletter, we provided detailed information about the 2015 NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing and the 2015 NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Educator Award. Students and educators can apply online no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on November 2, 2014. Find out about criteria, eligibility, and prizes in our newsletter. Don’t forget to help us spread the word!

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