NCWIT 2012 Summit – Workshop, Brenda Allen: Intersectionality/Double Minority

NCWIT 2012 Summit - Workshop, Brenda Allen: Intersectionality/Double Minority
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BRENDA ALLEN: Good afternoon.

AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

BENDA ALLEN: Oh good, you all knew it wasn’t rhetorical. [laughing] So take a look. Is that what a nerd or geek looks like? Yeah, because I am one. And I’m also very pleased to be here to talk with you about Difference Matters: Why Intersections of Identity Are Important for Technology and Technology Organizations. And what I hope during this session is to inspire and inform you and to help you understand why this message is especially important for NCWIT’s mission to increase participation of girls and women in computing and IT, in particular, thinking about educational institutional reform. Now as we move forward I’m going to elaborate regarding definitions of difference and intersectionality. This has been billed as a workshop and whenever I do workshops I really like to reframe them as play shops. So are you all ready to play? [speaking foreign language] Okay. So there will be a question and answer period at the end. And also before then I have… Toward the end I have a list of implications of our time together. But before I list those I’m going to ask you what you think implications are so [speaking foreign language] to find implications? Okay. So let’s get started. Take a look at that picture and as you gaze upon that particular person, I invite you to begin by making a list of words you would describe that person to someone who does not see the photograph. You understand the assignment? Okay. So make a list, begin to make a list within your mind or write it down. I’ll give you just a few seconds. As long a list as possible and it’s okay to speculate somewhat. You have some words in mind? Yes?


BRENDA ALLEN: I need feedback. Alright, so now I want you to find a partner and take about a minute with your partner to share the words that you came up with. Find a partner. Okay please pause. Again these are the kinds of things that I love to do in workshops or play shops, but we have just a limited amount of time together and I wanted to begin with this to ask you to think and feel about how we tend to view ourselves and others. So let me hear from you some of the words that you came up with to describe the person in this photo. Anyone. Yes, here.




BRENDA ALLEN: No nonsense.


BRENDA ALLEN: Introverted.




BRENDA ALLEN: Thinker. Hmm?


BRENDA ALLEN: Confident.


BRENDA ALLEN: Thoughtful.




BRENDA ALLEN: Pensive. So these are words if someone didn’t see this photo, you would say there this is a photo of a person, pensive, thoughtful, all of those things. Did no one…

AUDIENCE MEMBER: African American.

BRENDA ALLEN: Okay. Let me hear it again.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have African American girl.

BRENDA ALLEN: African American girl.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have teenager.

BRENDA ALLEN: Young teenager. Hmm?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Teenager, 12 to 15.

BRENDA ALLEN: Okay, 12 to 15. Yes?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I somehow getting struggle.

BRENDA ALLEN: Struggle, okay.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m getting middle class.

BRENDA ALLEN: Middle class.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Not struggle.

BRENDA ALLEN: Not struggle.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: That’s what I got.

BRENDA ALLEN: Yeah, yeah. So really fascinating that first of all for whatever reason and perhaps it has to do with the first person who said a word. Then people used descriptors that weren’t so much about the person’s embodiment, but more about maybe personality characteristics. Also interesting is then in terms of the particular categories of identity, the words that you use, African American, girl, I think someone said young and also some sense of class based upon the cues that you receive. Well you probably guessed. Same-wa, same-wa. And I was in junior high school around 1962 or 1963. I can’t remember when they took class photos. And at that point I was the only colored girl in all of my classes because we had been tested and tracked according to IQ and according to those exams, of all of the 50% African American, mainly African American students of color and 50% mainly white and those were mainly Jewish kids, there was one colored girl, Brenda J. Allen and one colored boy, Tom Luden. And so I was the eldest of three children. My mom raised us on her own in the projects in Youngstown, Ohio. Projects are low income housing. And as you heard earlier, I loved math, I loved to learn. If you saw I believe it was one of the presenters yesterday, talked about spacial reasoning. I used to love and I still do love taking those tests and I always did extremely well. I also really loved math and I loved learning in general. In addition, I remember very clearly desperately wanting a chemistry set and in fact I called Ma the other day to say do you remember that? I really wanted a chemistry set. She said no, I don’t remember that. I said well why didn’t you get it for me and she said well probably because… In a very serious answer she said probably because I couldn’t figure out why you would want that. And so it was interesting then across my life that I got feedback that I was smart and gifted and some of you for some reason thought you saw it in my photo, but I never really in terms of being in advanced placement, in terms of being in the math classes ahead of time so taking calculus I think and it may not be so unusual nowadays, but back then in terms of seventh and eighth grade doing advanced math. And the main messages that I got in terms of what I should aspire for in terms of a career, can anyone guess?


