Demand for professionals in technology and computing fields is expected to increase substantially over the next decade, and increasing the number of women of color in tech will be critical to building and maintaining a competitive workforce. Women of color currently make up 39 percent of the female population in the United States and are projected to comprise the majority by 2060. In computing, women of color earn less than 10 percent of the bachelor’s degrees and less than 5 percent of doctorates (McAlear et al., 2018). Despite years of efforts to increase the diversity of the tech workforce, women of color have remained underrepresented, and the numbers of some groups of women of color have even declined. Even in cases where some groups of women of color may have higher levels of representation, data show that they still face significant systemic challenges in advancing to positions of leadership. Research evidence suggests that structural and social barriers in tech education, the tech workforce, and venture capital investment disproportionately and negatively affect women of color.
Many efforts to increase the number of women in tech have focused on women more broadly rather than address the specific contexts of women of color. The lack of disaggregated data specific to women of color and subgroups of women of color has also impeded efforts to fully understand the causes and consequences of underrepresentation and develop effective strategies for increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech at all levels. Recognizing the intersection of race, gender, and other social and cultural identities—and the ways in which those identities interact with existing systems—can provide insights and inform promising practices with the potential to increase the success of women of color in tech.
Although previous National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reports have addressed the underrepresentation of women in science, engineering, and medicine, none have focused on the unique experiences of women of color in tech disciplines. This report uses recent research as well as information obtained through four public information-gathering workshops to provide recommendations to a broad set of stakeholders within the tech ecosystem for increasing the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color. The committee’s recommendations identify gaps in existing research that obscure the nature of challenges faced by women of color in tech, address systemic issues that negatively affect outcomes for women of color in tech, and provide guidance for transforming existing systems and implementing evidence-based policies and practices to increase the success of women of color in tech.
The committee was tasked by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to convene four workshops and author a consensus study to examine strategies to improve the representation of women of color in tech. The committee’s statement of task defines women of color as women who are African American, Hispanic, Latinx, American Indian, Asian American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or of other Pacific Islander descent. As previously noted, the committee recognizes that some subgroups within these populations may have better representation at different points in their academic and career trajectory. These demographic groups describe a broad range of ethnicities and geographic origins, and there is substantial diversity in the experiences and representation among and within groups of women of color.
The committee was tasked with (1) reviewing existing research literature and other resources to identify factors contributing to the underrepresentation of women of color in tech; (2) convening with experts from multiple regions of the United States to learn more about evidence-based, effective strategies for increasing recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color in tech; (3) identifying factors that contribute to the success of women of color in tech; and (4) identifying, contextualizing, and disseminating recommendations for policy makers, academic institutions, employers, and other stakeholders (see Chapter 1 for the full statement of task).
For the purposes of this study, the committee’s statement of task defines tech as computer sciences, computer and information science and support services, information technology, and computer engineering. The committee recognizes that the definition of tech as defined in its charge is narrower than the broad number of academic disciplines and careers that could be described as tech disciplines or careers. The committee made efforts to identify evidence and published research literature with particular attention to identification of sources directly related to the disciplines identified in the statement of task. However, the committee also
recognizes the applicability and relevance of evidence from disciplines in tech defined more broadly, and has drawn upon published research as well as presentations from experts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), when appropriate, to further inform its deliberations and recommendations.
KEY CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Based on the committee’s evaluation of the research literature and other evidence, a key conclusion of the committee was that the experiences of women of color should inform the development of policies and practices intended to increase their representation in tech. Relatedly, the lack of disaggregated data poses a major challenge to understanding the nuanced and specific needs of different subgroups of women of color. Small sample sizes have frequently limited the collection of data specific to women of color in tech. The privacy concerns that arise in these small samples has also posed a challenge. While the committee recognizes the limitations of using small sample sizes and the limited ability to generalize findings to all women of color, the committee has approached its review of the evidence with a recognition of the fact that women of color are not a monolith and that there is value in exploring and understanding the experiences of subgroups of women of color. The committee concluded that use of appropriate qualitative data collection practices and other approaches that allow for the use of small sample sizes can inform the development of policies and practices based on the lived experiences of women of color to improve their representation, sense of belonging, and inclusion along their academic and career trajectories in tech.
The committee has provided targeted recommendations for future research and funding as well as recommendations for specific stakeholder groups in higher education, industry, government, and professional organizations. Recommendations appear at the end of each chapter in the report.
