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.
Computing Research News
Articles on diversity analysis and efforts.
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.
In the U.S., both the Hispanic population and the number of computing and STEM-related jobs are exponentially on the rise. By 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor expects 1.1 million computing-related job openings, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics reports that currently one in five women in the U.S. are Hispanic, and by 2060, nearly one in three women will be Hispanic.
Yet, in 2015, only one percent of the jobs in the computing workforce were occupied by Latinas. Furthermore, in 2014, Hispanic women received 2 percent of doctoral degrees in computer and information sciences.
Our country’s global economic power and influence greatly depend on our innovation competitiveness, but we’re not taking advantage of our diverse population. Latinas represent a vastly untapped talent pool, and the current representation of Latina girls and women in tech is dismal, both in the workforce and in education. Developing Latinas as qualified, technical job candidates is vital in not only increasing the bottom line of the U.S. economy and creating diversity in the computing workforce, but also for improving the economic outlook of the Hispanic community.
CRA-W recently hosted its latest Graduate Cohort Workshop (Grad Cohort) on April 14-15, in San Diego, Calif. Thanks to support from various sponsors, more than 550 female graduate students in computer science attended the event, up from 365 in 2015. Despite its significant growth, the program remains selective; more than 1,000 students applied for this year’s workshop. At the gathering, 31 speakers from industry, academia, and government shared their advice and strategies for success in graduate school.
In recent decades, there have been many Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) initiatives aimed at increasing the participation of women in these fields. In computer science and engineering, the percentage of women pursuing degrees and careers has remained relatively low. According to CRA’s annual Taulbee Survey of Ph.D. granting institutions, less than 15 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees were awarded to women in the 2013-14 academic year . Given the significant increases of women in other traditionally male dominated fields such as law and medicine in the past 50 years , computing’s persistent low representation of women is rather disappointing, to say the least. Women’s low participation is also alarming when we consider the increasing number of jobs in computing, as well as the positive impact of improving gender diversity on innovation in research settings  and on collective intelligence . So the question becomes, how do we change things?
CERP recently collected data from Intro CS students as part of the “booming enrollments” research underway at the CRA. Within this dataset, a sample of undergraduate students (N = 50) who had recently dropped an Intro CS course reported their reasons for doing so. Women were significantly more likely than men to report they did not enjoy their Intro CS professor’s teaching style, and that the course content was too challenging, p < .05. These findings suggest that the “weed out” technique in Intro CS may have a more negative impact on women than men, and that the current “boom,” if left unchecked, has the potential to impair diversity efforts in CS.
CERP surveyed 101 undergraduate students majoring in a computing field who indicated that they had seriously considered changing to a non-computing major. Of those students, 7% identified as LGBTQ women, 7% identified as LGBTQ men, 27% identified as heterosexual women, and 59% identified as heterosexual men. When asked to indicate the reason they thought about changing their major. LGBTQ women were significantly more likely than their male LGBTQ and heterosexual peers to have considered leaving their major due to a low sense of belonging in computing, p < .05. These findings suggest the field of computing should take significant efforts to enhance LGBTQ women’s sense of belonging in computing.
Part of CRA’s mission is to facilitate the development of strong, diverse talent in the field. CRA takes action to help increase and strengthen the computing workforce through programs such as the Collaborative Research Experiences for Undergraduates (CREU) and Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates (DREU) programs.
The 2014 Taulbee Survey reports 152 African-American students enrolled in computer science Ph.D. programs–only 1.3 percent of the total students enrolled. Despite these low numbers, there is not a shortage of success stories. Morehouse College, a historically black institution, produces 13 percent of the male African-American Ph.D. students. I recently caught up with Kinnis Gosha, assistant professor of computer science and director of the Culturally Relevant Computing Lab (CRCL) at Morehouse College. Gosha has a Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing and started the CRCL in 2011. The lab investigates research problems centered on creating innovative computing technologies to solve cultural problems and issues.