BRENDA ALLEN: Nurse, teacher, secretary. Okay. And these are probably very similar for many girls, particularly from my social class regardless of race and especially I think the messages that I received with the first one being teacher and by the way teacher for elementary schools students, nothing wrong and bad about that, but interesting in terms of potential for careers. And so I had no role models, no mentors and this was throughout my education in K through 12 as well as even once I finally went to college. And by the way I’m sharing my stories and I’ll be pulling this through our time this afternoon and I’m sharing this not to say woe is me or not to say look what I did, but to point out how some of these issues remain in our society today for a variety of girls and women. And also to invite you to think about how have these issues and how do these issues operate in your life, in your personal life, but also begin to think about or for those of you who are already doing this work, continue to think about how does this matter in terms of the work that you do, in particular thinking about gender reform. So the words that you used actually are pivotal to, most of the words that you use are pivotal to the work that I do on difference and just to be very clear to you, I define difference in a very generic everyday way with difference meaning quite simply ways that human beings vary from one another. And this is different than how some people who study difference view it where oftentimes difference is thought of and written about and people conduct studies of thinking about how people vary from the dominant groups. Okay. But in my case and as well as how I use, I teach difference matters, I have a book. Second edition of my book was recently published on difference matters. And I invite everybody to think about how do these aspects of identity, ways we differ from one another, matter to each and every one of us. So just wanted to clarify that for you. And more specifically, as you’ve heard me begin to use the term, I think of difference in terms of social identity. With social identity… There it is. With the idea of difference equaling specifically social identity. And social identity I define and I’m not the only one who does it. I don’t wanna say it as if it’s just my world. Although in some ways it is. Hmm, I like that. Difference equals social identity. Social identity is one’s sense of one’s self based on being a member of a group. It also refers to one’s sense of another person based on membership in a group. And there are certain characteristics of social identity. For one, as the definition already implied, it’s group oriented. So you think back to some of the ways that you described that darling precocious sweetie pie in the picture as serious, smart, et cetera. Those are characteristics for the most part of individual identity. And social identity is more about being members of particular groups. In addition, the notion of membership is key in thinking about social identity and the notion of membership again perceptual. Either others perceive you’re a member of particular groups and/or you perceive that you are. It’s meaningful to yourself and/or others. Identifiable through labels so the idea of African American for example is a label. Girl is a label. Learned. We made all of these up. We made all of these notions of social identity, particularly the ones we’re talking about, we being human beings in society across time. Certainly they are based on material real things like skin color, like other phenotypes, this wonderful Allen nose, this gorgeous kinky hair. Those are phenotypes in terms of race upon which people put categories and labels and hung lots of other things across time and we learned them and we teach them to one another based on those particular cues. For instance, going back to my photograph, the cues that you used to say I was African American were what?


BRENDA ALLEN: Skin color.


BRENDA ALLEN: Hair. So we look for those kinds of cues and in fact it’s interesting that how we construct these because what happens for many people for whom people can’t readily make some kind of decision and by the way they sometimes make incorrect decisions based on those cues. But then it becomes a matter of people saying to them, what are you because they can’t quite fit that schema I think some of the speakers have spoken about. And we also assign these to one another sometimes with the person who’s being or the groups who are being assigned being willing and sort of agreeing with that and other times not so much. So some of you may know for some persons of Latin descent or persons who identify as Chicano or Chicana that the notion of Hispanic is really not that appealing because that was something that the United States government created as an ethnicity category. So they’re assigned and they’re very much related to the context. So notice I refer to myself as colored. When I was born, on my birth certificate was an N which stood for? No, new being, thank you very much. [laughing] Come on, now. So it was N for Negro and eventually for the most part we referred to ourselves as colored and then there became Afro American, African American, black so it’s very context related in terms of what those labels are and what they mean, who’s assigning them. Finally, these notions of difference are laden with power dynamics and when I talk about power I refer specifically to Foucault’s notion of power which is reciprocal relationships of influencing one another. And I also take a critical approach in terms of power of thinking about oppression, domination, but also thinking about complicity and resistance. And I think most of those are fairly straightforward in terms of understanding them. Just in case this is not part of your repertoire, then what I mean specifically about resistance is ways that people push against power dynamics. What I mean by complicity is ways that people go along and by these I also try not to have any value judgment because many times that’s a way to survive. Many times people don’t know any better in terms of even having an idea that they could resist or how might they resist. So it’s very power laden. More specifically, the difference that matter that I look in terms of social identity because if I go back to that definition of one’s sense of one’s self based on group membership, if I said to you that I am a Miami Heats fan, is that a social identity? Learned, assigned, identifiable label, group membership. Sure it is. That’s a social identity as a fan and with all of these social identities we learn how to perform them. So let’s say go back to me showing a photo of myself, what might I have in a photo of myself that you look at and say whoa, she’s a Miami Heats fan?



