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.
Computing Research News
Articles on diversity analysis and efforts.
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.
CERP’s 2016 Data Buddies survey collected data on students’ disability status from 6,447 undergraduate students in computing. Eight percent of these students reported having at least one type of disability. This chart illustrates that the most common disabilities are not visible. These data serve as a reminder that some computing students may be faced with an additional set of challenges in and outside of the classroom due to their disability or disabilities.
During the fall 2016 academic semester, CERP collected data from 5,208 undergraduate students currently or previously enrolled in computing courses at a sample of U.S. colleges and universities. Students were asked whether they had participated in any computing-related contests (e.g., hackathons or robotics competitions) during the past year. Some believe this type of activity can help resumes stand out and makes applicants competitive on the job market (e.g., Harnett, 2016; Mone, 2016). We found men were more likely than women, and Asian students were more likely than their peers, to report having participated in computing-related contests. To help promote a level applicant playing field, contest organizers should consider modifying recruitment strategies to target groups who are less likely to participate, such as women.
As computing departments across the U.S. wrestle with increased enrollment, it is important to recognize that not everyone who becomes a computing major stays a computing major. In 2014, CERP collected data from a cohort of U.S. undergraduate students who agreed to be contacted for follow-up surveys in 2015. While most of the students surveyed remained computing majors (96%), some students changed to a non-computing major. As shown in the graphic above, students in our sample moved to a variety of majors, and the type of new major tended to differ by gender. Most men (69%) who left a computing major switched to engineering, math/statistics, or physical science majors. On the other hand, most women (53%) tended to move to social sciences, or humanities/arts. These data are consistent with existing social science research indicating women tend to choose fields that have clear social applications, such as the social sciences, arts, and humanities. CERP’s future analyses will explore why women, versus men, say they are leaving computing for other fields.
Note this summary of longitudinal survey data is suggestive and is intended to spur further empirical investigation. Given our sample size, we did not run inferential statistics and do not claim the gender differences are significantly different. As such, the findings reported here should be interpreted with caution.
The 10th annual ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing (hashtag #Tapia2016) was held in Austin, Texas, on September 14-17. This year’s conference had a record-breaking 965 attendees, achieving 20 percent growth over 2015. Eighty sponsors and 150 colleges and universities were represented. With the theme “Diversity Matters,” the Tapia conference brought together students, faculty, researchers, and professionals from all backgrounds and ethnicities in computing, and is the premier venue to promote and celebrate diversity in the field. The Tapia conference was sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and presented by the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT).
Graduate students in STEM fields can find their M.S. and doctoral experiences to be both isolating and academically challenging. Loneliness can be particularly poignant when the graduate student is a member of an underrepresented group; has had an undergraduate experience that was connected by school spirit, such as collectively rooting for the college’s sports teams; or has participated in group-based academic student success initiatives, such as the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, which primarily connect to undergraduate students.
To combat isolation, PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation, hosts the annual Summer Success Institute (SSI), a pre-semester weekend conference in August for graduate students. The SSI features professional development activities that directly cater to the needs of graduate students in STEM, and peripherally to “postdoctoral fellows, professors, and career professionals (PP&P).”
GEM is a network of leading corporations, government laboratories, universities, and research institutions that enables qualified students from underrepresented communities to pursue graduate education in applied science and engineering. Its mission is to enhance the value of the nation’s human capital by increasing the participation of underrepresented groups—namely, African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans—at the master’s and doctoral levels in engineering and science. GEM recruits high-quality underrepresented students seeking to pursue advanced degrees in applied science and engineering, and matches their specific skills to the specific technical needs of GEM employer members.
The Latinas in Computing (LiC) community was established with the help of The Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology (ABI) at the 2006 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC). Recognizing the status of Latinas as a double minority in North America, this community defines and implements strategies to improve the participation of the current and next generations of Latinas in technology. These dual strategies complement the work done by the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC) that focused on the recruitment and retention of minority students in computing-based fields in North America, and the work done by the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) to grow the research pipeline of women in computing. National Science Foundation (NSF) data shows Hispanic or Latino enrollment increased from 7.2% in 2002 to 9.9% in 2012, but the hiring of underrepresented minorities seems to be “stuck in neutral.”
In an era when the media talks about higher education in unique ways—such as focusing on the need for universities to display high post-graduation job placement rates and higher starting salaries to justify increasing tuition, and the need for college students to be well trained for the available opportunities in our national labor force—computing is perfectly positioned for recruiting prospective students. Indeed, for some groups and universities, growth in the area of computing has been strong and continues to grow (Zweben & Bizot, 2015). One fact sometimes cited by programs looking to encourage prospective students to matriculate in their major is to say that workers in STEM disciplines command higher wages, earning 26% more than their non-STEM peers. Another message focuses on the fact that workers with STEM degrees earn more even when they do not work in a STEM occupation (Langdon, McKittrick, Beede, Khan, & Doms, 2010). Despite the fact that these messages are well received by some individuals, for others, these messages are not sufficient to recruit them into a computing program.
Education research focusing on diversity in computing in the United States often considers Asian/Asian American students and White students to be “advantaged” demographic groups. However, Data Buddies survey data collected during the fall of 2015 indicate Asian/Asian American versus White students’ experiences pursuing computing degrees may differ. For instance, CERP examined undergraduate students’ family support for pursuing a computing degree. Whereas South Asian students’ level of family support was statistically equivalent to that of White students, East Asian and Southeast Asian students’ family support was significantly lower than that of their White peers, p ≤ .05. These findings suggest Asian/Asian American and White students may overlap in some experiences in computing, but this overlap may depend on students’ cultural identities within their Asian/Asian American identities.