Conversations for Change: Tech Culture Interrupted

As the old adage goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In this session, join NCWIT CEO and Co-founder Lucy Sanders as she explores ways to avoid critical mistakes of past diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Lucy will also highlight an exciting, new research-based approach for creating sustainable inclusive technical cultures — an approach that capitalizes on NCWIT’s decade-plus research and work with industry partners in this arena. This approach, called the Tech Inclusion Journey, will help both academic and industry organizations implement strategic efforts for creating technical cultures that enhance innovation and foster environments where all employees, faculty, and students thrive.


BRAD: Hello, everybody! And welcome to the National Center for Women and IT — what we like to call NCWIT — Conversation for Change series. My name is Dr. Brad McLain, and I am a Senior Social Scientist and the Director of Corporate Research here at NCWIT, and your host for today’s talk. Thank you for being here, and thank you to all our sponsors and members who made this series possible, as well as our behind the scene magic makers at NCWIT — the small Army of people who make these series go smoothly. Now before we get going, just a quick note, this was scheduled to be our final conversation in the series, but we have a surprise announcement for you about a special encore session and a very special guest that we are adding to the schedule. Dr. Jane Goodall will be our final Conversations for Change guest coming up in just a few days. So, stay tuned for all the details at the end of today’s talk so you can get that on your calendar.

Now, on to the business at hand. We’ve got a great one for you today entitled, “Tech Culture Interrupted: The Road to Systemic Sustainable Change”. The first part of today’s talk is a presentation by NCWIT’s CEO and co-founder, Lucy Sanders. Later, we’ll open it up for a panel discussion and your questions. So, as we go along, please post your questions, thoughts, comments, using the Q&A feature on the Zoom interface, usually at the bottom of your screen. You can do that as we go along. We’ll try to get to as many of your questions later as we can.

So, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you one of my favorite people, Lucy Sanders. So, let’s give her a proper introduction. Lucy Sanders is CEO and co-founder of the National Center for Women and Information Technology. Lucy has an extensive industry background, having worked in R&D and executive VP positions at AT&T, Bell Labs, Lucent Bell Labs, and Avaya Labs for over 20 years, where she specialized in systems level software and solutions. Lucy was awarded the Bell Labs Fellow Award, the highest technical accomplishment bestowed at the company, and she has six patents in the communications technology area.

Lucy currently serves as a trustee for the Colorado School of Minds, the center for American Entrepreneurship in Washington, DC, and the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California Berkeley. She has served on the Information Technology Research Development Ecosystem Commission for the National Academies and the innovation advisory board for the U.S. Department of Commerce. In 2016, she received the Bob Newman Lifetime Achievement Award for her ongoing commitment to further innovative technology. Lucy is also a recipient, along with other NCWIT co-founders, Robert Schnabel and Telle Whitney, of the Computing Research Association A. Nico Habermann Award. She has been recognized by the University of Colorado, with both its Distinguished Alumni award in the Department of Engineering and University’s George Norlin Distinguished Service Award. Lucy is also a recipient of the 2013 US News STEM Leadership Hall of Fame Award. That’s a lot of awards, Lucy. These days, in addition to her work at NCWIT, Lucy volunteers for the COVID-19 Innovation Response Task Force for the state of Colorado under Governor Jared Polis, where her primary focus is working on a pilot to increase access for those who are uninsured. That’s a proper introduction for the person who makes NCWIT work. Lucy, the Zoom floor is all yours.

LUCY: Well, thank you, Brad, very much. And I think I’m going to share my screen quickly here. Here we go.

All right, um, well welcome, everybody. Really happy to have you here today to talk about one of my favorite topics, technology cultures. As Brad’s introduction points out, I’ve dedicated my career to technology and computing, because I really feel that computing is a very powerful force in our world for good. It enables all kinds of solutions for people that better their lives. But I also believe that we, as change leaders, need to get in the middle of the tech culture and interrupt it just a bit. Not because the technology isn’t good, but because it could be better. In fact, it could be much better. It could be deeper, richer, more inclusive, more flexible, more fair, and more creative and more innovative.

So today, we’re going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about reshaping the technology culture, not in an ad hoc or a tech boxy or a one-off type of way, but in a systemic and sustainable way. A couple caveats first. We talk about cultures often as, um, one sort of homogenous thing. And, in fact, as change leaders, we don’t make changes and practices or approaches for one specific group very often, we want to make changes in cultures that benefit everybody. So, if you’re a teacher, you’re going to change the way you teach for everybody in your classroom most of the time. If you’re in a corporation, you’re going to want to change your interviewing processes, for example, to benefit everybody. However, also as change leaders in this space, um, to increase diversity and inclusion, we need to look at cultures from the lenses of historically marginalized group, gender, race, etc., and the reason we do this as change leaders is because we want to learn things about how the culture could be more inclusive and beneficial to everybody.

Second think I want to point out, we also hear a lot of, “oh, I have this kind of culture, I have that kind of culture, my culture’s a debate culture.” But it’s very important to realize, as people, as change leaders, we’re squarely in the middle of what the culture is. Because culture is not something you just have, it’s something you do. It’s something we do everyday, something we do in Zoom meetings, it’s something you do in Microsoft team meetings, it’s something we do in hallways and at lunch, in classrooms. We define the culture in our everyday actions. So, just think about that as we’re going through the rest of this presentation on, um, really reshaping technical culture.

A bit about NCWIT, we were established in 2004 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and a mission to significantly increase girls and womens meaningful and influential participation in computing. More about that in a minute. We operate as a change leader community. We have over 1,400 organizations working on this mission across the United States, all the way from K-12 organizations, post secondary organizations, start ups and larger corporations. Now, why are we so passionate about this mission? Well, of course, we’re passionate about improving diversity and inclusion because it’s the fair thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. These are high paying, flexible, creative jobs.