BRENDA ALLEN: Jersey, T-shirt and so forth so these similar kind of dynamics operate in terms of when we encounter one another, we infer through a variety of cues our sense of social identity, but what I’m saying now is that there are certain differences that matter more than others because if I asked each of you to make an exhaust… To try to make an exhaustive list of your social identities, be a pretty long list, wouldn’t it? Yeah, it’d be a very long list if you think expansively. But I’m inviting you, in fact I’m telling you. No, I’m inviting you, no I’m telling. I’m inviting you. I’m encouraging you to think about the differences that are particularly salient in the United States and many of them are also salient in the world and I’m doing this so that we can, to really contextualize our time and really think about what NCWIT is trying to accomplish. So these are gender, race, social class, ability, sexuality, age, nationality and religion. And for each of these categories, you think back to the definition of social identity, one’s sense of one’s self or others based on membership, learned, assigned, power laden, context related, then you can see… And also the idea of power dynamics. Then I want you think about how for each of those categories, for one every single one of us in this room could probably readily indicate for each on the list, how we self-identity. So if I asked you what is your social class status, what would you say, Kathryn?


BRENDA ALLEN: Middle class and most of us have ideas of what the options are under each of these categories. Moreover, if you think about where you would be in each of these categories, historically and currently, each category tends to have people who are members of dominant groups and people who are members of non-dominant. What I mean by dominant and non-dominant is those groups whose values, beliefs, expectations and so forth dominate, their way or the highway kind of thing. And then then non-dominate are the ones who tend not to have those kinds of privileges. And again for those of you familiar with critical work understand that this idea of privilege and power is pivotal in thinking about social identity categories. Also interesting however, when you look at all of those social identity categories, most people simultaneously occupy dominant and non-dominant categories. Would you agree?


