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Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech (2021)

Chapter:5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech

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Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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5

The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech

As described in the earlier chapters of this report, the education and careers of women of color in technology and computing fields are impeded by both structural racism and sexism, which affect women of color in complex, cumulative, and intersecting ways as the discrimination they experience is compounded by their multiple social identities (Crenshaw, 1989). Government institutions have created and perpetuated structural and institutional racism and sexism in myriad ways (e.g., slavery, segregation, internment, disenfranchisement based on gender and race, and discriminatory housing, banking, and educational practices). While the government has acted to try to mitigate the impact of structural racism and sexism in American society, in general and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in particular, in many cases such efforts have failed to take an intersectional approach.1 Without such an approach, women of color often fail to benefit from government efforts to the same degree as white women or men from underrepresented groups.

Take the historic example provided by the fight for voting rights in the United States, both the white women who led the women’s suffrage movement and the men of color who fought against disenfranchisement on the basis of race often excluded women of color from these civil rights efforts (Bailey, 2020). The passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution in 1870, which prevented states from prohibiting the right to vote on the basis of “race, color, or previous

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1 While the focus of this report is on tech fields, many of the government-level efforts and interventions that could benefit women of color in tech would also be beneficial for women of color pursuing STEM fields more generally. For this reason, this chapter often highlights efforts related to STEM in addition to those focused specifically on tech.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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condition of servitude,” enfranchised men of color, at least on paper,2 but did not grant women the right to vote. The passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which granted women the right to vote and, in doing so, expanded professional and educational opportunities for women including in STEM fields, also failed to fully enfranchise women of color. Despite the contributions of women of color over decades to fight for women’s suffrage, the same discriminatory obstacles and policies that prevented men of color from voting after the passage of the 15th Amendment also effectively withheld the right to vote from women of color. It was not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, more than 40 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, that women of color were able to more fully exercise their right to vote (Bleiweis et al., 2020).

In her 2020 opinion editorial in Science, historian of science and the co-chair of the committee authoring this report, Evelynn Hammonds, explained how this historical backdrop established a “legacy of exclusion” that persists today, both in society at large and in STEM fields. Hammonds wrote:

Many of these (white) women joined in the suffrage movement, with the idea that the vote would help to advance their progress in scientific fields, but they often failed to confront their own exclusionary practices, particularly those surrounding race. In not advocating for voting rights for all women, they helped to support the segregation of scientists of color within scientific institutions, especially female scientists of color. Indeed, little was done by leading scientists to address issues of race or the representation of women of color in science until after World War II. Even after decades of efforts to increase the diversity of the U.S. scientific workforce, we are still struggling with this legacy of exclusion today (Hammonds, 2020).

Historical examples that illustrate this legacy of exclusion underscore the point made throughout this report that unless policies, practices, programs, and individuals embrace an intersectional approach in efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in institutions of higher education, in government, and in the tech workforce, women of color will likely continue to fail to fully benefit from these efforts.

In this chapter, the committee reviews efforts by government to address institutional obstacles facing women of color in tech; calls upon government to be more intentional about taking an intersectional approach to efforts aimed at supporting greater equity, diversity, and inclusion in tech (Box 5-1); and calls for additional action by government institutions to promote transparency and accountability among tech companies, institutions of higher education, and in the government itself, including in government funded laboratories. The chapter

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2 Even after the passage of the 15th Amendment, many men of color were often prevented from voting by a range of discriminatory policies and practices at the state level, such as poll taxes and literacy tests.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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highlights opportunities for organizations working to promote greater equity, diversity, and inclusion in tech education and careers to form high-impact partnerships to expand their sphere of influence.

EFFORTS BY GOVERNMENT TO MITIGATE INSTITUTIONAL OBSTACLES FOR WOMEN OF COLOR

In the section below the committee reviews efforts by Congress and federal agencies to support women of color pursuing tech education and careers and attempts by these government institutions to remove systemic barriers to access and equity in these fields. The committee identifies progress that has been made by these efforts, including a recent, growing appreciation for the importance of taking an intersectional approach to such efforts, as well as shortcomings and lessons learned from past efforts. This overview forms the basis of several recommendations targeted at government that appear at the end of the chapter.

Legislative Efforts

Notable historical examples of legislative efforts to address structural racism and sexism in education and the workplace include the passage and amendment of Title VII, originally part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin” and the passage of Title IX as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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It is worth pointing out that these laws focus on gender and race separately and do not consider intersectionality.

