By Brit Toven-Lindsey
Increasing the representation of women and students of color majoring in computer science has become a major priority for academic leaders nationwide, including department chairs at the 15 BRAID institutions. These department chairs play a significant role in leading change efforts that include modifying introductory computing courses, creating multiple pathways into the major, and promoting more inclusive departmental climates.
Of course, the chairs do not act in isolation. Data from the first two years of our interviews with department chairs indicate that there is typically a small group of dedicated faculty members, both tenure-track and lecturers, who are leading the various diversity initiatives aligned with the project goals. This service to their department, institution, and the CS community more broadly, is an important component of their role as faculty members and essential to the success of projects like the BRAID Initiative. Yet, academic service is not always valued and prioritized within institutions of higher education relative to the value placed on research and teaching. In addition, at some institutions women faculty and faculty of color may be disproportionately relied upon to lead diversity efforts in their departments and the academic community. Does this disproportionate service work perpetuate inequity by keeping the responsibility of diversity with women and people of color at the expense of other aspects of their careers?
by Jennifer M. Blaney
Within the context of undergraduate computing education, there are several ongoing debates about how to recruit and retain more women. Many instructors are focusing their efforts on gender differences in precollege experiences, while others are looking to growth mindset as a way to level the playing field for women and men once they enter college. In this debate, the term ‘growth mindset’ has become a buzzword, but what does research tell us about the utility and limitations of growth mindset as a framework for broadening women’s participation in computing?
by Connie Chang
Earlier this year, Hidden Figures, a story of three black women who helped NASA launch its first orbit around the world, won outstanding ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards. Since its release, this film has inspired audiences nationwide, including the BRAID research team. In this post, I hope to share a few key takeaways from the film, highlighting its relevance to our research and to the field of computing today. Continue reading
by Kate Lehman
Last month, members of UCLA’s BRAID Research team attended the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), where we shared some of our research findings from the first year of BRAID Research’s survey of students in introductory computing courses. It was invigorating to be surrounded by thousands of undergraduate and graduate women who are pursuing degrees and careers in computing fields and to learn alongside our colleagues in academia and industry who all hope to bring more women and people of color to the field. When we are surrounded by individuals from various industries and disciplines who are all focused on this common goal, it is clear that diversifying tech is worthy of our time, effort, and passion. However, data from The Anita Borg Institute’s Top Companies program reveals that, at least with respect to gender diversity, approximately 25% of men and 15% of women working in the tech industry do not believe that having mixed gender teams are more productive, innovative, and creative. While this means that the majority of both men and women in the computing industry agree that diverse teams are important, it still leaves a significant portion of people who may not understand why universities, non-profits and government agencies, and tech companies are investing millions of dollars to recruit and retain women and people of color in tech. Continue reading
by Linda J. Sax
In just the last five years, we have witnessed increased efforts to inspire our nation’s youth to learn to code. Organizations such as code.org, Girls Who Code, and Black Girls Code aim not only to elevate the number of young people who understand and enjoy coding, but also to diversify the computing field by appealing to women and people of color. And there are some signs of success, as evidenced by growing demand for after-school computing clubs, technology summer camps, and undergraduate computer science courses.
Why Metrics Matter
While the sheer number of students exposed to the field of computing has undoubtedly risen, we need to ask: Does growing interest translate to growing diversity? These are, in fact, two very different things, and it boils down to the difference between numbers and proportions. Indeed, the metrics we use to assess progress in computing determine what “story” we are able to tell. Continue reading