We also care about it from a national security perspective, or from, um, really even moving ahead or progress to solve problems, such as the global pandemic. We really care about it for lots of reasons, but we also care about it because research shows that diverse and inclusive teams solve complex problems faster, and they arrive at better solutions, if they are properly led. If they are properly led. This citation is from Scott Page’s work, but there are other researchers that show this to be true, Dr. Catherine Phillips’ research on the collective intelligence of teams, etc. So, we know that diverse and inclusive teams lead to better, more creative, technology products and services that should serve all of us better.

But we know that women are not participating in tech in large numbers. This gets back to the significant part — significantly part of our mission. You can look at these numbers and see it’s a bit like an inverse pyramid, where if you look at women’s participation in professional occupations more broadly and then work your way into computing roles, you see percentages going down. One statistic that’s not on here, would be the percentage of technology leadership roles that are held by women in the corporate sector. That’s roughly 5 percent. So, that would be CTOs, CIOs, lead architects, R&D, vice presidents, etc. So, we know that women aren’t participating in the numbers we’d like to see, but we also know people of color, if you look at the numbers as they break out, you’re going to see even less impressive statistics. So, participation clearly needs to be improved by the numbers.

But let’s get to the meaningful and influential participation of women and other underrepresented groups in computing. This is what we as NCWIT lovingly call our “innovation metrics”. These are hard to come by. There’s not a lot of research in this space, and a lot of organizations don’t track it. However, this particular study that NCWIT runs is a patenting study, and it goes into the U.S. patent database, we crawl the database with gender matching software, and we assign a gender to each inventor on each IT patent from the last 30 years. You can see on your screen, the different categories of IT patents. This is the government definition of IT, and if you look at the bottom line, go to the bottom right square, you’ll see that roughly 80 percent of all IT patents have male only invention teams, 2 percent have female only invention teams, and the rest are mixed.

We also have other innovation metrics. We did a similar study on the ACM, Association for Computing Machinery papers database for their special interest group conferences and found the different research areas that women are submitting papers to. We’ve looked at — we and others have looked at technology awards broken down by gender, etc., and we have pretty clear indication that, not only are women not participating in — often in the lead creative, innovative research areas and product design and development areas, but they tend more to be in very certain segregated areas. So, this would cause us to believe that, in fact, most of the technology products and services we use today were invented, created, designed by largely one homogenous group of people. That does not make technology bad, it just means it could be so much richer. It could be so much more flexible, more creative, and more accessible, and there’s a lot we’re leaving on the table as a world, by not increasing diverse voices at the technology innovation table.

So, why is this happening? We get asked this a lot, and I’m sure many of you do too, like why is this happening, and we hear lots of speculation, where, you know, perhaps, women just aren’t wired the same way as men, and they’re not capable of doing this work, or they have different life expectations or aspirations than men. We hear a lot of different things that we don’t have time to go into here, but research debunks them generally for a group of people. So, why? Why is this happening? And the answer is culture, hence, you know, the subject of our conversation today. A tech culture that is perceived by people who aren’t in it as being not for them, from what they see in popular media or entertainment or something else, and/or a culture that they have already entered and find it to be hostile and a place where they can’t succeed and a place where they can’t do what they would love to do, and that would be the design of technology products and services and the conduct of research. So, let’s look at some of the dynamics in culture. The white wording, I certainly call those out for your consideration, and we’re going to bring up our first poll here to test our familiarity with these terms. So if we could have the first poll please.

So, look through these and we’ll give you a minute to fill out your familiarity with some of these terms. Either you’re familiar with them and/or you have experienced them. So, take a minute and fill out the poll, and when it looks like answers are slowing down, I’ll ask folks to put the results up for us all to see.

So pretty evenly, a lot more people on this call, maybe not surprisingly, know what stereotype threat is than when we go in and talk about it in a more general audience. So, that’s quite interesting, and then, let’s scroll down about which ones people have experienced.

All right, um, wow. Okay. So, um, quite a few of you have experienced these things yourself. So, almost half, and more than half in certain cases, and a very small percentage have not experienced these. So, thank you for that. Let’s talk a bit about, um, some of these. In particular, let’s talk about the task assignment one for a moment. A lot of this gets to the sub segregation that we see, and the innovation metrics especially. So, there’s growing evidence to show that women and members of underrepresented groups are encouraged to take up the support roles around — in tech, their technical roles — but they’re not in the roles that lead to creation, innovation; and also, you know, success in the research spaces, in the award spaces, and into the promotion, if you will, if you’re in a corporate environment promotion, to the technology leadership positions. This sub-segregation happens almost immediately when women are either encouraged to pick up their research type of area and/or they enter a workforce. Personality penalties have gotten a lot of play in the press, around women being dinged for aggressive behaviors and men being praised for them, and you use words like ‘aggressive’ as ‘opposed to your leader’ and ‘decisive’.

So, all of these terms, we have reports, Women in IT: The Facts and Girls in IT: The Facts, where you can dig into more of the research and the social science and some of the best practices in dealing with these types of dynamics. And it’s important, as change leaders, that we all are informed at some level about what social science says about our culture as technologists and educators and what we can do about it. It’s also important, as change leaders, that we understand, in some sense, the architecture of a culture, of any culture, but also as a technology culture. So, here we are as people in the blue box to the bottom left, we as people have biases, we’ve grown up in a society that is racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, etc., and we also, as people, have schemas for things in our life. These schemas help us to decipher things, so we can decipher, you know, that that’s a car coming down the road at us, and it’s going to hit us, and we can take quick action. Or we can say, you know, that’s a new kind of tree, and I’ve never seen it before, but it’s still a tree. So, we form all of these patterns and decision making processes as people, and these schemas are helpful to us as people, but they can also cause us to miss or misinterpret things, and when they do, we call that unconscious bias. So, as people, we bring these dynamics into our cultures. They could be face to face cultures, they could be remote cultures, you know, virtual cultures, and they manifest themselves very subtly in slides, or dings, or something else and they can also manifest themselves in institutional barriers and processes that the organization may follow to grant tenure or to promote somebody or to hire somebody.