In its research, the committee found many examples of past legislative efforts aimed at addressing the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM fields. In the vast majority of cases, such legislative efforts did not emphasize the concept of intersectionality or account for the ways that women of color experience heightened forms of bias, discrimination, and harassment (see Chapters 2 and 3). Rather, the language in legislation has tended to focus either on women or on people from underrepresented groups in STEM.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see that two recent bills introduced by the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, under the leadership of Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, include language that acknowledges intersectionality. One, the proposed STEM Opportunities Act, “provides for guidance, data collection, and grants for groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education at institutions of higher education and at federal agencies.” Though the term “intersectionality” is not specifically used in the draft language for the STEM Opportunities Act, in section 4, “Collection and Reporting of Data on Federal Research Grant,” the legislation calls for disaggregation of data “cross-tabulated by race, ethnicity, gender, and years since completion of doctoral degree.” Furthermore, in section 7b, “Workshops to Address Cultural Barriers to Expanding the Academic and Federal STEM Workforce,” the bill includes language tasking agencies with ensuring that the workshops provide “a discussion of the unique challenges faced by different underrepresented groups, including minority women, minority men, persons from rural and underserved areas, persons with disabilities, gender and sexual minority individuals, and first-generation graduates in research.” A second example, the “Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019,” which seeks to address “sexual harassment and gender harassment in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields by supporting research regarding such harassment and efforts to prevent and respond to such harassment” calls upon the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund “research on the sexual harassment and gender harassment experiences of individuals in underrepresented or vulnerable groups, including racial and ethnic minority groups, disabled individuals, foreign nationals, sexual- and gender-minority individuals, and others.” These examples of legislative language that acknowledge, explicitly or implicitly, that it is important to examine the intersection of race and gender in efforts to address underrepresentation in STEM are, in this committee’s opinion, an important step in the right direction. In its research, the committee was also struck by how often legislation related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM has been introduced by various congressional committees but how rarely it has been passed into law. For instance, in the case of the STEM Opportunities Act described above, similar legislation has been introduced in every Congress since 2007 (U.S. House of Representatives, 2021).

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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Federal Agencies’ Efforts

Federal agencies such as NSF, the Department of Defense (DoD), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have implemented programs intended to address the underrepresentation of specific groups in tech. In the section below, we offer a brief overview of programs and initiatives under way across a range of federal agencies. In general, however, the committee observed that information about federal agencies’ direct or indirect support of women of color in tech is widely dispersed and inconsistently distributed on various agency websites, which made gaining a complete understanding and an accurate record of these investments challenging. The one exception was NSF, for which the annual budget request to Congress provides a compilation of the agency’s efforts each year to support broadening participation (NSF, 2020b). This is an incredibly useful resource for those seeking to understand NSF’s investments in equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM fields. Such a resource is, unfortunately, not available for all federal agencies, which can make ascertaining the ways that other agencies are investing in such efforts difficult. Table 5-1 describes the list of programs NSF reported in the 2021 budget request to Congress that focus3 on broadening participation and offers information on the extent to which individual programs take an intersectional approach or support women of color in tech, specifically. The committee sees an important need for additional federal agencies to create a similar record of account for the ways in which they are investing in efforts to support a diverse and inclusive STEM workforce (see Recommendation 5-2).

Among those efforts at NSF most directly relevant to tech education and careers are the range of programs and initiatives led by the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). CISE has taken steps to support broadening participation in tech. For example, in 2017, CISE launched a pilot program on broadening participation in computing. The effort encourages the inclusion of broadening participation plans as part of proposal requirements for a subset of granting programs in the directorate. The directorate has “developed a review and feedback process to ensure that these…plans are meaningful, include concrete metrics for success, and that progress toward goals is included as part of project annual reports.” In September 2021, CISE released updated guidelines for the program, which included requirements that proposals to the CISE core research programs requesting between $600,001 and $1,200,000 in funding include broadening participation plans at the time of submission. In its information gathering, the committee noted that the pilot program for broadening participation in computing did not require prospective grantees to include the broadening participation plan in the proposal at the time of review, but rather

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3 In addition to its programs that “focus” on broadening participation, NSF also reports to Congress an additional list of programs that “emphasize” broadening participation.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

at the time of award. As the CISE directorate continues to shape this effort, the committee would encourage the directorate to examine and evaluate the impact of this process on the quality of the broadening participation plans and the degree to which grantees follow through with their stated plans, as indicated by the annual reports submitted to NSF. Additional CISE efforts that support broadening participation in tech education and careers include the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Minority-Serving Institutions Research Expansion Program,4 the Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance, and Computer Science for All (NSF, 2020a, 2020b, 2021).5

In its research, the committee found that many of the solicitations (i.e., funding announcements) for programs at NSF explicitly emphasize intersectionality (see Table 5-1). This is noteworthy because, historically, this has not always been the case. For example, NSF’s ADVANCE program (Organizational Change for Gender Equity in STEM Academic Professions), launched in 2001, which had as its goal “to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce,” did not initially take an intersectional approach. Research has shown that white women have benefited predominantly from ADVANCE (NSF, 2019). In recent years, NSF has acknowledged this issue with the ADVANCE program and now includes a focus on intersectionality as a requirement for prospective ADVANCE grantees (Rosser et al., 2019). The 2020-2021 program solicitation for the ADVANCE program reads, “All NSF ADVANCE proposals are expected to use intersectional approaches in the design of systemic change strategies in recognition that gender, race, and ethnicity do not exist in isolation from each other and from other categories of social identity.” This is an important step. The committee encourages NSF to monitor over time the impact of this intersectional approach on women of color at institutions that are recipients of ADVANCE grants.

The committee would also encourage NSF to emphasize intersectionality in its “broader impacts” merit review criteria in its core research programs. Currently, the “broader impacts” merit review criteria language does not acknowledge intersectionality but rather describes “full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” The committee would encourage NSF to consider revising this language to explicitly account for intersectionality (see Recommendation 5-1) and to collect disaggregated data to monitor the extent to which the core research programs at NSF are, or are not, supporting women of color in tech. In addition to funding efforts by grantees to improve equity, diversity, and in-

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4 National Science Foundation. 2020. Computer and information science and engineering minority-serving institutions research expansion program (CISE-MSI Program). https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/computer-and-information-science-and-engineering-minority-serving.

