The following was originally posted by Peter Harsha on the CRA Policy Blog.
At a briefing of the congressional Diversity in Tech Caucus, hosted by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in the Capitol yesterday, CRA-W board member Rebecca Wright explained why efforts to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields — particularly computing — were worthy of continued Federal support. Wright, a professor of computer science at Rutgers University, was a member of a panel of experts assembled by the Diversity in Tech Caucus to explore the issue of diversity within the research and STEM Education communities.
Wright explained that a lack of diversity in the tech fields ought to pose a real concern for policymakers for three reasons:
- A diverse talent pool working on tech problems leads to better tech outcomes — not only because you have a range of different perspectives that can be brought to bear on a problem, but because a diverse workforce understands the needs of a diverse populace and can help tailor solutions to them.
- There’s an economic necessity — projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the demand for tech workers over the next ten years is likely serious, demand that won’t be met without increasing the draw from these underrepresented pools.
- There are also social justice benefits of providing equal opportunities in these high-paying, high-skill jobs for women and other underrepresented groups.
She also detailed social science research conducted by CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline explaining some of the factors that underlie women’s low participation rates in computing fields, and gave examples of how a few key CRA-W programs, like the CRA-W Research Experiences for Undergraduates and CRA-W’s Grad Cohort programs do an effective job of addressing those factors.
Wright was joined on the panel by economist Adams Nager, from the Information Technology Innovation Foundation (ITIF); Njema Frazier, a nuclear physicist, representing the National Society of Black Engineers; Gloria Washington, a computer scientist from Howard University (and recent CCC participant!), representing IEEE-USA; and Janet Koster, from the Association of Women in Science. All hit similar themes and reiterated the call for continued Federal support for successful programs.
The Diversity in Tech caucus is a recently-formed bi-cameral, bi-partisan congressional caucus driven at the moment by Sen. Klobuchar who has taken a keen interest in improving workforce diversity in this key industry. The caucus hopes to sponsor more events to drill down into the policy details necessary for ensuring that the Federal government is doing what it can to help foster a more inclusive technology workforce. We’ll have all the details when they do.