Recommendations for Future Research and Funding
More research, and more funding for research, should be dedicated to the following topics to significantly expand the knowledge base about how to better support and retain girls and women of color in technology and computing education and careers. Based on the committee’s evaluation of research evidence and identification of gaps in research and funding, the following topics for future research and funding for K-12, higher education, and industry have been recommended.
K-12: Topics for Future Research and Funding
- Differences between girls of color and non-Hispanic white girls with regard to the digital divide, access to computer science courses, and quality of online learning
- Differences between girls of color and non-Hispanic white girls, and between women of color and non-Hispanic white women, with regard to educational experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Intervention components that can positively impact the identity, confidence, interest, and aspirations of girls of color in tech and related fields, including counter-stereotypical role models, culturally relevant computing curricula, access to early childhood education that promotes culturally relevant socioemotional development, and diversity in the computer science teacher workforce
Higher Education: Topics for Future Research and Funding
- Impact of family support/encouragement and other early exposure experiences for women of color in tech and related fields
- How finances and financial aid (e.g., scholarships, loans and debt, salaries) impact women of color’s entry into and persistence in tech and related fields
- Experiences of women of color at transition points throughout their academic career (e.g., from K-12 to higher education, from community college to four-year institutions, and from undergraduate to graduate education)
- Experiences of women of color in tech and related fields at the undergraduate and graduate levels at minority-serving institutions1
- Experiences of women of color in tech and related fields at technical colleges and community colleges
- Impact of peer mentoring on the success of women of color in tech
- Experiences of graduate students in tech and related fields who are women of color
- Experiences of women of color in tech in STEM and non-STEM community and counterspaces (i.e., safe spaces)
Workplace: Topics for Future Research and Funding
- Effective recruitment and hiring of women of color in tech and related fields
- Alternate pathway programs for women of color into tech careers
- Experiences of women of color in tech in STEM and non-STEM community and counterspaces (i.e., safe spaces)
- Award nominations and award receipt rates for women of color in tech
1 In this report, a minority-serving institution refers to historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and Asian American and Pacific Islander–serving institutions, collectively.
- The intrinsic qualities of women of color that contribute to persistence in tech and related careers
- Women of color in the tech workplace, specifically
- how they enter the field (having a technical background vs. not having one)
- promotion rates, experiences with employers, reasons for persistence or attrition
- how finances (e.g., salaries, pay inequality) impact women of color’s entry and persistence in tech and related fields
Recommendations: Challenging Assumptions Around the Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement of Women of Color in Higher Education
The committee offers the following recommendations regarding the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color in higher education.
RECOMMENDATION 3-1. To foster continuous pathways for women of color in higher education, institutions at the departmental, college, and university levels should promote the collection of empirical qualitative and quantitative data that disaggregate the recruitment and graduation experiences of students, the recruitment and promotion and tenure trajectories of all faculty, and ascension to leadership positions for women of color.
These data should be used to inform the design and implementation of the following processes, but not limited to
- culturally responsive review of promotion and tenure guidelines and academic review processes to ensure that the qualitative and quantitative research produced by women of color in tech is equally valued at the departmental, college, and university levels.
- collection, analysis, and presentation of disaggregated data of tech departments and college environments to institutional leaders. Information regarding the individuals who constitute research teams, laboratories, faculty service committees, and doctoral committees could be used to determine whether one group is disproportionately receiving opportunities or assuming more invisible labor. These data should also include the social categories (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status) of decision makers at departmental, college, and university levels in order to understand how power operates as an intersectional concept.
- a reward system sustained by computing and other technology-related departments and college environments which demonstrate ongoing levels of success recruiting, retaining, and maintaining an inclusive context for
- women of color in tech. Both disaggregated qualitative and quantitative data could be used to present cases that illustrate effective strategies.
RECOMMENDATION 3-2. Institutions of higher education should collect and analyze disaggregated qualitative data to document the voices of women of color in tech and the narrated experiences of those who work with women of color that demonstrate how women of color fare in technology and computing courses as they navigate higher education at various levels.
To accomplish this, leaders in higher education, such as provosts, deans, and department heads, should use these data as the basis for their decisions for developing, sourcing, and evaluating initiatives for students and faculty who are women of color. Leaders in higher education should
- Regularly review and interpret these narrative data as barometers for measuring progress toward diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, and
- Identify and adopt best practices from institutions that have successfully recruited and retained women of color in tech.