5 National Science Foundation. 2021. Broadening participation in computing (BPC). https://www.nsf.gov/cise/bpc/.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

TABLE 5-1 Programs at the National Science Foundation that Focus on Broadening Participation in STEM from 2021 Budget Request to Congress

Program Name Program Description and Reference to Intersectionality
ADVANCE (Organizational Change for Gender Equity in STEM Academic Professions) The NSF ADVANCE program provides grants to promote systemic change in support of equity and inclusion in the academic profession and workplaces. An intersectional approach is required for all proposals and awards. The solicitation reads: “All NSF ADVANCE proposals are expected to use intersectional approaches in the design of systemic change strategies in recognition that gender, race, and ethnicity do not exist in isolation from each other and from other categories of social identity.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20554/nsf20554.htm)
Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate The AGEP program aims to increase the number of faculty from historically underrepresented groups through alliances between institutions of higher education, which NSF expects to “work collaboratively and use intersectional approaches in the design, implementation, and evaluation of systemic change strategies.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2021/nsf21576/nsf21576.htm)
Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate’s Graduate Research Supplements These supplements are available to institutions that currently or previously had an Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate award and are to be used to support an individual doctoral student or master’s student planning to pursue a Ph.D. (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20083/nsf20083.jsp)
Broadening Participation in Biology Fellowships This program supports postdoctoral research fellowships in biology and is designed to provide opportunities for early-career scientists who are ready to assume independence in their research efforts and obtain training beyond their graduate education, gain research experience in collaboration with established scientists, and broaden their scientific horizons. The program includes a competitive area on broadening participation of groups underrepresented in biology that seeks “to increase the diversity of scientists explicitly at the postdoctoral level in biology, and thereby contribute to the future vitality of the nation’s scientific enterprise.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20602/nsf20602.htm)
Broadening Participation in Engineering This program supports research aimed at providing “scientific evidence that engineering educators, employers, and policy makers need to make informed decisions to design effective programs that broaden the participation of persons from historically underrepresented groups in the engineering workforce.” The solicitation states that this program “is particularly interested in research that employs intersectional approaches in recognition that gender, race, and ethnicity do not exist in isolation from each other and from other categories of social identity.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2022/nsf22514/nsf22514.htm)
Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×
Program Name Program Description and Reference to Intersectionality
Career-Life Balance This program is primarily to support the career-life balance needs of individual NSF-funded principle investigators. For example, it “permit[s] the extension of NSF awards for researchers who take a leave of absence for dependent care responsibilities, as well as the use of NSF award funds to replace project personnel during a leave of absence.” (https://www.nsf.gov/career-life-balance/)
Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology These awards support minority-serving institutions through various avenues such as building research capacity, providing fellowships to individual postdocs, establishing partnerships with other entities like research institutions and K-12 schools. (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18509/nsf18509.htm)
Excellence Awards in Science and Engineering This program includes the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring and the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, which “fall under NSF’s core value of inclusiveness—seeking and embracing contributions from all sources, including underrepresented groups, regions, and institutions.” The awards are available to both individuals and organizations and are administered by NSF on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Each awardee receives a certificate signed by the President of the United States and a $10,000 award from NSF, and is honored at an award ceremony in Washington, DC. (https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5473)
Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program This program “provides awards to strengthen STEM undergraduate education and research at historically Black colleges and universities.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20559/nsf20559.htm)
Historically Black Colleges and Universities Excellence in Research The HBCU-EiR program aims to strengthen research capacity at HBCUs by funding research projects aligned with NSF’s research programs. The program was established in response to direction provided by the Senate Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Report (Senate Report 115-139). (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20542/nsf20542.htm)
Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×
Program Name Program Description and Reference to Intersectionality
Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions program The goals of this program are to support the improved recruitment, retention, and graduation rate of undergraduate students at HSIs (at the baccalaureate and associates levels) and to improve the quality of undergraduate STEM education at HSIs, while taking into account the wide range of institutional contexts and characteristics of HSIs and the students they serve. The language from the solicitation reads: “proposers are encouraged to use an intersectional perspective in designing proposals across all tracks in the Hispanic-serving institutions program. An intersectional lens takes into consideration the interconnectedness of overlapping social identities, and can help shape a project’s design and conceptualization of inclusivity to better serve students. More than 50% of Hispanic/Latino/a undergraduate students attend Hispanic-serving institutions, and an intersectional approach to meeting them where they are could significantly impact the diversity of undergraduate STEM degrees awarded and STEM professionals in the United States.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20599/nsf20599.htm)
Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) INCLUDES supports a wide range of projects, events, and networks support broadening participation in STEM. INCLUDES is anchored in “five design elements of collaborative infrastructure to achieve systemic change” through which partnering organizations work together. The five design elements are (1) shared vision, (2) partnerships, (3) goals and metrics, (4) leadership and communication, and (5) expansion, sustainability and scale. (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20569/nsf20569.htm)
Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation The LSAMP is an alliance-based program that focused on assisting higher education institutions in increasing the number of STEM undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded to historically underrepresented groups in STEM, particularly underrepresented minorities. The program provides funding for the higher education alliances to “implement comprehensive, evidence-based, innovative, and sustained strategies that ultimately result in the graduation of well-prepared, highly-qualified students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue graduate studies or careers in STEM.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20590/nsf20590.htm)
Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×
Program Name Program Description and Reference to Intersectionality
Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials The Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials Research program “aims to enable, build, and grow partnerships between minority-serving institutions” and centers and/or facilities supported by the Division of Materials Research. The program seeks to increase recruitment, retention, and degree attainment by members of those groups most underrepresented in materials research, and at the same time support excellent research and education endeavors that strengthen such partnerships.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2021/nsf21510/nsf21510.htm)
Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships-Broadening Participation This program supports postdoctoral training in the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences through two tracks—one that supports basic research and another specifically focused on broadening participation in these fields. The broadening participation track seeks to “prepare underrepresented SBE scientists and others who share NSF’s diversity goals for positions of scientific leadership in academia, industry, and government.” The solicitation specifically cites data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics that show that “American Indians or Alaska Natives, Blacks or African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders, in addition to individuals with disabilities, are underrepresented in the SBE sciences in the U.S.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18584/nsf18584.htm)
Science of Broadening Participation This program “uses the theories, methods, and analytic techniques of the social, behavioral, economic, and learning sciences to better understand the factors that enhance as well as the barriers that hinder our ability to expand participation in education, the workforce and major social institutions in society, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and other sectors.” (https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/sbe-science-broadening-participation-sbe-sbp)
Tribal Colleges and Universities Program This program “provides awards to tribal colleges and universities, Alaska Native–serving institutions, and Native Hawaiian–serving institutions to promote high quality science (including sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, statistics, and other social and behavioral sciences as well as natural sciences), technology, engineering and mathematics education, research, and outreach.” (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18546/nsf18546.htm)
Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