So said another way, we all know that bias exists. This is without dispute. It exists in our society, exists in our systems, and it exists in ourselves. And we also know that bias can be recognized. We can, and it’s much easier to recognize bias together with friends as a team support, because a lot of this is unconscious bias. It’s very hard to see that in yourself, but it is possible to, maybe see it, perhaps more clearly in others and then work together to bring these biases to the surface and help deal with them. It’s also very possible to look for institutional barriers in a very analytical and systemic way to see where biases can creep in, to see where an unintended consequence might lurk and then mitigate that bias. We also know that bias needs a response. If we don’t respond to the biases we see that and that we know about, it will become normalized and become part of the culture whether we intend it to or not. Response to bias doesn’t have to be confrontational, it doesn’t have to be a buzz kill, it really can be very collegial, it can be done together, we can practice, so that when we do respond to bias, it’s a learning moment for everybody. It makes the culture better.

Finally, and, you know, in this particular section, just because we call this unconscious doesn’t make it harmless. And this particular study shows across all STEM disciplines broken out by race, the percentage of women who report these things, much like many of you have reported certain things on the last poll. So, this is very harmful. These are the kinds of things that cause members of underrepresented groups to feel like they don’t belong, to feel like they’ll never succeed, to feel like they’ll never reach their aspiration of being innovative technologists and researchers. And it happens daily over and over and over and over again. Independent of the organization you’re in now, this has been happening to members of underrepresented groups through their education. across the whole journey into a STEM profession.

So, why is progress so slow? You know, we’ve worked on this a long time, and why aren’t we across the finish line yet? And a couple things here to pull out, and then we’re going to have another poll. Number one, if you look at the second and fourth bullets, these relate to senior leaders owning things and having action plans and treating this like any other issue the organization places high priority on. So, that’s the first thing. The second thing is. because we have no strategic planning or very little operational strategic planning, working towards sustainability as a community, we often resort to piecemeal solutions. Checkbox solutions, you know, things we can grab from social media that somebody else has done and we can try them. But they don’t fit into a broad brush strategic approach that is going to remove and mitigate bias from our systems.

So, the other thing to point out here is around many of the solutions we try, also, if you really start to unpack them, they’re focused more on fixing groups of people, mostly fixing underrepresented groups to fit into the bias system, and not addressing the system itself. Guaranteed failure, if that’s all we keep doing. Then finally, the goals and metrics we set, again back to our mission, it’s not just significant;y, it’s just not a nose count we’re after here, we’re after diverse voices at the technology design table.

So, let’s take a minute and bring up the next poll. This one’s a little long, but there’s three questions. I’m going to give you a little bit longer, and if you, have any specific comments that you want to put about this also, if you finish fast, you’re a good student, push on through it. You could also add some specifics into the Q&A. So, let’s give this a minute or two, and then we’ll be back.

All right, I guess we’re done. Here are our results. So, let’s, um, scroll on through here, if you will, please. These are strategies you’ve seen in your own organization. Not surprisingly, unconscious bias training is popular. Can we scroll down the poll also? Can you show questions two?

SPEAKER: This one only has one question, Lucy.

LUCY: Oh. Never mind. Thank you. So, it seems like from that poll, a lot of you have seen a number of these things, so I thank you for filling that out. These all really relate to not having a broad strategic and sustainable point of view about this that helps us move into the future with not just, you know, one off things, but a broad strategic plan.

Okay. So — we, over our lifetime, NCWIT, we have always focused on systemic change, because we’re a research based organization, and systemic change is the thing that will work to cross the finish line, to have inclusive and diverse cultures that last into the future. We have done a number of different things in that respect to support that mission, including creating research backed resources and workshops and having alliances and working on our own research and keynotes, etc., and today, we’re announcing a software platform that ties all of this together so that organizations that want to be change leader organizations can accomplish strategic planning and operationalize their desire to have diverse and inclusive organizations.

So, today, we’re announcing Tech Inclusion Journey. Some of you have seen the beta of this. It is an easy to use software platform that will, over the next few years, unify our work in the K-12 academic and corporate space. It’s very easy to use. You can use it in a self paced way or NCWIT can help you with it, and it leads you to thinking about broad systemic approaches, ownership, and accountability. So, let’s look at the corporate version. We did the corporate version first, so I’m going to use that as an example to show you what it looks like. This is the landing page for the software platform. The journey metaphor would indicate to all of us that it is a journey, it’s not just one thing. There are three parts to Tech Inclusion Journey. Using the metaphor, there’s a map that really tells you all the different areas you could work on as a change leader in your strategic planning. There’s a GPS that helps you understand where your organization stands now with respect to that part of the map, and then there’s a vehicle, which is really the action planning, like get in and go and let’s get to our destination.

This is the map, otherwise known as a change model, and you can see in the center some of the foundational elements around top leadership support and managerial relationships and then around the different areas you could drill down in in terms of interrupting every day biases or support for competing responsibilities, etc., and around the outside, data collection and valuation, always very important. On the software platform, you can click through this industry change model and learn a lot about each area of it. Now, what we want to understand would be, okay, I want to focus on performance evaluation and promotion, but I want to know how well I’m doing there, like where am I starting from? This is where the GPS comes in. So, the GPS is made up of a number of research based questions, multiple choice questions that you fill out and. You can fill it out as a leader, you can fill it out with you and your teams, you can fill it out independently and then come to consensus about your different areas, etc. But it’s basically a maturity model, if you will, to help you understand how mature your organization is in each aspect of the map or the change model. You fill this out, you can get a report. And I had only, when I made this slide, I had filled out support for competing responsibilities, and this example, performance evaluation and promotion, you can see, if you look at the bottom of the green and purple box, for performance evaluation and promotion, the answers I gave to the GPS show I’m in the preparing zone, which means I haven’t really done much yet honestly. And I have a lot more work to do, and in the support for competing responsibilities, I’m in the emerging zone. I’ve started some things and there’s some other things I should be doing, but I’m at least on the road. Of course, the goal is to move that bar to the right, so that you would be in the sustaining zone. This report also shows I have other areas I can complete to get a full picture of my maturity on that change model. Then the third and final stage is the action planning stage, or the vehicle, and in this particular case, we have ways to link back to NCWIT resources and action steps, places to put notes. There are also consensus building tools in this part, as well as in the GPS to help you understand how the team looks at things. So, if you’re a member of a team, you will have certain ideas about the maturity of the organization, each one of these places, and your colleagues may have a totally different point of view. Coming to consensus as a team before you start a real action plan is very important, because you’re going to, you know, commonize your goals and vocabulary, and you’re going to build trust and have a place from which you can build a very actionable plan.