BRENDA ALLEN: Yeah, so that very few people are the ideal in terms of going down that list and they are members of every single dominant group. Also importantly, very few people would go down that list are members of all of the non-dominant groups. So this speaks to the complexity so when I do this, what does it mean? Complexity. Well that’s one thing it means. It also can mean context. Also can mean communication. These are some of my big ideas. I love that talk. Earlier if you were in the flash talks and I’m pretty sure that most of my students would be able to share with you what my big ideas are. Now that really was a brag moment. I said some of the other wasn’t, but anyway. So understanding that for each of these categories, there’s dominant and non-dominant and also understanding some of the other characteristics of social identity which means they vary across contexts and those contexts can be time, they can be places in the country because at the same time I was that little colored girl in the north, as I grew older and met other little colored girls, we were the same age who came from the south, we could compare notes and have both similar and different experiences from our sense of being now black women. And again as I’m sharing this I invite you to think about how these operate in your lives as well. These then are differences that tend to matter in the United States and as I’ve said, I invite you to think about how what your list would be and also to think about ways that these kinds of things can and do change. So I’ve already talked about how notions of race change across my lifetime and again if you’ve studied this at all, you know that even notions of race in the U.S. Census have changed across time. Those of you fortunate enough to have been on this planet over half a century as I have and if you know census at all, know that some of the early census, first of all it was based on the enumerators, looking at you and checking something off so they got to say who they thought you were in terms of race. And then we fast forward and also at different times there were very few categories. Do you know how many categories there were in the most recent census? To be specific, a gazillion. [laughing] So lots of choices in terms of that. Now does that mean that there weren’t all these potential categories that are now in the census way back then? It does not mean that. It means again it’s back to the point of how these categories get constructed, but also can vary across time and place. Ability status is something that in a blink of an eye can change for every one of us in this room. Age as we move across the life span, the sense of being dominant or non-dominant, belief systems and the world being designed to privilege you or dis-privilege you also can vary. So those are differences that matter that I trust help to explain the whole idea of social identities and how they operate. Now have any of you ever seen a Wordle like this before? Raise your hands, okay. So maybe you know, Wordle is a computer program where you take a group of words and it actually makes this wonderful collage that’s based upon the salient sea and how many times a word has been used. So this is my artificial construction of a Wordle in which I reflected on my sense of myself back at that time, back in the junior high and what things I was aware of in terms of my own identity and looking at those salient social identity categories, gender, race, class, age, ability, nationality, sexuality and religion, this is what I came up with. And so for me the idea… And also as you look at this, notice my point that most of us simultaneously occupy privilege and dis-privileged positions. And I also invite you to think about when you were a teenager, what would your Wordle have looked like along these lines. But if you look closely at mine you can see the idea that heterosexual’s relatively small and I didn’t… Of course I didn’t have the language heterosexual at that time, but it was very clear in terms of some of the things that I was hearing, more in contrast to sexuality as well as expectations about I should be liking boys, et cetera, et cetera as well as a little. Not a little, but some what I now know as homophobic or anti-gay language so I was clear in terms of heterosexuality. In terms of social class, poor or working class. Teenager, student, girl, black and in particular what I wanna highlight for me as a distinction between me and my other colored girlfriends is the notion of being gifted. And also to highlight that as being pivotal to why I’m here today in terms of the kind of career that I’ve had that I’m now a PhD, move through the tenure track to become a full professor, et cetera, et cetera. That it’s because I got messages repeatedly throughout my life that I was gifted and that those kind of messages made me dare to agree to teach a course in Pascal when I never even seen Pascal before to say well I’m smart, I can figure it out. Having had those messages has been pivotal for me. Now why do these notions of difference matter? I suspect that most of you understand it already, but I think it’s and in fact I know it’s really important to specify some of these ideas of persistent inequities. And these inequities matter in general and they matter across all sectors of life in employment, education, housing, healthcare and so forth. They matter to the extent if we go back to that first list or that list of social identity categories, the more you can identify as being a member of a non-dominant group, however many of those you check off from cradle to grave, your life expectancy, your health as well as your quality of life period decrease and these are statistically proven so this is not something that I just made up and so these differences matter. And these notion of these persistent inequities that are based upon ways we are taught to see ourselves and if you’re a member of a non-dominant group, that’s known as internalized oppression or in some ways you believe that the negative things that are said about your particular non-dominant group membership as well as the kind of privileged position that comes from being a member of a dominant group. So various inequities exist and that’s why we should be thinking about different because… And you all have to know this already if you’re here at NCWIT, even if it’s thinking about gender inequities, then you already understand this. So I’m not gonna belabor that particular point. Difference also matters because of population trends and projections. And I know you’ve heard and seen these and yet I want to highlight some of those that again I hope will help to make the point in terms of why we should be looking at intersections and I’m gonna get to intersections in just a moment. Can you all read that? Kinda? So if you take a look at this, these are data that show current, well past, current and projected statistics in the United States in terms of race and ethnicity identity. The first, the darkest bar is 1980, then 2005, then 2050 projected and notice that in terms of white, Hispanic, black and Asian, they didn’t include Native American here, but notice and again you’ve heard it, but I think seeing it graphically really helps to make the point in terms of the differences that already exist and that are predicted across those racial and ethnic groups. In addition, differences in terms of child population and I’m focusing on child population momentarily because think about implications for education, for K through 12 education. This is what the child population was, is and will be in terms of race. In addition, working age population. You see the trend here in terms of the kinds of things I’m hoping to clarify and again you see what is predicted to happen. Now if you combine this racial ethnic data and by the way I struggle to find data like this because of how the United States Census and therefore the government or the government and therefore the Census. I guess it could go either way. But how they designate race and ethnicity differently that in some ways can be confusing because you can be Hispanic non-white, Hispanic white, Hispanic et cetera so they’re blending race and ethnicity in a particular way. Fortunately the Pew Research Hispanic Center has put the data together in a way that we can readily see what these numbers look like and it’s important to see what numbers look like and this is an issue actually in terms of implications that I think is key as we move forward in this work. But looking at those three… Looking at population, children, child age and working age and blending, if you combine these data, these projections with what happens in terms of sex in the United States and by sex I mean biological identity. What happens is historically and currently the trends show the ratio of males to females is about 97% to one and you probably know then that and across the lifespan from infant mortality all the way to senior citizen elderly then there tend to be more women than men period. Now there are some fluctuations within racial and ethnic groups, but I don’t wanna fine tune it just that much. But I just wanna make the point if we look at these statistics in terms of what’s going on across races and ethnicities, we blend those in terms of highlighting girls and women. Then you see in terms of women of color as well as contrasted with white women in terms of the available, the population, the pool, whatever we wanna call it, in terms of IT. And again I trust that you understand these issues already, but I hope seeing this really depicts how significant it is to really begin or continue to try to understand some of the differences, some of the concerns in terms of girls and women of color for intersectionality. Yes?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don’t often see and I wish I saw more mixed race representative in these charts.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: Mixed race children. It’s constantly a problem in school at the moment. I have to think that these called black, are these called Asian, are these called Hispanic are not truly, purely black and Hispanic.