clusion in tech, NSF is also funding social science research to fill knowledge gaps on the experiences of women of color in tech. The Social and Behavioral Sciences Directorate leads the Science of Broadening Participation Program, which “uses the theories, methods, and analytic techniques of the social, behavioral, economic, and learning sciences to better understand the factors that enhance, as well as the barriers that hinder, our ability to expand participation in education, the workforce, and major social institutions in society, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and other sectors.” Among the research questions the Science of Broadening Participation Program seeks to address are

  • What are the underlying psychological and social issues affecting the different participation and graduation rates of people who vary by gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and other statuses in education, both within STEM but also in other fields?
  • What social, behavioral, or economic processes and mechanisms contribute to positive outcomes within education, the workforce, and major social institutions in society? Do those processes and mechanisms differ by gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and other statuses?
  • What factors help promote and maintain the interest of youth from underrepresented groups in education, including STEM fields?
  • What are the impacts of a diverse workforce on scientific productivity and innovation and the national economy (NSF, 2018)?

This table describes the list of programs NSF reported in the 2021 budget request to Congress that focus on broadening participation and offers information on language in the program solicitations related to intersectionality. In addition to its programs that focus on broadening participation, NSF also reports to Congress an additional list of programs that emphasize broadening participation.

DoD-led efforts focused on STEM education, enrichment, and workforce development include those that are part of the “DoD STEM” effort. The DoD STEM website describes a vision of “a diverse and sustainable Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) talent pool ready to serve our Nation and evolve the Department of Defense’s competitive edge” and offers 78 opportunities with different intended audiences (early-career professionals, educators, graduates, students, volunteers), types of experiences (competitions, educator development, fellowships, internships or apprenticeships, programs, scholarships), and educational levels (ranging from kindergarten to graduate level) (U.S Department of Defense STEM, n.d.). While diversity and inclusion appears to be a cross-cutting theme of these DoD STEM efforts, it is not clear from the website whether the DoD STEM efforts take an intersectional approach or emphasize women of color. That said, one DoD STEM program that reports conducting intentional outreach to women of color and other underrepresented

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

groups in tech is the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarships-for-Service Program. SMART offers “scholarships for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students currently pursuing a degree in one of its 21 STEM disciplines” and “scholars receive full tuition, annual stipends, health insurance, experienced mentors, internships, and guaranteed employment with the DoD after graduation.” The leadership of the SMART Program is working to raise awareness of the SMART Program at minority-serving institutions. The program is currently holding webinars with the theme “fostering a community of diversity” focusing on inclusion, and broadening awareness of possible career pathways in federal service by highlighting the experiences of scholars that include women of color who have pursued careers in tech through the SMART Program.

DoD also seeks to support diversity, equity, and inclusion through Special Emphasis Programs which “are management programs established to ensure equal employment opportunity for minorities, women and individuals with disabilities in various categories and occupations and in all organizational components” (U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity, 2021). Among the Special Emphasis Programs offered are a Federal Women’s Program, a Hispanic Emphasis Program, a Disability Emphasis Program, an African-American or Black Emphasis Program, an American Indian Program, and an Asian Pacific Islander Program. It is unclear whether these specific programs consider intersectionality (NWBC, 2020).

NIST is working across multiple levels in the organization to try to support women of color in tech, including through affinity groups, student and teaching opportunities, trainings and seminars, and through the efforts of the Steering Group for Equity in Career Advancement, which consists of staff from across NIST who serve as trusted advisors to senior leaders. NIST’s self-reported activities focused on recruitment of women of color are summarized in Table 5-2.

