About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 3003-3011
Publication year: 2011
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain

PUSHING TOWARD GENDER PARITY IN COMPUTING IN THE US

W. Dubow

National Center for Women & Information Technology (UNITED STATES)
Given that women comprise 51% of the US population, it is not surprising that more than half of post-secondary students and working US professionals are female. What is surprising is that the percentage of females who complete US post-secondary degrees in Computer or Information Sciences is only 18%, and the percentage of women in computing occupations is only 25%. The low proportions are disturbing given what we know about female students’ ability to score on par with men on standardized mathematical tests, about women’s prolific peer-reviewed article publications, and their meaningful contributions to innovation.

Some might point to a lack of interest on the part of the women, but the history of computing in the US and a sociological examination of equality movements undermine that notion. Social science research suggests that academic and corporate power structures and inhospitable environments are the more likely reasons for the lack of women. Academic and workforce structures and settings are rarely intentionally constructed to exclude females (or other under-represented minorities); instead, they evolve out of circumstances and unconscious bias. Some examples include: the all-male faculty in a university computer science department that inadvertently creates an unwelcoming atmosphere for female students; the hiring committee in a corporation that seeks diversity, yet unwittingly includes in job ads required experiences that men are more likely to have had and which are not necessary for job success.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) has a mission to create community, resources, and awareness that strengthen the computing workforce and advance technology innovation through women’s full participation across the spectrum from education to career. NCWIT is a non-profit coalition of over 200 US-based corporations and start-ups, academic institutions, government and non-profit agencies. Annual NCWIT summits convene these groups; research-based materials describe effective interventions for promoting diversity; and campaigns, publications, and awards spread awareness of gender issues.

Through in-house social scientists, NCWIT produces research-based materials for members to use to enact change in their own organizations. Because this is an entrenched, complex problem, NCWIT approaches it from a variety of angles. More than 90 individual documents and kits have been developed that draw from the best available social-science research. Members’ efforts have included programmatic changes in intro computing classes and undergraduate majors, as well as refined hiring processes and mentoring for professional technical women.

This paper will share case studies and research behind some promising practices, such as targeted recruiting of predominantly female high-school clubs to increase enrollment in elective computing classes; enhancing introductory computer science classes in university to increase enrollment in the major; mentoring and sponsoring mid-career technical women to retain them for senior-level positions.

Evaluation evidence suggests that member post-secondary computing departments whose representatives who used these practices have seen enrollment boosts. Some corporate members committed to increasing their female technical employee base in three years actually surpassed their goals.

Despite early successes, the road to gender parity remains challenging.
@InProceedings{DUBOW2011PUS,
author = {Dubow, W.},
title = {PUSHING TOWARD GENDER PARITY IN COMPUTING IN THE US},
series = {4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2011 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-3324-4},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {14-16 November, 2011},
year = {2011},
pages = {3003-3011}}
TY - CONF
AU - W. Dubow
TI - PUSHING TOWARD GENDER PARITY IN COMPUTING IN THE US
SN - 978-84-615-3324-4/2340-1095
PY - 2011
Y1 - 14-16 November, 2011
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2011 Proceedings
SP - 3003
EP - 3011
ER -
W. Dubow (2011) PUSHING TOWARD GENDER PARITY IN COMPUTING IN THE US, ICERI2011 Proceedings, pp. 3003-3011.
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