BRENDA ALLEN: I think that’s an excellent point and it also speaks to the complexities of thinking about social identities. To that I would add however that for many of those persons that society will tend to categorize and treat them and respond to them in terms of expectations and so the whiter a person looks regardless of how they self-identity, the more colored if you will a person looks, they will tend to experience, people will tend to experience and respond to them in particular ways. In actuality, I don’t think there’s any pure anything left on earth. Well maybe somewhere on earth in terms of someone being 100% Caucasian or 100% whatever these categories are. So I agree with you and that’s also something that sometimes confounds trying to get data, trying to justify funding or focusing so yeah, complex. So one approach to thinking about these issues of and again I’m highlighting race and sex or race and gender just as an example as well as something that clearly there’s enough data, there’s enough concern, there’s enough precedent in IT to think about intersections of race and gender. And one approach to trying to study, one approach of trying to develop practices, policy and so forth is through intersectionality theory that I just wanna talk with you very briefly about and by the way most of these concepts are concepts that actually trying to cover them in about 45 minutes in order to have time for a discussion is a phenomenal challenge and I trust that and I also have a bibliography and these slides will, I can make them available to you. But anyway, intersectionality is a really fascinating concept that attempts to address the kind of issues we’re talking about today. Intersectionality is a feminist sociological theory that was first highlighted by critical legal scholar Kimberly Crenshaw. And in particular what intersectionality strives to do is examine how axes of identity interact with one another. So looking at how gender, race, class, ability and so forth, how do these interact on multiple and sometimes simultaneous levels and that how they contribute to systematic inequality. So the point here is that singling out gender or singling out race does not allow for the compound kinds of potential effects of gender and race at the same time. This notion of intersectionality as Crenshaw conceived it and by the way she was not the first person to think and talk about and call for more research on race and gender. Feminist scholars of color and many of their white allies had begun to challenge these issues long before in terms of how early feminist studies really seemed to be focusing primarily on middle class white women and early work on race and civil rights really tended to focus primarily on black men’s issues. And so there was the notion then of the potential for an African American woman or any woman of color to be counted if you will among women and to be counted among people of color, but never or very rarely seeming to be foregrounded, for someone to be seeming to be concerned about particular issues. So it was based on this lawsuit that was brought before General Motors by a group of black women who contended that they had experienced sex and race discrimination at the same time. And they drew the lawsuit based on title seven which is a civil rights which says you can’t discriminate against somebody because of and then it lists categories and it says or race, gender or. So the court basically denied these women’s complaints and they said specifically, this is actually worth reading the summary judgment of DeGraffenreid versus GM. Summary judgment, the court dismissed on the merits of the sex discrimination claims and dismissed without prejudice the claim charging racial discrimination. Ruling that a complaint such as this one under title seven might state either a causive action for race discrimination, sex discrimination or alternatively either, but not a combination of both. The plaintiffs are clearly entitled to a remedy if they have been discriminated against. However they should not be allowed to combine statutory remedies to create a new “super remedy” which would give them relief beyond what the drafters of relevant statutes intended. And by the way some of these legal battles persist because what was going on at GM was they were hiring women, white women. They were hiring men, black men. Excuse me, they were hiring people of color, black men. And interesting there is research and statistics on occupational segregation. So you might begin to imagine where the black men were working and where the white women were working, but they were working so those charges from the black women were ruled null and void. However this notion of intersectionality is not limited just to black women. That indeed and I was fortunate to be at a presentation by Dr. Crenshaw recently in which she said that looking at notions of intersections of identity it’s important to think about what you’re interested in and what you’re seeking to accomplish so that you might want to look at ability, how ability status intersects with gender. Or you might wanna look at how sexuality or sexual orientation. So it just depends on what you’re seeking to understand so it’s not limited to black women and yet it’s significant that it initiated from this particular kind of case as well as comparable concerns about gender equity from the feminist movement and from the civil rights movement in the United States. There are multiple depictions of this notion of intersectionality and I’m sure you’ve seen some of them. So there may be the two overlapping