NASA also offers programming in support of women of color in tech through its Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). MUREP offers competitive awards to minority serving institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic–Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–Serving Institutions, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, American Indian Tribal Colleges and Universities, Native American–Serving Nontribal Institutions and other minority-serving institutions. The goal of the program is to “assist faculty and students in research and provide authentic STEM engagement related to NASA missions… and provide NASA-specific knowledge and skills to learners who have historically been underrepresented and underserved in STEM.”6

While special programs to support and advance women of color in tech, such as those at NSF, DoD, NIST, and NASA described above, are critically im-

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6 See https://www.nasa.gov/stem/murep/about/index.html.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

TABLE 5-2 Self-Reported Efforts by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to Support the Retention, Recruitment, and Advancement of Women of Color in Tech

Initiative/Activity Description
Conference for Undergraduate Underrepresented Minorities in Physics NIST hosted the third conference January 8-10, 2021, and added a high school component.
Department of Commerce group for Women in STEM This group was created in 2018 by an African American female electrical engineer working at NIST. Over time the group has grown to more than 330 members across the agency.
Engineering Laboratory Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Council The council catalyzes the recruitment, hiring, development, and retention of high-performing staff to achieve its vision of a culture of diversity and inclusion. It facilitates transparent and equitable processes and policies so that all individuals develop professionally and reach their full potential.
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing1 NIST hosts a booth at this event that highlights its measurement science research, guest researcher program, PREP, SURF, and any current USAjobs postings.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities STEM Alliance Seminar This seminar series, launched in September 2020, focuses on the research and career journeys of African American scientists from NIST and is geared toward historically Black college and university STEM undergraduates at three partnering colleges, Savannah State University, Texas Southern, and Prairie View A&M.
Information Technology Laboratory Diversity Committee This committee is a grassroots assembly formed to assist the staff and management of NIST’s Information Technology Laboratory in working toward the vision and the goals of the NIST policy on diversity. Key activities include awards, a winter social, and a book club.
LinkedIn Recruiter The use of modern and proactive recruiting tools like LinkedIn Recruiter is a best practice in both public and private sectors. NIST is running a pilot of LinkedIn Recruiter from January 25 through September 30, 2021, with the goal of building pipelines of highly qualified and diverse candidates for current and future job openings. Recruiters are currently conducting proactive searches and identifying candidates to ask to apply to NIST vacancies.
Maryland Quantum Alliance (Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance, n.d.) This education/workforce committee, of which NIST staff are a part, includes a focus on students from underrepresented groups.

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1 See https://ghc.anitab.org/.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×
Initiative/Activity Description
Maryland STEM Festival: STEM of Many Colors NIST has a booth at this festival to disseminate information about its academic funding activities, particularly SURF and SHIP, and to discuss STEM careers with students from underrepresented groups.
Milligan-May Symposium at the annual conference of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers For a number of years, NIST has sponsored a symposium at the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers to provide an overview of the agency, give presentations, have in-depth conversations about research areas in which its staff are engaged, and discuss its academic programs. NIST also has a booth to share information about its academic funding opportunities and to highlight the research activities of its Black scientific staff.
National Society of Black Physicists annual meeting NIST is a co-sponsor of this meeting and has begun hosting a job opportunity booth.
Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing (CMD-IT, 2021) NIST hosts a booth where staff share information with students and educators about current NIST research and projects.
Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science NIST participates in programs offered by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science and shares information about current NIST research opportunities (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science, n.d.).
STEMversity NIST research scientists participated for five years as workshop leaders and mentors for the summer academy of STEMversity, a nonprofit providing mentoring in forensic science for middle school and high school students in rural Georgia.
Textio NIST will be piloting Textio, an augmented writing tool that helps companies craft more compelling and inclusive job advertisements, for all NIST job announcements in FY21 and FY22.
YWCA Coding Jam Session for Young Girls of Color In October 2020 and February 2021 NIST hosted virtual coding jam sessions with YWCA Boulder County in Boulder, Colorado, targeted to middle school girls of color, encouraging more than 30 girls to pursue coding as a fun, promising career.

SOURCE: NIST leadership and employees, conversation with study director on behalf of the committee.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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portant, it is also important that agencies consider structural inequities that may be present in their core programs and activities. Agencies should take steps to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and mitigate biases in all aspects of their operations—from the recruitment, retention, and advancement of their workforce; to the processes that guide grant making and proposal review; to the scientific and technical areas that receive the most funding. Such efforts should be guided by qualitative and quantitative data collection and monitoring (NASEM, 2020).

THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PROMOTING CHANGE

Despite efforts by Congress and federal government agencies to try to address the underrepresentation of specific groups in tech, there have not been significant improvements in the number of women of color entering, remaining, and advancing in tech fields (see Chapter 2). The widespread disparities that persist in tech education and careers underscore the need for additional efforts by a range of stakeholders to address structural racism and sexism in tech using an intersectional approach that makes use of the research on what is effective in driving change. Specifically, research demonstrates that increasing transparency and accountability in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts can yield tangible positive results. Accountability, defined as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions,” can promote individual and organizational-level behavior change (Merriam-Webster, n.d.; NSF, 2018, 2020a).