So, that’s the corporate model, and you can see again, just to reiterate the “Why so Slow?” slide, that it addresses these types of roadblocks that we’ve seen over 15 years in both the academic and the corporate space; that, in fact, these are the things we really need to be working on. And the Tech Inclusion Journey is an all-in-one tool to help you overcome these.

I mentioned we were going to have one for the academic space. This is the newly minted change model for university undergraduate programs. And we’ll be doing the same type of software platform support for that change model; it will have its own GPS. I think some of you have seen pieces of that as well. The idea that we will be implementing that also.

So, for the future, we have — the corporate version will be done in its version one at the end of the summer, and the academic version will be in beta then. And we’re also trying to conceptualize a K-12 version of this, what do K12 outreach efforts and others really need in this same space? We believe it’ll be a really kind of different approach here, but we’re not quite sure exactly what it will be. But we see a need for it, and we’ve done some testing with some of our members who also see a need for it, but we’re really going to have to do some generative thinking about what that is.

So, finally, you know, the major take away from this, we need to reshape the technology culture, and we need to do it in a systemic and strategic way that leads to sustainable cultures that are diverse and inclusive. So, please say “yes” to systemic change and “no” to checkbox solutions. And, maybe, it’s not quite “no” to checkbox solutions, but at least understand if they are checkbox or not and how they could fit into a bigger systemic view. Because, really, we want everybody’s ideas. We want everybody’s life experiences at the technology design table. Too many voices are not being heard, and we — I believe, as a community, all want to address that and create the technology on which the world depends. Thank you. I’m stopping sharing. There you go.

BRAD: Thank you, Lucy. All right. The Q&A window is brimming with questions, some of which are being answered and discussed online, but we are also now going to transition and bring in a couple more panelists to join Lucy and myself and have more of a conversation.

So, as I announce your name, please come on video and give us a wave, if you can. First off, we have Dr. Catherine Ashcraft, who is the Director of Research here at NCWIT and spends most of her time focusing on the Workforce Alliance that’s collaborating with our many corporate partners, but also overseeing all research activities across all of our alliances at NCWIT. Next, we have Dr. Gretchen Achenbach who is a Research Scientist here at NCWIT and spends most of her time on the Extensions Services for undergraduate programs and working on NCWIT’s Academic Alliance. Welcome to both of you.

So, together with Lucy and myself and several others at NCWIT, we are part of the team who developed the Tech Inclusion Journey, and we’ll tell a little bit about that story to kick things off with our first question actually from the Q&A field. The question, “could you share what entities have been pivotal in implementing and maintaining the tech inclusion journey? I’m wondering whom might be key players to involve in the process.”

It makes me think immediately that, to answer your question, we have to tell a little bit more of the narrative of where the Tech Inclusion Journey came from. It’s been three years in development, but it’s certainly a lot older than that. I’m going to toss it over to Catherine to take us through that, the journey behind the journey, if you will, Catherine.

CATHERINE: All right. Thank you, Brad. And yes, I can start off, but feel free to add in other things that I might leave out. So, the Tech Inclusion Journey has been about, probably, 15 years in the making. It’s based on about that long of our research and practice with technical organizations, both academic and industry. And, so, we have learned a lot in those 15 years and have compiled that. We began with the industry change model. We’ve had that, which is the first step in the journey as you saw from Lucy’s, um, demonstration. And so, that, we’ve had for quite some time, and we found it very useful for organizations. The industry change model, and then there was also one for academia. But we also had a lot of feedback from organizations, that they loved the idea of the strategic model, it helped them think strategically, but it was difficult for them to locate themselves on the map, and they weren’t sure where, you know, where they were weak or where they were strong or what to prioritize. So, we ended up developing the second step, the GPS, which is the self assessment tool, and that helps people identify where they are in the map, so to speak, and then helps with the third step of action planning. And the Tech Inclusion Journey then, really captures all of our resources around these different focus areas for strategic change, both for academia and industry.

So, it’s the culmination of the past 15 years of work that we’ve been doing with these organizations. And as for what entities, not quite sure if you mean, what kinds of organizations or what kinds of people, so I’ll just say a little bit about both of those. The Tech Inclusion Journey is intended for any kind of organization, technical organization — whether it’s large or small — but it’s intended to be used primarily, it’s best used when used with teams, small teams or smaller departments rather than the whole organization at large. When scaling it, we recommend that people scale it by team or department kind of level rather than trying to apply it to the whole organization, because the organization culture is made up of many subcultures and can vary from team to team and department to department. So, that’s a little bit about who uses it and how. We can say more, too, if we want to, about the actual people involved in the change leader team, if that’s something we want to talk more about, but I think I’ll stop there for now.

BRAD: No, that’s excellent. Thank you. Another question just popped up while you were speaking, which is important for us to address, because we’ve actually received this kind of question before when we rolled out beta versions of the Tech Inclusion Journey; and that is, “is this like a Swiss Army knife or a one size fits all solution for every culture?” And, of course, being research based, the research shows us that one size fits all solutions simply doesn’t work.

The question is, “I’m concerned that something marketed as an all-in-one tool will be used as another empty band aid. How can we demonstrate that the Tech Inclusion Journey you are sharing is a piece of the puzzle and needs to be enhanced by some really hard work? Who uses the tech inclusion journey? And how? And how do they use it in different ways?” I thought I’d toss it over to Lucy to begin with, although I know Gretchen and Catherine have things to add.

