Category Archives: Career

The Need to Increase Gender Diversity in IT

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A recent study published by Catherine Ashcroft and Wendy DuBow from the National Center for Women & Information Technology suggests ways for men to get involved in fighting gender inequality within both the technology field and workplace.

The authors suggest that men’s advocacy is necessary to promote gender diversity in technology because diversity is not just an issue for women but a business and human issue. The authors note that gender diversity allows for more creative and interesting business solutions, especially within the technology field. When men recognize that they have a stake in this issue, it becomes clear that change needs to be made. Moreover, because men hold more formal and informal positions of power in technology than women, they have more potential to influence systemic changes within the field.

The authors next suggest what men should and could be advocating for in these spaces. They argue that men can help change the work environment (and not, for instance “change” the women). Second, men need to speak up when they know of a woman who deserves a promotion or recognition when they are not receiving it in addition to working towards necessary systemic changes more generally. Further, men need to “Listen, Don’t assume that all women want a part in diversity efforts, and reframe negative reactions as valuable opportunities for developing empathy.”

For more information on the ways men can be advocates, visit here. In addition, see this link for ideas in which workplaces can better serve gender diversity.

The importance of role models

It makes a lot of sense to tackle the gender gap in STEM fields from different angles.

Apart from early education and dispelling myths about math and gender, another piece of the puzzle is to ensure that girls have role models they can relate to and identify with. A free to download collection of interviews with “Women in Data,” by Cornelia Lévy-Bencheton, gives women a voice to share how much mentors and role models have shaped their careers in different fields in data and technology.

The interviews also show that with more women going into technology, more role models and mentors will be available to coach younger women and girls to follow.

Be inspired be these 15 “Women in Data.”

 

When women stopped coding…

Imagine, a time existed in which women did code in much higher numbers than we see currently. What happened to them? Why did the numbers go down in the early 1980s as the graph shows?

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An informative NPR Planet Money podcast gives you the full story to explain some of the complex factors that reversed a once increasing trend in women coders. Listen in to learn more about the pioneers of computers science — women, and what changed the path of women in computing.

Strategies for Wikipedia to attract more women

WikipediaGlobeGuest post by Laura Hale

One of the things that I have been discussing with several women about Wikipedia recently involves the question: “If another woman came to you and said they were interested in getting very involved with Wikipedia, would you recommend it to them?” Privately, I have found that several women who are highly active are actually beginning to say no. I said this on a Facebook post, and a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board asked me what the solution to this problem of women not encouraging women to participate is. My response to them was:

I am not sure what the solution is. I’m growing increasingly disillusioned, and amongst my friends, I sense similar attitudes. In reflecting on my own interactions with the community and conversations I have had with my friends and acquaintances, there are three things that I see as potential solutions.

1. Demonstrate why women should contribute to Wikipedia in a way that is personally meaningful. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other small social networks, conferences and in-person groups do this. They provide women with contacts and networking opportunities to further professional, academic and personal goals. Wikipedia and its movement appear to be a dead-end street. The skill set for contributing doesn’t assist you. (And even some parts that do, you can get those skills elsewhere without the drama.) The networking only serves you in a limited Wikipedia movement way, which limits your options instead of expanding them. Why myself and women should be involved in terms of selfishly helping us meet our own personal, academic and professional goals needs to be made implicitly clear.

2. Demonstrate to women that they are not at risk for contributing. This is two-fold to a degree. There are too many stories of women specifically being harassed personally, academically and professionally for contributing. (Many women need to edit under their real names to get benefits or credits for their work. We are thus at an increased risk.) The community does not talk about these problems, even as it appears everyone else is now willing to engage in these discussions. Journalists, gamers, programmers, politicians, academics, scientists and social media sites are all having these conversations about the experiences of women and how awful they are. Wikipedia and the movement are not. Women are strongly being encouraged to be silent, to not feed the trolls. In being silent, we cannot share our experiences and what happens is that the harassers become the loudest voice and they are empowered. Because engaging with our harassers and discussing problems is taboo, the voices that the movement hears are the harassers and the trolls who are then perceived as legitimate voices of the community. And then because they are the only voices the movement hears, it feels like the people with institutional power then go out of their way to empower them and in effect, assist the people who are harassing women and driving them away from the project. The Wikipedia movement needs to demonstrate that this paradigm is not acceptable. The Wikipedia movement needs to demonstrate to women that they will not be put personally, professionally and academically at risk for participating. Who wants to knowingly contribute to a project where they are consciously anxious and fearful, always looking over their shoulder, when they get very little out of it?