Recent studies by the National Academies and other groups to identify promising practices for promoting greater equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM have coalesced around the importance of transparency and accountability for promoting change. For example, the 2018 report Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences emphasizes the importance of accountability in preventing and addressing sexual harassment in science, engineering, and medicine (NASEM, 2018). The authoring committee wrote: “One central, and perhaps more obvious, way to prevent sexual harassment is for academic institutions to clearly demonstrate that they do not tolerate it. . . . Doing so requires making the community aware that perpetrators of harassment are being held accountable and that the institution takes the matter seriously” (p. 143). The report offers specific examples of organizational accountability, such as this example from the NASA:

An example of how organizations can hold leaders accountable can be seen in the policies and procedures used by NASA. Within NASA, managers and supervisors are considered not only as receivers and decision makers on allegations of harassment, but also as leaders who take action to prevent harassment in the workplace, and are accountable under the agency’s annual performance

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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review system. Additionally, NASA produces an annual report on the functioning of its anti-harassment processes, which includes information on the number of cases addressed, the basis for each case (including sexual or nonsexual), the time required to process the case, and the remedial actions taken. This reporting process provides a mechanism for the leadership to monitor how the anti-harassment processes are functioning and whether changes or corrections need to be made (p. 149).

Similarly, the 2020 National Academies report Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors describes the research on the impact of transparency and accountability. The authoring committee wrote that “institutions must articulate and deliver on measurable goals and benchmarks that are regularly monitored and publicly reported. Multiple studies have demonstrated that transparency and accountability can drive behavior change” (Castilla, 2015; Dobbin and Kalev, 2016; Gaventa and McGee, 2013; Kruglanski and Freund, 1983; NASEM, 2020).

Accountability in equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts can take many forms. For example, Promising Practices describes several case studies:

Take, for example, Emilio Castilla’s field study of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, where African Americans were consistently given smaller raises than white employees, despite identical job titles and performance ratings. To address this pervasive issue, Sloan began posting the average performance reviews and associated raises for each unit by demographic characteristics (i.e., race and gender). As soon as managers realized that bias in compensation by race and gender would become public knowledge within the school, they developed an increased sense of accountability and the discrepancies in compensation disappeared. Deloitte offers another compelling example. In 1992, chief executive officer Mike Cook realized that despite gender parity in hiring, the company was struggling to retain and advance talented women. He assembled a high-profile task force to address the issues with retention. Adopting a strategy that relied on accountability, the task force got each office within the company to monitor the career progress of its women and set goals to address the problem within the context of the specific unit (Castilla, 2015).

The report also described the positive impact of transparency and accountability on education, explaining that

[w]hen teachers realize that they will have to explain their evaluations, they rely less on their biases. For instance, studies have shown that when teachers are told that they will have to discuss and justify the grades they give students on papers, racial bias in grading disappears (Kruglanski and Freund, 1983). Equally, when departments are expected to present short lists of potential candidates to the

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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dean’s office for review, those lists include more diverse candidates (Bilimoria and Buch, 2010; NASEM, p. 133).

Through the workshops held to inform the report, the committee also heard from leadership of the Department of Energy (DOE) about efforts to promote transparency, accountability, and data collection at the national laboratories in an effort by the DOE Office of Science to better understand how the national laboratories are working to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM. Modeled off an existing best practice for reporting 5-year strategic plans for science and technology strategies to senior leadership, DOE established a process for annually reviewing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts by the national laboratories. In October 2016, the Office of Science issued a letter to the laboratories outlining the steps the agency would take to provide guidance on how to communicate these strategies and how the laboratories would be provided with annual feedback. This letter also instituted a requirement that laboratories would begin posting and updating their demographic data on their public websites annually. The laboratories were asked by DOE to address how they were assessing their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) challenges, what their DEI goals were, what the roles and responsibilities of leadership and staff would be, and what their measures of progress and accomplishments were. The laboratories were also asked to include demographic data for their annual workforce and new hires.

Since 2017, DOE has been reviewing these strategies and providing feedback. In 2019, an external review panel—which included leaders in DEI at academic institutions, DEI leaders from scientific professional fields, and social scientists—was brought in to provide additional feedback. Laboratories were required to address the findings and recommendations of this panel as part of their FY2020 performance evaluation. The peer review identified promising practices under way at the national laboratories, including

  • Efforts to incorporate DEI goals into performance evaluations of their leadership;
  • Efforts to mitigate bias in recruitment and hiring;
  • Family-friendly policies that address the needs of individuals at all stages of their careers;
  • Mentorship during onboarding;
  • Professional development opportunities to continue skills development;
  • Laboratory-wide climate surveys to assess laboratory cultures and identify challenges; and
  • Periodic surveys to assess progress.

The peer review also identified several areas in need of greater attention by national laboratories, which included a greater emphasis on data disaggregation. The DOE website currently posts demographic data for each job category;

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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however, the lack of data disaggregation presents a challenge in terms of tracking and understanding the experiences, recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color in technology and other STEM fields.

The importance of transparency and accountability in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is becoming more widely recognized by researchers and members of the public alike. The section below describes efforts by investors to hold tech companies accountable for progress on their stated diversity goals and makes the case for the role of government in promoting transparency and accountability among tech companies, especially those that are recipients of government contracts.