LUCY: Yeah, so, that’s a great question. And, in fact, just to reinforce, we know that one size doesn’t fit all. So, the way to look at Tech Inclusion Journey is as a support tool to the hard work that teams do to shift cultures. So, people shift cultures, not tools. But this does help you. It gives you a roadmap, it gives you a support structure, but it goes along with learning by the team around what is systemic change, what are some of the principles, what are the practices and the foundations, so that it enables team choice. It gives you opportunities to choose from practices and research that’s out there and come up with a team approach, team goals, team priorities, etc. So, it really is a decision support tool than it is a one “size fits all”. So, I don’t know if the panel would like to add to that, but it’s really a great question, and it’s a very important distinction, that there’s a ton of hard work that goes into this. It’s not going to be you pop in a few things and get an answer out of it; it goes along with hard teamwork.

BRAD: Yeah, and before I toss it over to Catherine and Gretchen, another question that just came in along those lines, “who should use and implement the TIJ?” It has a slightly different answer for the corporate use of the Tech Inclusion Journey than the academic use, which Gretchen is, you know. The Tech Inclusion Journey was designed to address the question, “Where do I get started with building a more inclusive culture?” And now, we have to ask, “Where do I get started with the tech inclusion journey itself? How do I build that team, and who should be on it?” I wonder if, Catherine, you could answer from a corporate perspective and, Gretchen, follow up with the differences in an academic perspective.

CATHERINE: Sure, yeah, and I was going to add to what Lucy was saying that the Tech Inclusion Journey is sort of the design, basically, to counteract that idea of a band aid solution and to highlight the work, like Lucy was mentioning, that is needed to create that change. So, in terms of who should use it or be part of the team, it does vary some by company, of course, and depends on the structure and culture of the company. But, generally, we see a combination of, at least one senior technical leader, if not more, and their director boards. And so it can be a combination of senior technical leaders and technical managers, as well as, often we see some HR DNI business partners involved as well. Also I think, sometimes, it depends on if there are just change leaders who are clearly passionate about the issue, who also join the change leader team and become part of that, and, of course, we always recommend that you make sure that you have a diverse array of stakeholders who are involved in that process. Diverse both in position level, but also in race, ethnicity, gender, that sort of thing.

BRAD: Gretchen, over to you for the academic perspective.

GRETCHEN: Yeah, so the academic version that Lucy mentioned that is based on our undergraduate program systemic model, that one has really come out of many, many years of work that we’ve been doing with teams at academic institutions in computing departments. I also just want to take this opportunity to mention that, although that’s where a lot of the history of our work is, we also have systemic change models that address academia as a workplace, and also for graduate programs. So perhaps in the future, we will also have Tech Inclusion Journeys that include those areas too. And while Lucy mentioned nicely that we have a new systemic change model for undergraduate programs, it’s really the graphic and the layout of it that’s new. We’ve actually been using this kind of multi-pronged approach to trying to change culture in undergraduate programs For many, many years. And so as far as how people would use it or who would use it, again, we’ve been working with teams in academic departments, and we know that, much like the corporate area, it’s ideal if you have a team that has people in multiple roles on it. So, leadership is important. Leadership is important both to bring that perspective and also because those are the people who can get things done, so that’s helpful. Very often, our teams or faculty make up a really essential part of teams, because they’re obviously interacting with students, very concerned with students, but also, staff members may be very useful to have on the team also, so people who are in, like, advising roles or part of admissions or who are recruiting, doing things like that, or who are in institutional research and have access to data.

So, we also really like to see people in there who have a variety of perspectives and a variety of roles that they can bring to it. And I think that addressing sort of the one size fits all concern is that, yes, this gives you — you do some self assessment, you come out with some results, that can help you decide what you need to do next, it can help you begin your strategic planning. But a great deal of the value in something like this is not so much that result that you come out with at the end, but when you get those people together who have different perspectives and different experiences in the program and they can sort of share those and find where the areas of agreement are and where the areas of disagreement are and where you need more information.

BRAD: Thank you. We’re going to switch off of the Tech Inclusion Journey tool, the platform topic for just a moment, and go back to some of the information Lucy presented. So, this one’s for you, Lucy, as someone who holds six patents yourself. The question is, “How can we help more women understand and be part of patent technologies? It’s one of my dreams to patent one day, but I also know of other women whose work was stolen by other more powerful persons or exploited for their creations and not given credit?”

LUCY: Yes, that’s true. That definitely can happen. There are a number of factors at play with something like patenting. And so, I will say, one of our dreams is to also do some more research inside companies around some of these innovation metrics and understand some of the factors that are there. We have enough anecdotal evidence, and I think some other research to suggest a couple things are going on with these patenting rates. One is a lack of knowledge. So, the question, I think, gets to that, like how can we, how can women and other underrepresented groups even get into the conversation about what patenting is? So, there’s a lack of knowledge that, I think in a number of underrepresented groups, about what patenting is, and a number of companies or organizations don’t train everybody on patenting. It goes through the majority groups, and they talk to each other about it. But oftentimes, people who aren’t part of that group get left out of even what it is. And, so, they have their own consumption about what patenting is and what it isn’t, and they never really get the training. So, we recommend organizations train everybody in technology roles and research roles about what patenting is.

Second thing gets to bias. Yes, in fact, we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that ideas are stolen and aren’t given credit. We know this. It’s been proven in history time and time again, and this is what gets us then to say, to argue for more systemic change and more diverse and inclusive cultures and more informed leadership about this. Leadership needs to get in the middle of that kind of thing, squarely in the middle. Then the third thing that’s going on would be, and this sounds like what’s this have to do with patenting, but women often, and members of other underrepresented groups, are not even in the roles that lead to patenting because of sub-segregation. They’re not really in those innovative, creative roles, etc., so all of those things are probably going on. A lack of awareness and training, bias around ideas and people taking credit for ideas that aren’t theirs or, you know, being oblivious to give credit to people who participated, and then being in roles, getting the skill sets that lead to patenting. I think all three of those things are operative.

BRAD: And isn’t it somewhat true also, Lucy, that although the patenting process itself is somewhat formal with the forms that need to be filled out and the approvals, that there’s a shadow. I’ve heard you talk of a shadow process that’s less formal — informal in every way, that may rely mostly on social networking and who you know before you can enter into that formal process.

