As technology becomes more central to a wider range of professional, business, and scientific service sectors, the need for workers with computing competencies over the next decade will continue to grow at a rate higher than the growth of the overall labor force (NASEM, 2018). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer occupations are projected to grow significantly faster than the average occupation. Moreover, from 2020 to 2030, employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 22 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
The demands and needs for employees, in particular those who can write algorithms, manage data, and have cybersecurity expertise, continues to grow in all sectors of the workforce. In fact, as stated in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on the growth of computer science undergraduate enrollments, 67 of the bachelor’s degree holders in the computing workforce have degrees from outside computer science (NASEM, 2018).
In addition to entering the technology and computing workforce with a bachelor’s degree, other pathways include employer-offered training; certification courses offered by two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and other organizations; training programs offered by community-based and non-profit organizations; apprenticeship and re-entry programs; and digital badging (Chapple, 2006; Kvasny and Chong, 2006). This chapter describes alternative pathways into tech for women of color to fill the burgeoning demand for tech talent, and the role of professional societies in supporting women of color.
Despite the growth in non-degreed, non-linear pathways into tech, participation rates for women of color remain low. Table 6-1 shows the percentage of
women in tech-related fields within the population of individuals whose highest level of educational attainment is less than a bachelor’s degree. The percentage of women of color who enter tech fields without a bachelor’s degree (i.e., with less than a high school education, with a high school diploma only, or having completed some college) is lower than that for white women and markedly lower than that for men. For example, of the total number of individuals who enter tech-related fields with less than a high school diploma, 73.6 percent are men while only 26.3 percent are women and 15.2 percent are women of color. Overall, the percentage of individuals working in tech-related fields with less than a bachelor’s degree is 41 percent.
ALTERNATIVE PATHWAYS INTO TECH
Non-linear pathways into tech careers are on the rise. In 2015, 51 percent of undergraduate credentials were awarded at the sub-baccalaureate level, compared to 48 percent in 2003 (Zhang and Oymak, 2018). These pathways could broaden opportunities for women and others who choose to pursue technology careers without the requisite college degrees that most traditional associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs offer. As Table 6-1 suggests, however, the percentage of women, and women of color specifically, who enter the fields at the sub-baccalaureate level is low.
Technology training programs are offered in multiple venues to prepare graduates to enter the tech workforce (Mardis et al., 2018). These programs, delivered by community (two-year) colleges, community-based organizations, and online by industry groups typically comprise four components: recruitment, support services, instruction, and job placement services (Shah, 2020). Grassroots or community-based programs that uniquely engage women of color and other underrepresented groups tailor their recruitment messaging, instruction, wraparound services (such as childcare and transportation), and ongoing support of their alumna in the workplace (Abbate, 2018).
As discussed in Chapter 2, many women of color have used the technology field as a means to escape poverty (Kvasny, 2006; NASEM, 2018). The alternative pathways described in the following subsections provide hope and inspire further education, thus presenting significant opportunities for women of color.
Community College and Career Technical Programs
High school career and technical education programs and community colleges offer guided pathways for preparation and skill building for entry into the tech industry through curricular frameworks, systems of digital badges for non-traditional student populations, and sub-baccalaureate credentials. Earned
TABLE 6-1 Racial/Ethnic Demographics of Individuals in Tech-Related Fields Without a Bachelor’s Degree
|Academic Attainment||Total Number (Women and Men)||Women||Men|
|White (non-Hispanic)||Black or African American (non-Hispanic)||American Indian / Alaska Native (non-Hispanic)||Hispanic||Asian (non-Hispanic)||Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (non-Hispanic)||Identify as some other race (non-Hispanic)||Identify as Two or More Races (non-Hispanic)||All Racial/Ethnic Groups|
|Less than high school||52,263||11.1%||4.5%||0.25%||6.8%||2.9%||0%||0.10%||0.62%||73.6%|
|High school graduate||351,456||20.4%||3.8%||0.22%||3.8%||0.60%||0.11%||0.15%||0.42%||70.7%|
SOURCE: 2018 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample files.