3. Demonstrate support for content about women and of interest to women. “Category gate” [about articles concerning women and men U.S. novelists –– read our post] is going to happen again. The Chelsea Manning thing is going to happen again. There is condemnation community wise of popular culture topics, and of topics about women. We are headed towards these content issues again and again. The community appears re-active and defensive when these things come up. And there appear to be no perceived institutionally powerful people willing to pro-actively address these issues, go into the community and address these. When we do push back on women content issues, we end up with problems with point number 2. Continual community leadership and addressing the worst of the problems need to be addressed so women can feel the content about them and of interest to them matters and is not inherently inferior.

All three of these strategies feed into each other and are linked. At the end of the day, women need to feel safe to edit, that there is a reason to edit and that content about them is important and equal to the content about men. Action needs to be taken to address these points, and the action needs to come from the several parts of the movement that are perceived as having real power. The last major initiative that appears to have been addressed to encourage women to participate was a visual editor [that makes it easier to edit texts than the regular non-standard HTML used by Wikipedia], but it addressed none of these issues. People talk a good game with blog posts and speeches about how women matter, but no actions take place that confirm these. Give women solutions to deal with harassment and biased content issues and lack of opportunities in the Wikipedia movement. And then provide a press release. If you can give a press release on sock puppeting [when people use different accounts and personas on Wikipedia to edit] and actions institutional powers took against sock puppeters, why can’t institutional powers find ways to empower women and then issue press releases on that?

And I find it hard to offer examples and more concrete examples, to offer better solutions drawing on my personal experiences and that of my friends, because in doing so, I fear I will run into problems described in points 2 and points 3.

Laura Hale is a Ph.D. student at the University of Canberra, who is studying sport and social media. As a Wikipedian, she has created over 1,200 articles with over 40 percent of them about women.  She has served as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian Paralympic Committee and the Spanish Paralympic Committee.  She is also active in a leadership role in the Wikimedia movement, having served as the vice president of Wikimedia Australia, and the provisional chairperson of The Wikinewsie Group.

 

Smart women’s skills confer more career options?

WhereToGoSome new research indicates that more women than men have a combination of high math and high verbal skills on the SAT scores… but also that the women with both high math and high verbal ability tend to choose careers outside of science.

This is important, because it suggests that the problem of getting women to major in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the so-called STEM fields) is not because women cannot handle these fields but are choosing not to. The researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan who did the study speculate that their combination of skills provides them with more career options.

The authors found that women with high math skills and only moderate verbal ability are the ones who appear more likely to choose STEM careers

Given the need to encourage more people to prepare for STEM careers, the authors urge more concentrated efforts to encourage women who already possess the necessary skills. The paper, published March 19 in Psychological Science, is titled “Not Lack of Ability but More Choice: Individual and Gender Differences in Choice of Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”

The Pitt-Michigan team calculated that the mean SAT math score of a group of men and women with the combination of high math and high verbal scores was 720, while the mean SAT verbal score was 696. (On each, the highest possible score is 800.) Women were 63 percent of these students who were high achievers in both; men were 37 percent.

Additionally, the researchers found that women in the group of men and women with high math scores and only moderate verbal scores were the ones more likely to choose STEM careers. The mean math SAT score for this group was 721, while the mean verbal SAT score was 655.

Pitt Assistant Professor of Psychology in Education Ming-Te Wang and his collaborators examined data on college-bound U.S. students in the 12th grade (in 1992) and again at age 33 (2007). Only subjects who completed both surveys were included in Wang’s study.

Wang and coauthors Jacquelynne Eccles and Sarah Kenny, both of the University of Michigan, found that men and women who felt more successful in mathematics than in verbal-related disciplines were more likely to work in STEM fields. Mathematics, said Wang, played a role in these individuals’ identities because they excelled within the discipline, driving them to pursue STEM-related jobs.

The research has gotten a lot of publicity that highlights its important implications, although some of it is inaccurate. A blog on the website of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, misidentifies the authors and, more importantly says that they argue that women who are fully capable of doing STEM work have broader career options than those available to men because their verbal abilities are superior, on average. This puts the causality backward. And Time puts the story correctly, but with a misleading headline: “How Cultural Stereotypes Lure Women Away From Careers in Science“.

But there is good news—that is, solutions. Wang said: “This highlights the need for educators and policy makers to shift the focus away from trying to strengthen girls’ STEM-related abilities and instead tap the potential of these girls who are highly skilled in both the math and verbal domains to go into STEM fields.”

LS