LUCY: Yeah, you know, and I figured out patenting at Bell Labs, and often, like, a group of people would get together and they’d say, “Let’s patent this part of our work. Let’s just put a patent in for this and get a patent lawyer,” patent lawyer’s in, and there’s this group established, often through social networking or bias selection or something else, and then the patent goes on. Um, yes, that’s true, and there’s a lot, because some companies reward you with financial rewards for patenting things, and so there’s a competition about it too sometimes. All of these things get back to why we have to have inclusive cultures in tech, you know, and make sure that everybody gets the information, make sure that everybody’s included in this, for sure.

BRAD: The next question is also harkening back to some of the social science Lucy presented. I’m going to kick it over to Catherine and Gretchen, our social scientists here, um, because, I think it’s a far reaching question. It is this: “Could you speak to the relationship between unconscious bias and microaggressions? Additionally, the significance of micro affirmation and other strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of bias.”

Catherine, would you like to kick us off?

CATHERINE: Sure, I can start with that. So, yes, I mean, there is obviously a relationship between bias and microaggressions, and we sort of categorize microaggressions or microinequities, as they’re sometimes called, as a subcategory of bias. But it also intersects with biases in that people who are different from the norm or marginalized groups. Historically disadvantaged groups tend to experience more microaggressions. Of course, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, there are subtle slights that we can experience, like being interrupted more frequently in the meeting or having somebody look at their watch when they’re talking to you and not paying attention, that sort of thing. Of course, when they happen just once or twice you might not notice and it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when it happens everyday or frequently, they really add up and tend to chip away at someone’s sense of belonging. Of course, the second part of that question, I think is, you know, what to do about these things. And so, the first thing is making people aware of them and having people be more intentional and thoughtful about what their patterns of speech in meetings, are they interrupting, what kinds of hidden messages they might be communicating. Microaffirmations also, research has shown that that can also help mitigate those kinds of effects of microaggressions, as well as just, some of the things that we advocate in the interrupting everyday bias section of the Tech Inclusion Journey, are designed to change the environment. So, those things like the way you run a meeting, for instance, changing the way you run a meeting might make those things less likely to happen. So, that’s just a few things to start off that discussion. Gretchen probably has more to add.

GRETCHEN: Yeah, I would just point out that we have some resources, “Interrupting Bias in Academic Settings”, and also one for corporate settings that are kind of exercises where people can think about what microaggressions and unconscious bias, how that manifests, and then think about what you would do. Both making people aware themselves so that they don’t accidentally do it against other people, because it often does come out of your own unconscious bias. I mean those are typically the sort of small things that are not intentional, but are still really damaging. And then also thinking about, you know, when you hear examples of these that, maybe you didn’t do it, but you heard somebody else, you know, how could you respond in the moment. Or maybe, you know, later on, taking that person aside or something like that, so that you can try to reduce that happening in your own environment.

CATHERINE: Yeah. That resource —

BRAD: Go ahead, Catherine. Please.

CATHERINE: I was going to say that that resource that Gretchen’s referencing, there’s two: Interrupting Everyday Bias in Academia and then one for industry, which you can search for on our site. It’s an interactive activity that people can use to practice intervening in these situations.

BRAD: We have a string of questions coming in related to the similar thread, and so, this one could be for any of the panelists. But the questions are along these lines: “How can we increase accountability and resources needed to get these kinds of efforts to succeed?” And another person is saying, “I fear without laws requiring equity in computing, we’ll be talking about this in the next decade.” Indeed, we’ve been talking about this for decades, right? “I fear besides CS teachers, time and desire is not there. How do we get funding for hiring computing leaders in schools? Volunteers is not working. How do we make progress? And why is it so slow?”

Well, it begs the question, before we can answer these, what does success look like? In terms of the Tech Inclusion Journey, how do we measure culture change, and what are those metrics that stand for accountability in the way that we framed it up? I’ll kick that over to Lucy to begin with, and then Catherine and Gretchen.

LUCY: I want to reinforce the accountability piece of this. I agree with this question. It definitely comes down to resources, leadership, and accountability. When you have a strategic plan that a leader owns and is passionate about, you will have the resources you need to get it done. So, I agree that those are all linked together, and we’ve seen a number of cases where we have leaders who are aspousing that they’re committed, but then there are no resources, there’s no support. There’s no support for strategic planning. You know, they’ll announce diversity and inclusion speaker and then leave the room. I mean, there are all kinds of signs about this, and so, when we talk about systemic and strategic planning, that’s one of the main indicators when you look inside an organization. That if they don’t have that, they don’t have leadership behind that, chances are pretty good that it’s going to take a whole lot more work to get progress in that organization. We see huge differences between the two. So, I don’t have a magical answer on this. I feel like it is exactly the right question to be asking, and having strategic plans, or the lack thereof, is an indicator of a lack of accountability and leadership. You know, if you don’t have those, and they’re not resourced, you know, the best plan in the world, if you don’t have the resources to do it, then you can’t get it done. So, I have no magic answer for that, other than perseverance, I suppose. Gretchen or Catherine, do you have an answer?

CATHERINE: [laughing] Well no, not a magic answer. I don’t have a magic answer either, but I think that, to the other part of the question, Brad was asking about metrics or accountability in describing what success looks like, I think we work closely with organizations on that. That’s a part of the third step in the Tech Inclusion Journey, the vehicle step, which involves the action planning, and part of that, of course, is coming up with the metrics to describe success and hold people accountable to the plan of action. So, some of those, you know, we emphasize being very intentional and thoughtful about the metrics and that they have to be targeted to the specific plan. They’ll vary, depending on what your interventions and priorities are, but, they need to match up well with the designed actions. And they should include a combination of both quantitative and qualitative metrics so, oftentimes, people just get focused on, like, headcount, right? And we encourage companies to move beyond headcount and to measure things about the everyday work experience, which involves both qualitative and quantitative measures, as well as implementation data and impact data, which we don’t have enough time to talk about today. I’ll just throw that out there as a teaser.