RECOMMENDATION 3-3. Higher education leaders should widen recruitment efforts to identify women of color candidates to join their computer science, computer engineering, and other tech departments as students and faculty, with increased consideration of those from two-year community colleges and minority-serving institutions, and should develop retention strategies focused on supporting these students and faculty during transitions to their institutions.
Strategies should include the following:
- Developing partnerships with two-year community colleges and minority-serving institutions to identify and recruit tech students and graduates who are women of color.
- Increase access to higher education by integrating financial assistance programs with recruitment and retention strategies that target undergraduate and graduate students who are women of color.
- Providing increased social supports for incoming tech students and faculty who are women of color, such as orientations, professional development, career coaching, and peer mentoring. Individuals who provide this support should be required to maintain ongoing, regular training in culturally responsive education, racial awareness, and intersectionality.
Recommendations: Increasing Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement of Women of Color in the Tech Industry
The committee offers the following recommendations for increasing the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color in the tech industry.
RECOMMENDATION 4-1. To enhance the accuracy of data reporting, tech companies should disaggregate employment data by tech and non-tech positions, job titles, gender, and race/ethnicity—with particular attention to the intersection of race/ethnicity and gender—and make those data publicly available. Reports should include information about trends in recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color.
Although some companies have been hesitant to disclose EEO-1 data to the public, many other companies recently began releasing company-wide demographic data over the past few years. However, the majority of these reports classify women as a single underrepresented group despite vastly different trends among women from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. There remains a need for further transparency in order to fully understand the employment landscape of women of color in the tech industry. Demographic data play a critical role in measuring progress, along with identifying areas where additional resources are needed to improve recruitment, retention, and advancement; benchmarking; and creating strategic plans for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Companies, organizations, and researchers also need data on recruitment demographics, promotion rates, and attrition (both involuntary and voluntary exits) in order to identify inequities and remove structural and systemic barriers that contribute to women of color leaving high-tech positions. Transparency in reporting will promote accountability. Without these types of changes, it is unlikely that the tech sector will be able to reduce racial bias and discrimination.
RECOMMENDATION 4-2. Companies and organizations working within the tech sector should create pathways for women of color into leadership positions and create positions for diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals that are part of executive leadership.
Creating a diverse and inclusive organizational culture starts with leaders both in individual companies and across the industry who recognize their essential role in shaping organization culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) priorities. Diversity is a business imperative that requires the oversight and attention of senior executive management. Diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals within a company should have sufficient financial and human resources to support organizational goals in order to successfully implement research-based best practices with well-defined goals. They should also have direct access to
other members of the leadership team, an opportunity to report on the status of progress, and they should be able to demonstrate measurable success in their role.
Increasing the number of women of color in leadership positions will improve equity in tech by building industry leadership that reflects the identities of the customers and communities the industry serves. It is important to note that continuity of leadership, sustained implementation of best practices, and consistency of metrics for assessing the success of DEI efforts are factors that can reduce the negative effects of frequent organizational change (e.g., lack of promotion or the need to rebuild credibility with teams, customers, and partners) and improve outcomes for women of color as they progress in their careers.
Women of color bring a wealth of skills, abilities, networks, and other cultural capital to the workplace. Evidence shows that companies with more diversity in leadership outperform companies with less diverse leaders. In addition, cultivating more leaders who are women of color can improve innovation, increase recruitment of other women of color, and, in the long term, improve the diversity of the tech industry’s talent pool.
RECOMMENDATION 4-3. Tech companies, with the assistance of a neutral central organization, should initiate an ongoing cross-sector coalition with each other as well as other stakeholders such as academic institutions—especially minority-serving institutions (e.g., historically Black colleges or universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities)—and professional societies. This collective would allow member organizations and institutions to connect with each other with the goal of supporting current and future women of color in tech and promoting effective recruitment, retention, and advancement strategies for women of color in tech across all entities.
