The dialogue about broadening participation in computing must extend beyond a narrow focus on women, in general, to one that focuses on the intersectionality of race and gender if the computing educational community will be more inclusive. Engaging more diverse perspectives in computing education can be described as a social justice issue, but also promoted as a necessity to increase innovations in industry (National Science Foundation and National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2013). More specifically, to succeed in increasing the participation of black women in computing, there must first be an acknowledgement that black women’s experiences in computing are different from those of other groups. Subsequently, an educational framework can be developed to address these differences.
Computing Research News
“Expanding the Pipeline” is a regular column in Computing Research News. The column serves both as a vehicle for describing projects and issues related to women and underrepresented groups in computing. The column is guest-authored by individuals who share their insight and experiences from their active participation in programs designed to involve women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in education and research. Patty Lopez is the column editor.
The Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) held the 2017 Change Leader Forum in Westminster, Colorado from June 12 – 14, 2017. The Forum provided attendees an unparalleled opportunity to engage with diversity and inclusion advocates, and learn research based best-practices related to gender equity and inclusion in engineering. Nearly 200 attendees representing a variety of institutions and roles participated in the Forum, including university leaders, corporate partners, engineering faculty, K-12 teachers, and academic diversity officers. CERP Director Jane Stout was a panelist on the opening keynote panel presentation “A Research Agenda on Gender in Engineering and Computing.”
Engaging undergraduates in research can be an effective way to increase their confidence, perception of science, and sense of belonging. But at many large research universities, it can be difficult for undergraduate students—especially early undergraduates—to find research opportunities. Furthermore, even when they find opportunities, they might not have the background, training, or support to be successful. These issues are particularly acute for women and other underrepresented groups in computer science as they tend to have less pre-college computer science experience. The program is working with CERP to understand the impact ERSP has on its participants.
The 2017 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing is being held September 20-23 in Atlanta Georgia. This year’s theme, Diversity: Simply Smarter, evokes the basic yet irrefutable concept that diversity is simply the smarter choice. Research by social scientists has repeatedly shown that teams made up of diverse members have a great potential for innovation than homogeneous teams. Whether we seek innovation, intelligence, creativity, strength or beauty of ideas, the best outcomes come from a diverse set of perspectives, a diverse set of experiences, and a diverse set of people.
Most broadening participation efforts have focused on women and underrepresented minorities. However, for more than 10 years, AccessComputing has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to increase the successful participation of students with disabilities in academic programs and careers. AccessComputing addresses underrepresentation by providing multiple activities for students with disabilities.
With graduate enrollment increasing for women in computer and information sciences, the entry point for the field’s educational pipeline is more robust than ever. Yet, it appears that the challenge remains to increase retention and completion of degrees. In order to expand the pipeline, our efforts must focus on both recruitment of potential talents and support throughout graduate studies that leads to desired career outcomes.
The CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP) turns four years old this month. During the past four years, CERP has been working steadily toward its goal of building diversity in computing through evaluation and social science research. CERP is staffed by Director Jane Stout, Research Scientist Burcin Tamer, and Research Associate Heather Wright. As seen on CERP’s About page, CERP staff are an eclectic mix of social scientists with expertise in quantitative and qualitative methods and a passion for diversity research.
Sandhya Dwarkadas is the Albert Arendt Hopeman Professor of Engineering and and Chair of the Computer Science Department at the University of Rochester, with a secondary appointment in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dwarkadas has made contributions to hardware- and software-based shared memory implementations and system reconfigurability, and has 12 U.S. patents. She is a CRA-W board member, and is currently on the editorial board of CACM Research Highlights and IEEE Micro.
Several years ago, after devoting many years to the study of the gender gap in STEM fields using nationwide data on first-year college students, it became clear to me that the study of STEM in the “aggregate” was no longer a realistic or useful way to examine women’s progress in these fields. Not only does women’s representation in undergraduate STEM vary dramatically by field (constituting as many as 58% of bachelor’s degree earners in the biological sciences and only 18% of degree earners in computer science and engineering [NCES, 2015]), but STEM fields are distinct from each other in many other ways, including curriculum, career paths, and the types of students they attract.
The 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) was held October 19-21, 2016, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas and broke last year’s attendance record with over 15,000 participants this year. For the 8th year in a row, CRA-W presented career mentoring content for GHC attendees interested in research. CRA-W Board Member Tracy Camp (Colorado School of Mines) designed this year’s program, organizing the mentoring program into three tracks for early-career academic researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates. Brand new for 2016 was the CRA-W GHC Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, spearheaded by CRA-W Co-Chair Nancy Amato (Texas A&M University) and CRA-W Board Member Andrea Danyluk (Williams College), which provided funding for undergraduates to attend the conference, and guidance for finding and navigating the research content at GHC.