GRETCHEN: If I could just pull that back a little bit, because I saw a number of questions come through that were asking for more clarification about checkbox solutions or what that means; so, I think that really goes to this point. So, a check box solution is usually something that kind of occurs in isolation or sort of looks good on the surface. So some specific examples would be, like, in academia, things like creating a women’s group, or creating a diversity and inclusion committee, or putting into place policies. All of those things could be good and could be necessary, but if they occur in isolation, so if your solution to the problem of not having enough women in your program is to create a women’s group, but you don’t go and look at how you’re recruiting and at your admissions policies and how your curriculum is setup and how your courses are being taught, then that in isolation, is just going to be a checkbox solution. That’s just going to be, you know, that’s something that, on paper, maybe looks like yeah, we’re doing something, we’re supporting women.

Another area, diversity training, and even things like, you know, the unconscious bias, like we have an exercise on it, we’d like people to learn about it. We think it’s important, but if that’s all you do and there’s no follow up to that training and there’s no sort of enforcing of the things that you’ve learned and there’s no funding behind it, if you have a diversity and inclusion committee, but they don’t have any money or any clout to do anything. So, that’s where the multi-pronged approach, which is really emphasized in the TIJ and in the work that we do in all of the different areas that we work in, and then also that importance of having leadership support and having support, you know, in terms of influence and money and so forth, so that things actually get done is really important. Aif that’s not there, then it’s a checkbox solution.

BRAD: Thank you, panelists. I should make a quick note, some questions about the Tech Inclusion Journey, when is it available? It is available now for corporations. We’re going to be having an intra session on how to use it in August, so be on the lookout for that. Members, corporate members of NCWIT have access to it, there’s no price point for anyone outside of NCWIT to use it. It’s an NCWIT member tool. The Academic Alliance is going to be launching theirs very quickly.

Now, we are going to stick around for some informal Q&A after this official closing, but recognizing we are at the hour, I want to make some closing remarks and also give you some information about the Jane Goodall talk coming up. So, this will be our official closing. We’ll continue on for 15 minutes, if you can stick around. So, my thanks, first of all, to Lucy Sanders, doctors, Catherine Ashcraft and Gretchen Achenbach and all the wonderful NCWIT team behind the scenes who make the magic behind this series of conversations work. Our corporate sponsors, of course, and all of you in the audience who are taking your time and energy and joining us, these important topics and this important community of change makers.

If you are new to the NCWIT community, how can you get involved? Well, there are several ways. Alliances offer collaborative group connections, helping advocates of every size and scale sustain and grow the momentum of inclusion. NCWIT Aspirations in Computing is a program that turns barriers into possibilities for young women in computing. It needs volunteers, like you, to complete its mission of revolutionizing the face of technology today and tomorrow. So, you can stay in the loop regarding NCWIT with announcements and opportunities via our newsletters, podcasts, and social media. Lastly, consider making a donation today and become a stakeholder in women’s participation in technology.

Finally, as promised, the details about our final session of the Conversation for Change series, NCWIT is pleased to announce the surprise encore session of our conversations for change, entitled Change Leadership: A Call for Courageous Action with Dr. Jane Goodall. It will be Thursday, June 4th at 11:00 a.m. Mountain Time. And here, you can join Jane, NCWIT’s Dr. Brad McLain, that’s me, and friends for an inspirational conversation about leading transformation in our lives and in our world. As you know, NCWIT conversations are open to the public this year, so spread the word to your friends and colleagues. Registration is free. The link is included here, and you will probably receive and see lots of reminders and other marketing materials, so we can get the word out about Jane’s appearance as much as we can.

So, if you have to go, with that, I bid you all a very lovely weekend, and if you can stick around, we will resume in the next 15 seconds with some more Q&A. Thank you, everyone.

All right, I’m going to tee up with a larger question that lurks behind the Tech Inclusion Journey platform, or really, any change effort, especially if it’s strategic. And that is, “What is the relationship between individuals or even individual change leaders and their behavior to systemic cultural change? We say we don’t want to fix people or have fix the person kind of approaches, we want systemic approaches. Systems and cultures are made up of individuals, so what is that relationship between individuals changing their behavior and a culture becoming more inclusive?” We’ll start with Lucy to answer this question, take a stab at a perspective, and then hear about the differences that might arise in corporate versus academic social science from Gretchen and Catherine. Take it away, Lucy.

LUCY: Thank you. That’s a hard question too. Yes, it’s true, I mean, you know, cultures are made up of people, and everybody needs professional development, needs to understand how to be more inclusive, to be an individual inclusive leader, perhaps an inclusive leader also of an organization or of a faculty or something else. Those are all skills that we can learn and we need to be conscious of and to develop them as individuals. So, I become a more inclusive leader, and I’m learning those skills to be a change leader. Super, super important. That’s going to be pivotal to making changes. However, we also have to look at the system. So, we have to look at the systems in our cultures, like this is the way things are done here. And we, because we’re an analytical community, should be able to do some process decomposition of these systems and look for bias. Independently of people, our systems have bias instantiated in them. So, the way we do performance evaluation, the way we grant tenure, the way we hire people, you know. So it’s interesting to start to do this process decomposition of the way our culture is run, and by that I mean who’s in them, who succeeds in them, you know, and how they progress as organizations. And then to mitigate that. So that, to me, is the difference between people and systems. Now, there are going to be some people who actually do need fixing, you know, there are going to be people who need some hard conversations, and they need to be, perhaps motivated to shift world views and learn about being more inclusive of different groups. Even still though, we still have to fix the systems embedded in our culture. Otherwise, it will always be this way, independent of who comes into our culture or who is following our processes. It will still result in much of the same stuff. That’s my non-political science answer to it.


BRAD: I’m curious about Gretchen’s take on this because, of course, when we are trying to encourage individual students, young girls to pursue computing, there is this tension between the relationship. With the relationship between the individual who may be interested in pursuing that kind of career and the kind of culture they’ll be entering into and helping to create, if they are able to stick around. How do you think about it from a social science perspective and academic arenas?