circles and so with those it’s sort of like this in between is the intersecting of the race and gender. That just doesn’t feel adequate for me because it’s like so what’s going on over here and what’s going on in this one. There’s also the idea of an actual intersection, a street intersection that Dr. Crenshaw depicts as imagine that this is race discrimination street and this is gender discrimination street and a black woman is crossing that intersection and she gets hit by something and the race ambulance rushes to the scene to say okay, oh, wait a minute, this is right here. I can’t tell if it’s a race thing so that ambulance says no, I can’t help you. Then the sex ambulance in terms of A comes to the scene and says uh, not so sure, you’re right here in this, in the intersection so I’m not sure, especially if she says it was both. So I think that’s a pretty vivid if not violent kind of depiction of this notion of intersections. However I recently found one. And also language is used for thinking about women, in particular thinking about women who occupy non-dominant racial positions so the words like double jeopardy evolved into multiple jeopardy and also when I was recruited to the University of Colorado Boulder and I was a twofer. Anyone know that one? So they could check off that they hired a woman and they hired a person of color and interestingly enough we’re back to that idea of and yet where am I in any of these kinds of things to try to identity myself with women’s issues, to identity myself with race issues, to be subjected to this notion of do I really belong, do I really have allegiance to either group has been an interesting challenge throughout my life. Specific while I was at CU Boulder, a black student athlete was accused of raping a white female student and some women’s groups and by the way some of those women’s groups were diverse in terms of racial composition, but some of the women’s groups wanted me to rally with them. Some of the black student groups wanted me to rally with them. And I just sat that one out because it was too challenging to figure out how to align. And that just gives you one example the kinds of complexities that can happen to any of us at the intersections of race and gender. I found something in the literature that I think depicts these pretty nicely. So if we begin with the idea that often happens with separate axes and we see it so much in so much of the literature in information technology which talks about the need to look at and to have reform for women and for underrepresented minorities. So it’s separating the two in a particular way and if we look at the notion of race as the green circle and gender as the yellow, what I find as an interesting depiction is one that actually and it’s called gReAnCdEer. No, actually what this does is the yellow and the blue become a green and so it still maintains some of the qualities and it’s still the race and the gender is there intersecting with one another so it’s the same and yet it’s different if that makes any sense. So understanding then and I wanna stress this point that this operates for every single one of us. So everyone in the room, you identity your race, you identity your gender. You have been socialized whether explicitly or not of how to enact that combination, how to perform that particular combination and certainly there are others, but I would be… And with that I believe that many of us who identity as women, there are probably similar messages we’ve gotten as women as a whole and there are also probably different messages that you could point to because you are a blank, fill in the blank race woman. So intersectionality and IT, interestingly there’s a wonderful precedent within intersectionality studies for IT that some of you may be aware of which a scholar named Shirley Malcolm and… Shirley Malcolm. I have the other names. Malcolm, Hall and Brown actually wrote a report for NSF in which they looked at… In 1976 and they looked at for the American Association for the Advancement of Science called the Double Bind, the price of being a minority woman in science because they were aware that struggles for scientists were greater for women of color than for white women or for men of color at the graduate level. And that also women of color severely underrepresented across all sites of the career path which that persists and that female minority graduate students were outpaced by their minority male counterparts. So and statistics also showed then and now that many women of color have been and continue to be stuck at junior level positions, not advancing to leadership positions at the same pace as their male and white female counterparts. More specifically data from the U.S. labor department from 2009 show that among women in IT professions, 1.5% are Hispanic women, 2% are black or African American women, 4% are Asian women and 18% are white women. And as I share these statistics and also talk about this issue in general, please be very clear that this is not meant to pit anyone against one another even as those are the kind of dynamics that often occur and I’ll share it a little bit later in terms of implications of this talk. We need to avoid diversity olympics. You know what those are? We’re sort of like we win the gold medal for being the most oppressed because that can tend to divide even more. But it’s important to look at these statistics and begin to think about if we really do want to advance girls and women in IT, then we’ve got to try to understand better some of these dynamics. We’ve got to have practices and policies and