To create new solutions to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion, a collective approach to problem solving that facilitates the development of partnerships across the tech ecosystem could be a successful way to address the underrepresentation of women of color in tech. As other sectors increasingly utilize and develop new technologies, the tech sector will continue to expand and evolve. Although some collectives of tech companies already exist, a cross-sector, collective approach to strategic planning implemented in collaboration with a neutral, well-resourced central organization will help industry, higher education institutions, and other stakeholders (e.g., organizations working to create alternative pathways into tech and policy making) to increase accountability, share data, and leverage their strengths to develop strategies for improving policies and practices that improve outcomes for women of color as they transition from higher education into the workforce and as they advance in their careers in tech.
RECOMMENDATION 4-4. Tech companies should expand employment options that promote work-life balance such as remote work, flexible work hours, parental and other family leave, and career counseling as a strategy to improve retention and advancement and expand recruitment of women of color.
There are increased opportunities for recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce when companies implement practices that facilitate balance between work and home life. Although many companies within the tech sector have implemented flexible work policies, employees’ opportunities to advance may sometimes be limited when they take full advantage of such policies. Although flexible work policies that promote work-life balancing have been shown to benefit both men and women, evidence shows that women—and women of color, in particular—are more negatively affected by the absence of these types of policies. Women shoulder a disproportionate burden of household management, childcare, and other caregiving. Research shows that implementing flexible work policies for all employees fosters more equitable participation in the workforce and increases opportunities for retention and advancement. Flexible work policies such as remote work may also be a valuable recruitment tool for attracting new employees who are women of color and allowing them the option to remain in geographic regions where they have easier access to family, community, and other support networks and resources.
Recommendations: The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech
The committee offers the following set of recommendations related to the role of government in addressing the underrepresentation of women of color in tech based on the findings presented in chapter 5.
RECOMMENDATION 5-1. Government efforts aimed at addressing the underrepresentation of particular groups in tech should intentionally account for intersectionality.
5-1 A. Any legislation aimed at addressing issues of underrepresentation in STEM and in tech should take an intersectional approach that considers the unique experiences of women of multiple marginalized identities (as described in Box 5-1).
5-1 B. Government efforts calling for data collection related to groups underrepresented in STEM and in tech should clearly indicate that such data be disaggregated by race/ethnicity and gender (to the extent possible given the need to protect anonymity of individuals) and should require qualitative as well as quantitative
data collection, especially when the numbers are small enough that qualitative data would provide more meaningful information.
5-1 C. Program solicitations and descriptions at federal agencies should be explicit in directing prospective grantees to take an intersectional approach.
History demonstrates that unless policies, practices, programs, and individuals embrace an intersectional approach to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our institutions, women of color will not benefit from these efforts. The committee found that both legislative language and federal program solicitations related to diversity, equity, and inclusion were inconsistent in calling for an intersectional approach.
RECOMMENDATION 5-2. Federal agencies should submit to Congress an overview of their programs that support the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color in tech with their annual budget request as the National Science Foundation currently does in its Summary Table on Programs to Broaden Participation (see Table 5-1). If agencies do not create such annual reports voluntarily, Congress should mandate that agencies do so.
In general, information about existing federal efforts aimed at supporting women of color in tech is widely dispersed and inconsistently distributed on various agencies’ websites. The highly distributed nature of this information makes it challenging to gain a complete understanding and an accurate record of these investments. One notable exception is the National Science Foundation (NSF), whose annual budget request to Congress provides an annual compilation of the agency’s efforts to support broadening participation.
RECOMMENDATION 5-3: To promote transparency and accountability, Congress should amend section 709e of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require public release of EEO-1 workforce demographic data by companies, which would include those that are the recipients of government contracts supported by taxpayer dollars.
Research demonstrates that increasing transparency and accountability in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts can yield tangible positive impacts. Recognizing the importance of data collection, transparency, and accountability, many investors have called upon tech companies (many of which are recipients of large government contracts) to be more transparent about the composition of their workforce by publicly releasing the EEO-1 demographic data that most companies are required to provide to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
annually. In the committee’s view, the public should be afforded the opportunity to hold these government contractors—some of which are the recipients of billions of taxpayer dollars—accountable for making progress toward their stated missions to improve the diversity of their workforce.
RECOMMENDATION 5-4. Federal agencies should incentivize grantee institutions’ efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion through accountability measures.
5-4 A. Prospective grantees’ plans to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion should be reviewed by review panels and agency personnel and should be a determining factor in awarding or renewing funding to an institution, in addition to technical merit. Grantees should include a description of the impact of their efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in annual reports and requests for funding renewals.