GRETCHEN: Well, um, I guess that’s a good example, and it kind of speaks to the different levels of change or areas that change can happen in, because we want to change the systems and the culture so that there is no question that young girls would want to go into computing or that they would be able to do or that they would find, you know, a welcoming environment when they got there. It’s not like that yet, and so, therefore we do things, like we create camps for just girls, and we create women’s groups in undergraduate programs and things like that which, in some sense, are oriented towards helping those individuals, helping them deal with the culture that currently exists in computing. Those are really important, and they’re really important here and now, in a situation where there is a lot of underrepresentation of women in computing, but they’re not the solution that we want to move towards. We want to move away from that perspective of, just providing things for these women, and even — it’s not an either/or, right, we simultaneously want to do that, like, yes, we may have women’s groups and they may be very helpful now, but if we’re really going to change things long term, we need to be looking at things like how are women getting into our programs. You know, are they being recruited with messaging that is going to appeal to people who may have diverse interests? Are they being — are they able to get in even if, say, they didn’t do, AP Computer Science in high school? And then once they get there, are they going to be able to succeed? Because there are classes that are oriented towards people who may not have vast computing experience already when they get in there.

So, that is the kind of systemic change that we really want to see happening, because then it’s not focused on the individual. It’s how do we set up our program so that a lot of different kinds of people can actually succeed in that program?. I think, too, back to some of the points that Lucy was making about how, yeah, we need individuals to be making some of this change happen. So we need leaders behind it, we need people who care about it and are knowledgeable about the solutions and can put them in place, so individuals on that level also, the making change level, are very important. I think, too, that when you put systemic changes in place, what you’re trying to do is not just rely on individuals to do the right thing or to , you know, look out for which women should be being admitted to our programs, you’re trying to make it just the way that things happen, the way that things are always done around here, you know, or, like, this is the process that we use for admitting people and it doesn’t discriminate against people that maybe didn’t have computing in high school. By doing that, you don’t need to rely on individuals all the time to be looking out for these problems and so forth.

BRAD: Yeah, thank you. This next question has been floating for a few minutes now, it’s going to be directed at you, Catherine. “One of the things that I have seen in regards to the Tech Inclusion Journey is the lack of people of color, especially Latinas and black women. How do we ensure that they are involved or included in discussions like this one?”

CATHERINE: Yes, that’s a super important question, and I kind of want to just build off of what we were just talking about and add a little bit to that and connect it, maybe, to this question as well. Because I think — when I think about the culture and individual, the relationship between those two, I’m always reminded of, um, well, my background being communication and cultural studies, I think about how culture is made in everyday interactions. It’s remade; we make it and remake it in everyday interactions. And so, that is one way we can change the culture, is to change those everyday interactions in addition to the larger system. And it reminds me of that slide we often show that we’ve seen in, um, when we were stuck in traffic once, about, that we are all not stuck in traffic, we are the traffic. And applying that to culture, that we are not stuck in a culture, we are all the culture and can remake it. So, to the question about how to include, making sure we include all women and women of different race, ethnicities, and recognizing that women aren’t a monolithic group, I think that’s one of the things the Tech Inclusion Journey really does try to focus on, is fixing, again, systems and the environment. So these aren’t, like, women specific solutions generally that we recommend, but they are things that change the environment in ways that make it fit better for a diverse range of women or a diverse range of people.

So, that’s one way, I think, that the Tech Inclusion Journey addresses multiple kinds of intersecting identity categories. But then, like I also said, I think it’s very important to make sure that a diverse range of stakeholders and people are at the table making these kinds of decisions around the Tech Inclusion Journey and having these kinds of conversations around a culture change. So, I think both those two components focus on the system, helps, change it so that, for example, women — women of color, other people are not interrupted in meetings, right? And so that is a focus, or an environmental shift that affects a lot of different underrepresented groups. So, doing that, as well as having diverse representation at the table, making these decisions.

BRAD: Thank you. We have time for one more question, and I’m going to direct it like we started, to Lucy. This is an important one for academic and corporate settings. “Do you have any strategies for how to sell the value of doing the tech inclusion journey process in my work team? I’m in a large computer science department. Who should be on the team?” And it begs the question for all of us. Without some basis, some foundational knowledge about this size and shape and scale of the challenge of inclusive culture, how do we sell the Tech Inclusion Journey as a platform that can be effective for systemic change? Lucy?

LUCY: Thank you, Brad. The answer, I think, that first comes to my mind is anytime you’re selling something, you need to understand who you’re selling it to. So, would it be a faculty? Would it be a department chair? Would it be a dean? Who’s the individual exactly, and what matters to that person? Because we’ve spent a lot of time talking about senior leadership, ownership, accountability, and they don’t come in homogenous groups either. It would be very important to understand specifically who should be accountable, who is that person, what do they care about, and how can they be convinced that this is an important thing to focus on? So, I’m not trying to side track the question as much as I’m trying to say that that’s always an important component of selling anything, even if you’re selling a used car to somebody or a house, you know. It’s really understanding who the player is and what motivates them. That’s the first part.

The second part I want to say is, I’m optimistic that the computing community will respond to things like Tech Inclusion Journey, because it is a big system view, it is strategic, it is analytical. We’re talking about processes, we’re talking about research, we’re talking about data, and in our experience in the corporate space, we have found great reception from technology leaders. They really are attracted to something like this, and, maybe, this is a good way to end this, right? Not because it’s a band aid or a one stop shop or something else, but because it makes sense to them analytically. The data makes sense, the research makes sense, the tools make sense, the idea this is a team, that this team has to have a common vocabulary, they have to have a common knowledge base, they have to have a plan, they have to have goals and metrics, this all appeals to people. So, I guess my answer would be, call me and, um, or send me an email, and we’ll work on it.

BRAD: Wonderful. A wonderful way to close out our extended Q&A as well. My additional thanks to everyone who stuck around and our panelists for sticking around as well. Have a great weekend, everybody, and we will hope to see you on June 4th for our encore presentation with Jane Goodall. Goodbye.

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