A Role for Congress in Holding Tech Companies Accountable Through Transparently Sharing Workforce Demographic Data

Recognizing the importance of data collection, transparency, and accountability, many investors have called upon tech companies (and other large companies) to be more transparent about the makeup of their workforce. While companies consistently state their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and most have programs and initiatives intended to support progress in these areas (see Chapter 4), investors are calling for transparent, standardized data reporting so they can compare companies and hold them accountable. Specifically, many investors have called upon companies to make public the EEO-1 form (also known as a Standard Form 100), which most companies must submit to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) annually in order to be considered an equal employment opportunity employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972) (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d.).7 The EEO-1 form reports data on race, ethnicity, gender, and job category. The data are provided to the EEOC, and if an employer is also a federal contractor, the EEOC provides data obtained from the EEO-1 to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor. The EEOC uses the data from the EEO-1 forms to support civil rights enforcement. It also uses the data to analyze

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7U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. n.d. Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964. https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/title-vii-civil-rights-act-1964. Companies required to submit an EEO-1 form to the EEOC are any private employer that has 100 or more employees (excluding state and local governments, public primary and secondary school systems, institutions of higher education, American Indian or Alaska Native tribes, and tax-exempt private membership clubs other than labor organizations) or any private employer that is subject to title VII and has fewer than 100 employees but is owned, affiliated with, or controlled by a company with more than 100 employees overall. Also required to submit an EEO-1 form to the EEOC are federal contractors with 50 or more employees that are prime contractors or first-tier subcontractors and have a federal government contract, subcontract, or purchase order amounting to $50,000 or more or serve as a depository of government funds in any amount or act as an issuing and paying agent for U.S. savings bonds and savings. See https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/eeo-data-collections.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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employment patterns and to select certain employers for compliance evaluations. Both the EEOC and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs use statistical assessment of EEO-1 data to identify companies with indicators of systematic discrimination. Under Title VII, EEOC is required to keep the EEO-1 forms from individual companies confidential; however, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is not subject to these same requirements under Title VII.

Some investors believe that making the EEO-1 data publicly available will promote competition among companies that could drive companies to make greater progress on their stated goals related to workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2019, Intel became the first major tech company to publicly release its EEO-1 form (McGregor, 2019). The chief diversity officer of Intel, Barbara Whye, wrote that “transparency and open sharing of our data enable us to both celebrate our progress and confront our setbacks on that journey. We feel a sense of responsibility to continue to lead the industry in this space by raising the transparency bar for ourselves and, as a result, raising it for others. . . . Hopefully, openly sharing the details of our representation journey will encourage others in the industry to do the same” (Whye, 2019). Unfortunately, few tech companies readily followed Intel’s example, (Double Union, 2017; McGregor, 2019).

Nevertheless, calls by investors for companies to commit to public disclosure of data on the diversity of their employees have grown in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others at the hands of police, and in July 2020 Calvert Research and Management, an investment firm active in encouraging companies to publicly disclose data, wrote to board chairs of the largest 100 U.S. companies by market value, asking them to release EEO-1 diversity data (Norton, 2020). As of 2021, half of the 100 largest publicly traded companies in the United States had agreed to publicly share their EEO-1 data, including the tech giants Alphabet, Amazon, Cisco Systems, and Salesforce.

Still, many tech companies that are the recipients of large government contracts have not publicly released their EEO-1 data. In its research, the committee found that of the companies8 that were recipients of the 10 largest government contracts in tech in 2020 (which ranged in amount from $8,075,048,000 to $3,913,263,000; Washington Technology, 2020), not a single one had, at the time of publication of this report, released its EEO-1 data publicly.

In the committee’s view, the public should be afforded the opportunity to hold these government contractors—the recipients of billions of taxpayer dollars—accountable for making progress toward their stated missions to improve the diversity of their workforce. The research on the impact of transparency and accountability on equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts strongly suggests that public release of the EEO-1 forms by the government could yield tangible, positive results. At the end of this chapter, the committee offers a recommendation for how Congress could

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8 This includes companies that provide information technology, telecommunications, consulting, professional, engineering, and other technology-driven products and services.

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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work to hold tech companies accountable through requiring release of EEO-1 workforce demographic data (see Recommendation 5-3).

Role of Federal Agencies in Incentivizing Greater Accountability

Federal agencies can also play a powerful role in incentivizing action at institutions of higher education through supporting programs that encourage transparent data collection and goal setting for efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. For example, agencies like NSF and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are contributing to incentivizing efforts by institutions to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM by supporting the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) Equity Achievement (SEA) Change effort, an initiative led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science modeled after the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) Charter in the United Kingdom. The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 with a goal to “encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine employment.” It has since expanded beyond the United Kingdom and been adopted by Ireland (Athena SWAN Ireland), Australia (SAGE-Athena SWAN), Canada (DIMENSIONS), and the United States (SEA Change).

The Athena SWAN framework has multiple components, including an award program through which institutions can gain recognition as a gold, silver, or bronze awardee, depending on the stage and success of their efforts to promote gender equity and representation. Though evaluating the direct impact of Athena SWAN on women in STEM is challenging because it is difficult to attribute cause and effect when other nation-wide and institution-wide efforts are simultaneously under way, one evaluation of the charter reported the perception among STEM professionals “of a positive effect of Athena SWAN on the visibility, leadership skills, career development, and satisfaction of women working in STEM and medicine, as well as the value of Athena SWAN as a driver in improving gender diversity” (Rosser et al., 2019).