5-4 B. Federal agencies should invest in programs that incentivize institutional efforts to take a culturally responsive, intersectional approach in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech through award and recognition programs, such as the SEA Change effort led by the American Association of the Advancement of Science, which is currently funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and a number of private foundations.
5-4 C. Federal agencies should carry out periodic “equity audits” for grantee institutions to ensure that the institution is working in good faith to take an intersectional approach to address gender and racial disparities in recruitment, retention, and advancement.
- Institutions could be electronically flagged by the funding agency for an equity audit after a certain length of time or amount of funding is reached.
- An evaluation of the representation of women of color among leadership and academic success of women of color disaggregated by department should be included in such an audit.
- Equity audits should include a statement from institutions to account for the particular institutional context, geography, resource limitations, and mission and hold that institution accountable within this context. The statement should also account for progress over time in improving the representation and experiences of underrepresented groups in science, engineering, and medicine and should indicate remedial or other planned actions to improve the findings of the audit.
- The equity audit should result in a public-facing report made available on the agency’s website.2
5-4 D. Federal agencies should consider institutional and individual researchers’ efforts to support greater equity, diversity, and inclusion as part of the proposal compliance, review, and award process. To reduce additional administrative burdens, agencies could work within existing proposal requirements to accomplish this goal. For example, NSF could revise the guidance to grantees on its broader impact statements and the National Science Board could carry out a review of past NSF awards to determine how the NSF directorates have accounted for gender equity, diversity, and inclusion among the metrics evaluated in proposals submitted to NSF.
Federal agencies can play a powerful role in holding grantees accountable and by incentivizing action at institutions. If these recommendations are implemented with an intentional focus on intersectionality, it is the committee’s opinion that they could be a positive force for holding institutions accountable for working in good faith to address the underrepresentation of women of color in tech education and careers.
RECOMMENDATION 5-5. Professional organizations and associations that represent the scientific and tech community (e.g., the Association for Computing Machinery, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science) should consider partnering with organizations that are committed to dismantling structural racism, such as the NAACP, National Urban League, LULAC, UnidosUS, Native American Rights Fund, United Negro College Fund, and National Congress of American Indians, to extend their sphere of influence and expand their outreach to policymakers on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech fields.
Strategic partnerships that extend an organization’s sphere of influence are key to promoting policy change. There are examples in science and education policy in which meaningful policy change has grown out of partnerships and coordinated advocacy efforts. Advocacy coalition frameworks and specific case study examples could serve as models to stakeholders, such as scientific and engineering professional societies, that are working to advocate for improving the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color in tech (Weible, 2017; Weible and Ingold, 2018; Weber, 2019). The committee sees an opportunity
for scientific and engineering professional societies (e.g., American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, National Society of Black Engineers) and higher education associations (e.g., the Association of American Universities) that engage in advocacy for science and for diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, to form strategic partnerships with influential organizations that have worked for many years to address structural racism and sexism and which have a great deal of influence with government institutions.
Recommendations: Alternative Pathways for Women of Color in Tech and the Role of Professional Societies
The recommendations that follow address the roles of academia, community organizations, industry, federal agencies, and professional societies in increasing the number of women in tech through education of K-12 students and retraining programs for adults.
RECOMMENDATION 6-1. Industry and funding agencies should invest in expansion of certification and training programs for women of color that are delivered by community-based organizations to scale their capacity to recruit and prepare a greater number of women of color in tech. These investments should expand opportunities for apprenticeships and people seeking to (re)enter the tech workforce.
The low number of women of color in tech positions who have not received a bachelor’s degree (Table 6-1) and who earn certificates (Figures 6-1 and 6-2) demonstrates that women of color are not taking sufficient advantage of alternative pathways into tech careers. Recently, there has been significant interest in reskilling in computing-related areas among non-computer science majors (NASEM, 2018; NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2005). Re-entry programs provide a substantial opportunity for women who stepped away from the workplace for family reasons and seek re-entry, perhaps in a career they may not have previously considered.
Professional preparation of women of color can be an integral component of an organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. Dedicated efforts in areas of national need, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and data analytics, can provide entry into tech fields and provide women of color the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities that can lead to progressively more advanced roles.
RECOMMENDATION 6-2. Funding agencies should invest in programs that provide scholarships to Native female students who pursue a graduate program in a computing-related field and commit to teach at a tribal college or university for the length of the scholarship.
