Supporting, celebrating, and advocating for women in computing is the mission that lies at the heart of the activities of ACM-W. Our longstanding projects of scholarships, celebrations, and student chapters provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to increase their technical knowledge while networking and building community. Recently we have begun to expand our activity to include projects that support populations of women in computing beyond students. This article provides an overview of all of our projects, old and new.
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 Computing Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI) is a consortium of Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) committed to consolidating the strengths, resources, and efforts of public, private, federal, state, and local organizations that share the core value of increasing the number of Hispanics who pursue and complete baccalaureate and advanced degrees in computing areas. CAHSI plays a critical role in evaluating, documenting, and disseminating effective practices that support students in computing disciplines at the critical junctures in the academic pipeline.
The conference featured several inspiring keynotes, including one by CRA-W board member Ayanna Howard, Georgia Institute of Technology. CRA-W also presented career mentoring content for GHC attendees interested in research.
This article outlines several activities at UIUC geared towards encouraging women to join and stay in a computing major. As the authors note, the link between UIUC’s efforts and the uptick in women in computing at UIUC is speculative, as no formal evaluation has been conducted. Nevertheless, the level of engagement in broadening participation in computing at UIUC is encouraging. Of note, UIUC is one of many computing departments and organizations working to increase the representation of women in computing courses and majors. This article is the first in a series highlighting some of these departments.
The CS undergraduate program at the University of Illinois is among the largest in the nation. It has grown by 250 percent over the last decade to nearly 1,800 undergraduates—and it is still growing. In the last four years, the percentage of women in our CS programs rose from 10 percent to more than 25 percent. And our freshmen class in the College of Engineering rose from 11 percent women in 2012 to about 45 percent in 2016.
Retention and graduation of underrepresented minorities and students with disabilities is critical to creating a strong pipeline of employees for both industry and academia. In early 2017, the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT) announced the call for nominations for the first annual CMD-IT University Award for Retention of Minorities and Students with Disabilities in Computer Science. The University Award was created to recognize a U.S. academic institution that has demonstrated a commitment and shown results for the retention of students from underrepresented groups in undergraduate computer science programs over the last five years.
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.
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.