The SEA Change effort in the United States resembles the Athena SWAN Charter in its emphasis on accountability through data collection, community support, educational resources, and an award system; however, it distinguished itself by its explicit focus on intersectionality. It is also notable that SEA Change was developed in an interdisciplinary manner that considered, among other things, the legal landscape and how it interfaces with efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. See Box 5-2 for additional description of SEA Change and Athena SWAN.

In addition to supporting specific programs, such as SEA Change, that incentivize progress through data collection and accountability, the committee believes that federal agencies should take additional steps to hold individual grantee institutions accountable for their stated goals to support diversity, equity,

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

and inclusion. This committee is not alone in expressing this view. The 2020 National Academies report Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors made the same observation and offered a set of specific recommendations related to the role of government in promoting greater accountability, which emphasized an intersectional approach (NASEM, 2020, recommendations 6-1 and 6-2, pp. 149-150). If these recommendations are implemented with the intentional focus on intersectionality, it is this committee’s opinion that they could be a positive force for holding federal agencies and their grantees accountable for working in good faith to address the underrepresentation of women of color in tech education and careers. Building on these recommendations as a foundation, the committee offers a recommendation with a series of implementation actions at the end of this chapter focused on promoting accountability (see Recommendation 5-4 A-D).

SPHERE OF INFLUENCE AND THE IMPACT OF STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS ACROSS SECTORS

In this committee’s experience, strategic partnerships that extend an organization’s sphere of influence are key to promoting policy change. There are examples in science and education policy more generally in which meaningful policy change has grown out of partnerships and a coordinated advocacy effort. 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 (Weber, 2019; Weible, 2017; Weible and Ingold, 2018).

Take the example of climate change policy. While we are yet to have comprehensive climate change legislation at the national level, partnerships between scientists and environmental groups have played a key role in promoting legislation on renewable energy provisions and energy efficiency standards. Another example can be found in California’s menu-labeling policy, enacted in response to the obesity epidemic, through which an advocacy coalition influenced a state health policy (Payán et al., 2017). Also, the recently passed FUTURE Act—which permanently extends mandatory funding to minority-serving institutions—had a coalition of stakeholders advocating for it, including representatives from more than 40 associations, members of which wrote 62,000 letters and made 3,000 phone calls to members of Congress (Long, 2019).

Furthermore, coalitions of professional groups with similar mission and scope can be an influential source of advice and guidance for government agencies. For example, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and the United Negro College Fund, with funding from NSF, organized national convenings centered on discussions of how to increase representation of faculty from underrepresented

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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groups and of minority-serving institutions in the NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate’s portfolio. The American Society for Engineering Education brought together faculty from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other minority-serving institutions to amplify recommendations from these groups to NSF. NSF leadership and program directors in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate responded with the launch of a new, focused program to increase the number of minority-serving institutions and faculty from underrepresented groups who receive funding from its core programs. The Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate’s Minority-Serving Institutions Research Expansion Program exemplifies the importance of elevating the visibility of organizations that have the knowledge and experiences with underrepresented groups to identify actions that can lead to meaningful change.

With these examples in mind, 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. For example, scientific and engineering professional societies could forge strategic partnerships with the NAACP, National Urban League, LULAC, UnidosUS, Native American Rights Fund, United Negro College Fund, the National Congress of American Indians, and other groups to expand their sphere of influence.

This committee also believes that the scientific community and individual scientists have an opportunity to become more engaged in the policy process as it pertains to the promotion of equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM fields and in tech in particular. It has been this committee’s observation that members of the scientific and engineering community tend not to engage often with their elected officials and seem, in general, to have an incomplete understanding of the policy making and appropriations process at the national level. Nor do members of the scientific community tend to engage with the state-level district offices of their elected officials (which does not require travel to Washington, DC).

In this committee’s opinion, the scientific community should be engaging more actively with policy makers, especially around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech. Further, organizations that advocate on behalf of the scientific community should consider partnering with organizations that work to address structural racism to expand their sphere of influence on the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, with a particular emphasis on tech (see Recommendation 5-5).

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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RECOMMENDATIONS

The committee offers the following set of recommendations based on the information presented throughout this chapter related to the role of government in addressing the underrepresentation of women of color in tech.

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 in efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our institutions, women of color will likely continue to fail to fully benefit from these efforts. The committee found that both legislative language and program solicitations at federal agencies related to diversity, equity, and inclusion are 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 NSF 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 agency websites. The highly distributed nature of this information makes

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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it challenging to gain a complete understanding and an accurate record of these investments. The one exception is NSF, whose annual budget request to Congress provides a compilation of the agency’s efforts each year 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 makeup 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

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
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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.9

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 the intentional focus on intersectionality, it is this 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 dis

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9 This recommendation is also put forth in NASEM (2020).

Suggested Citation:"5 The Role of Government in Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Tech." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26345.
×

mantling 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 policy makers 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 a coordinated advocacy effort. 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 (Weber, 2019; Weible, 2017; Weible and Ingold, 2018). 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.

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Demand for tech professionals 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. 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 in venture capital investment disproportionately and negatively affect women of color.

Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech uses current 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 recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color. This report identifies gaps in existing research that obscure the nature of challenges faced by women of color in tech, addresses systemic issues that negatively affect outcomes for women of color in tech, and provides guidance for transforming existing systems and implementing evidence-based policies and practices to increase the success of women of color in tech.

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