Tribal colleges and universities are an important entry point into technology and computing fields for Native female students; however, there are not many tribal colleges and universities that offer a bachelor’s or master’s degree; most are similar to a community college (Varma, 2009a, 2009b). While these institutions provide more curricula aligned to the culture of American Indians and Alaska Natives (Ambler, 2002), institutions are influenced by the structural and geographical challenges experienced on reservations where they are located—for example, high unemployment rates, low per-capita income, lack of qualified instructors, and hard-to-reach locations (Varma, 2009a, 2009b). These factors represent barriers for prospective faculty to teach technology at these institutions. Only 12 out of 35 tribal colleges and universities offer career pathways in computing.
Providing incentives to acquire the credentials needed to teach at a tribal college or university could leverage a common desire of women of color to give back to their community. This desire connects to Carlone and Johnson’s (2007) concept of the altruist scientist, whose scientific identity is tied to altruistic values connected to science as the means to improve people’s lives. The literature demonstrates that many women of color consider altruistic values as an intrinsic part of their identity as scientists and seek to give back by supporting their communities, mentoring or serving as role models, and supporting those who are like them in some way, such as sharing their same gender and/or race/ethnicity or being interested in similar fields (Agbenyega, 2018; Foster, 2016; Herling, 2011; Hodari et al., 2014, 2015, 2016; Lyon, 2013; Rodriguez, 2015; Skervin, 2015; Thomas, 2016).
The NSF Cybercorps® Scholarship for Service3 program provides a model for increasing the number of computing programs offered at tribal colleges and universities. Scholarship for Service offers scholarships to students who pursue a post-baccalaureate degree in cybersecurity who commit to working for the federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government, or a federally funded research and development center, after graduation for a period equal to the duration of the scholarship. Such a program could provide financial support for Native female students to seek a post-baccalaureate degree and give back to their community by becoming an instructor at a tribal college or university in a computing-related field.
3 For more information see https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/cybercorps-scholarshipservice-sfs-0.
RECOMMENDATION 6-3. Higher education administrators should incentivize technology and computing-related departments to accept tech-related certification and digital badges, and should provide well-defined pathways for women of color and others from technology training programs offered by community colleges, industry, and especially community-based organizations toward earning associates, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in tech fields.
Industry-based training programs represent new pathways for employees and others to earn advanced degrees in technology. The programs provide educational benefits through partnerships with higher education institutions such as Northeastern University, one of the first institutions to offer workplace badges for academic credit. It is not clear if women of color are taking advantage of these emerging pathways, perhaps because of the high barrier to entry into industry positions. On the other hand, community-based technology training programs, particularly those that target women of color, provide supportive environments for women to gain information technology skills and earn certifications and badges. These programs tailor their recruitment messaging, instruction, and wrap-around services and provide ongoing support for their alumna.
RECOMMENDATION 6-4. Professional societies should create programs and/or initiatives directed at developing additional pathways that advance women of color in tech. These programs should have a strong evaluation component to demonstrate impact and provide recommendations for scaling successful models. Programming should include certification and badging options defined collaboratively with, and recognized by, industry and academic partners. Moreover, professional societies should be intentional about diversifying their internal leadership.
Professional societies support the development of standards and are positioned to “design and promote change, including through publications, policy statements, meetings, committees, lectureships, and awards” (NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2005). Furthermore, these societies often offer educational and informational resources and can offer support to students who are interested in educational and career opportunities in a specific discipline (NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2005; Morris and Washington, 2017). Unfortunately, this influence is not often exercised as effectively as it could or should be concerning increasing diversity. While professional societies may episodically focus on their outreach to women and individuals from underrepresented groups, they often experience little success in increasing engagement or participation.
The real key to engaging and broadening participation is designing programs and initiatives that are shaped by and for the groups they purport to target (Morris
and Washington, 2017). A review of the longstanding professional societies that support individuals in one or more of the STEM fields revealed no programs or initiatives focused specifically on creating pathways or advancing women of color in tech, though some do have programs or initiatives for women in tech and/or STEM, and/or people of color in tech and/or STEM. Moreover, the leadership of professional societies rarely reflects the diversity of the future workforce. Even among professional societies that specifically serve people of color, there are very few with any programming or initiatives solely for women of color in tech.
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