Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Report from NCWIT

May 25th, 2010 / in conference reports / by Ran Libeskind-Hadas

(Contributed by Dr. Christine Alvarado, Harvey Mudd College)

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) annual summit took place last Tuesday through Thursday in Portland, OR. Hundreds of people dedicated to increasing the number of women in the IT field packed Portland’s Hotel Monaco and Intel’s Jones Farm campus to experience a stimulating three days of conversation and presentations on the state of women in information technology in education (K-12 and higher ed), industry, and government.

For those not familiar with NCWIT, it is a non-profit coalition of organizations whose goal is to increase women’s participation in information technology. It is concerned with all sectors, and its member organizations are are organized into four “Alliances”:

The Academic Alliance (post-secondary education organizations),
the K-12 Alliance,
the Entrepreneurial Alliance,
and the Workforce Alliance.

With the help of its member organizations and its Social Science Advisory Board, NCWIT develops and promotes techniques proven to increase women’s participation in IT.

This year, one of the prominent themes of the summit was bias, both explicit and implicit, and its effects on women. The Academic Alliance (AA) meeting began with a fascinating talk from Dr. Bernice Sandler, considered “The Godmother of Title IX”.  In her talk, Dr. Sandler provided numerous practical tips for recognizing and responding to sexual harassment and other forms of more subtle bias.

In the keynote talk on Wednesday morning, Brian Nosek gave us a fascinating look at implicit bias in which he described the Implicit Association Test, a psychological instrument for measuring implicit bias. He presented research that shows that most people in the US, both men and women, tend to implicitly associate “male” with “science” and “female” with “arts and humanities.” In addition, this bias is correlated with female’s lower self-confidence and indeed lower performance in mathematics. You can read more about this research and take the implicit association test yourself here.

The resources table also featured one of its newest Promising Practices: How to avoid unintended gender bias in letters of recommendation.

Of course there were many other exciting panels, talks and discussions–including a panel about the state of computing in Washington DC in which Cameron Wilson, ACM’s director of public policy, implored the community to stop reinventing
new terms for the same concept (Computing, Computational Thinking, Computer Science, etc) because we’re confusing the very people on the Hill that we need to be advocating for our interests.

I’ll focus on only one more highlight: the summit reception at the Eco Trust Natural Capital Center.  There, NCWIT honored about a dozen local high schoolers who had received the brand new Portland Metro NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. It seems clear that we have some great talent coming through the pipeline.

And finally, who could forget the guest of honor: Computer Engineer Barbie, who in her infinite fashion wisdom tells us that “C# is the new pink.”

Sound like fun? Well, then I’ll close with a short advertisement. I am assuming that many of you reading this blog post are from higher ed. If you are not yet part of the NCWIT Academic Alliance, please consider joining. All you need to join is a commitment to working torwards a  change that will postively impact women at your institution.

For more information, please contact the AA program manager Kim Kalahar or the AA Co-chairs: Nancy Amato (Texas A&M), Maureen Biggers (Indiana University), or Andrew Williams (Spelman College).

Report from NCWIT

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