even quite simply ways of interacting with one another that speak to these and respect these kinds of differences and also begin to look for similarities rather than assuming that we’re all heterogeneous. I’m going to pass on this one for now just because of time, but I’ll say very briefly that this is from a study called the Tilted Playing Field written by the Level Playing Field Institute. Fascinating, wonderful study if you haven’t seen it which looks at the notion of underrepresented people of color, non-underrepresented interesting people of color. Males, females, but it looks at them in separate categories as you can see on those bars and yet all of their statistics… And what they did was some extensive survey in IT companies and asked these people about their attitudes towards such things as diversity as recruiting and retaining for diversity, of how well they thought the culture of their organizations were diverse, et cetera, et cetera. And many of the differences that they found because they separated them in terms of these categories were somewhat frustrating for me because for instance the idea of thinking that they’re exclusionary cliques, statistically significant for women, statistically significant for people of color or what I wanted to know is what does that look like and I think it would be helpful to know how does that work in particular let’s say for Latinas or certainly just for underrepresented women of color who wanna just take it to that level. But frequently this is how data are displayed and one has to kind of assume or infer from them. Other research, the good news is there’s a wealth of research in IT that has looked at these issues and that occasionally is very explicit about thinking about intersectionality and thinking about intersectionality usually from the standpoint of how does this work in terms of women of color. So I talked earlier about the Double Bind. There’s also the Tilted Playing Field that I mentioned. Jane Margolis’s book on Stuck in the Shallow End if you’re not familiar with that, excellent resource in terms of looking at students in high school, three high schools in L.A., in particular looking at racial issues, but combining those with sex and social class. In addition, women dominate CS in Malaysia. Fascinating study if you don’t know about what’s going on in Malaysia in terms of the high numbers of women who go into IT and those authors argue for a cross-cultural look at these issues as well as intersection. And they decry the western bias of most of the research on gender in IT. Another one is that Roli Varma did and I’m pleased that some of these are my colleagues in the social science advisory board here at NCWIT. So she looked at college students attitudes toward it. Why are there so few women in computer science? And she actually looked to see what’s some of the differences where she had hypotheses based on gender, race and gender/race combinations and she found that in terms of attitudes toward or rationale, why do students think there’s so few women in computer science. It turns out that among women there were significant differences among women by race so white women felt differently than Latinas that felt differently. You get what I’m saying. And yet among all males they were basically in agreement. There were no statistically significant differences. Now I am not trying to… These are just some little snapshots. Don’t have time to go in depth with any of these. Not necessarily saying that these are it. I hope that there are more, but just to make the point that we have some research that’s already been done that’s begun to look at these issues and that actually could be places for beginning. And finally, Double Bind: The Next Generation is the foreword to a special issue of Harvard Educational Review in which Shirley Malcolm and her daughter are reflect upon from the 30 years. Is that right, 30 years from 197… 35 years. 30, yes. I said I was good at math. I need to demonstrate it, right? From 1976 to 2011 is what kind of progress have we made and they make some fascinating conclusions in terms of figuring that there’s some progress in terms of K12 and how girls are socialized. They think there’s some, but they think they also point to persistent inequities, systemic issues in too many places in higher education, in industry and so forth. People will nod and say this is something we should be working on, but have not. That does no justice at all to the argument that they make in some of the phenomenal articles that are also in that issue that talk about Double Bind: The Next Generation. There are some promising practices that I don’t even wanna tell you one or two because it doesn’t do justice. You may see me later or perhaps what I’ll do is elaborate for this particular slide and if you ask me for slides and I’ll have the references there. So we’re to implications. Or as I like to say in my class so what. So what with all of this stuff and what if anything should we or could we do. What do any of you see, especially whether from your particular position in terms of what you’re doing and why you’re here at NCWIT or from your own personal experiences or both of them? Yes, ma’am?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I think IT in particular is a gilded profession and all this research is… I know it’s NCWIT.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: But one out of three people in this world is either Indian or Chinese.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: And of all the professions, IT is one where you really have to think globally.

BRENDA ALLEN: Excellent, I agree. And I think that… I referenced that notion of Malaysia and of course they talk about some complexities there, but at least someone has thought about it and they critique the tendency for this kind of western, in particular U.S. approach and your point as well taken, if we look at statistics, we look globally, to just think about how these issues operate. Thank you. Yes?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: So I just wanted to add.

BRENDA ALLEN: Yes, please.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We tend to just look at racial barriers in the U.S., but what Africans in Africa. That’s a huge economy that’s about Africa.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: I just became a resident a few months ago. Before that I was an alien, I had an alien card. It is in some sense the modern day… Indentured servant.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: So I really think people should be able to move around. People that aren’t… Or have the inclination should be able to move around the world to pursue opportunities just as easily as people with opportunities can move cattle around to pursue people with our opportunities in order to get cheap labor or outsource. Why if people are companies and companies are people, why can’t they move around the world equally well?

BRENDA ALLEN: I agree, I agree, thank you. That’s such an important perspective that expands as well as deepens and invites us always to think about who are we trying to serve and why and what really matters to us ultimately and those are decisions we have to make individually, but also in organizations that are about reform. Thank you. Other implications? Yes?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Something you said earlier made me think about thinking about how we vary from each other, not from a dominant group and continuing that line of reasoning into our research is I think a key place where this needs to go.

BRENDA ALLEN: Excellent, thank you very much. And because we’re coming close to time, I may not have much for Q&A. I just wanna quickly roll through these. Basically the point especially for those of us who are doing work in terms of gender is to really think, be thoughtful and heartfelt about these different intersections of identity across the ones that I mentioned as well as to be mindful of our own biases along these lines and in particular in addition to the notion of global perspectives. In addition to the notion of thinking about post colonial concerns, of also thinking about other kinds of biases that our research tends to be class biased, tends to be looking primarily at leadership positions for instance, tends to come from more of a middle class position in terms of thinking about IT, encompasses lots of different kinds of potential occupations and jobs and so forth. And also mindful of our biases about other bodies, other people regardless of who we are. As you heard from the research and you probably already knew, all of us are biased against other people and sometimes we harbor those biases about ourselves. Widen the scope of our analysis and I’ve made that point. Foster and model alliances. I think this is so key as especially in our workplaces whatever those might be as we work with girls and women is to really foster alliances that in addition to having particular programs and so forth that are designed with let’s say in terms of intersections looking at girls and women of color, I think those are important and we should be looking at alliances that involve members of all racial ethnic groups if we’re looking just at race and gender for now and thinking about modeling those. Report relevant data. Minimally give me some numbers. It doesn’t even have to necessarily have to be some sophisticated analysis, but to help to begin to tease out these issues as we’re doing variety of research, to look at the numbers. So it’s not just here are people of color and here are women and even dividing those in kind of predictable ways. Getting a little more complex along those. Consulting sister disciplines. A lot of this work in other disciplines has been done. We don’t have to start at the beginning so occupational psychology for example, some women studies programs, some programs in international studies and so forth, law. Critical race theory provides a lot of resources. Collaborate across disciplines. I was intrigued to see how much of, how much I could contribute based on my work in organizational communication in identities to this conversation. I hadn’t really thought about it before. And learn from one another. Invite, I would love to have a conversation with you. What is your name?


BRENDA ALLEN: Palivi, have a conversation with you about what it’s been like for you so that I can learn more about these issues for as I continue to do work, as I continue to think about these issues. And what often happens is especially in a majority, it’s called a co-cultural conversation in my discipline, across a non-dominant and a dominant group member is a non-dominant woman will say well this kinda thing happened to me and a dominant group woman will say oh, it happened to me too. It’s not a big deal. But rather to try to understand that there may be something you don’t quite understand. And as we think about these implications, I think it’s important to reflect upon then the whole premise of this talk and to go back to what I shared with you about being that little girl who was so inquisitive and cared about math and… Actually I’m a geek. Anytime there’s a new technology I’m one of the early adopters. I’ve done other things related to computers with no training and so forth. And again not to brag on myself, but I can’t help but reflect as I think about the kinds of policies, practices, programs and ways of being in the world that I would love to see us implement where we began or we continue to think about intersectionality, if I’d had the advantage of some of those kinds of experiences, I might not be standing here before you talking about intersectionalities. Rather I might have been the CEO and founder of a software engineering company that in my fantasy world is called Sapphware and consequently would also be standing before you. Oh, promising practice. [laughing] Thank you. [laughing] [applauds]

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