NOTE: The tech fields included are computer and information systems managers, computer and information research scientists, computer system analysts, computer programmers, information security analysts, software developers, software quality assurance analysts and testers, web developers, web and digital interface designers, computer support specialists, database administrators and architects, network and computer systems administrators, computer network architects, computer occupations, computer numerically controlled tool operators and programmers, and computer, automated teller, and office machine repairers.
sub-baccalaureate credentials include professional certifications or associate’s degree programs below the bachelor’s degree level.
Taking career and technical education courses (CTE) in high school is associated with a higher probability of graduating from high school and enrolling in a two-year college. Such courses increase a student’s likelihood to be employed the year after graduation, resulting in a boost in wages. CTE courses, however, tend to be overrepresented by white male participants. Moreover, they lack curricula and stated learning outcomes to teach and assess critical “soft skills” that employers increasingly request.
A growing number of companies are collaborating with community colleges to align curricula to specific industry needs and trends in high-demand fields such as computer and information technology. Such partnerships ensure the graduates from the degree and certification programs acquire relevant career-ready skills, while providing employers with access to a future workforce. In addition, community and technical colleges that offer stipends for student participation mitigate financial obstacles that often provide a barrier for entry into workforce development.
A study of eight community and technical colleges in Washington state found that information technology programs were structured in four dimensions: (1) detailed program requirements listed required and elective courses, and programs utilized a cohort model and offering schedule flexibility; (2) program alignment was linked to industry needs and local employment opportunities; (3) students had ready access to information through the website and other informational resources; and (4) students had access to active advising and support that offered counseling for undecided students, group sessions, orientations, and support and monitoring of student progress (Van Noy et al., 2016) (Box 6-1).
Despite these multiple opportunities, as Table 6-1 illustrates, women and specifically women of color are not entering technology fields through these sub-baccalaureate pathways at the rates they choose to enter service-related industries such as education (Zhang and Oymak, 2018). Tribal colleges and universities and community-based training programs seek to redress this gap. With a focus on cultural relevance, tribal colleges and universities lead the nation in producing a highly educated and skilled Native workforce. Because of their mission to provide job training and technical and vocational education to prepare Native students for the workforce, tribal colleges and universities are well positioned to increase the number of Native women students in technology and computing; however, only 12 out of 35 tribal colleges and universities have computing programs (Tribal College Journal, 2019). The disparity is due in large part because of the lack of instructors.
Community-based technology training programs provide instruction in supportive environments for tech-minded women to gain entry-level information technology skills for mostly low-wage jobs ($11 to $15 per hour). Programs provided by PerScholas, Npower, and G|Code, for example, tend toward providing practical hands-on training as opposed to teaching theoretical concepts in computer science and technology and distinct from those offered by community colleges, universities, or industry. Some programs, such as G|Code, offer residential housing for women who are selected for the program.
Community-based programs tend to be low or no cost and, therefore, appeal to people who are unable to afford to continue their traditional education after high school. G|Code and similar programs target women on the verge of aging out of homeless shelters and other temporary living situations. In addition to
hands-on technical skills such as web development, coding, and cloud computing courses, the programs teach students about changes in technology and salary negotiation, to optimally position them as future employees and/or self-employed contractors. These programs and the certifications they confer can inspire and encourage the women to pursue further education (Carnevale et al., 2012).
Companies such as Apple, Cisco, Dell EMC, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and VMware offer training programs to certify people in the technology that they produce.1 For instance, Google’s developer training provides free online courses in web development, machine learning, and Android development, the company’s mobile device operating system.2 The Android course in particular welcomes participants with a range of experience, from beginners to experienced developers. Those who complete the course have an opportunity to take a certification exam to acquire an additional credential they can leverage to secure a job and/or advance their career. Similarly, Apple offers training on its iOS and MacOS operating systems and Swift programming languages.3 However, unlike Google, which has partnered with Udacity to offer free online courses, Apple leverages a network of authorized global training providers that can charge hundreds to thousands of dollars for the basic training courses, creating barriers to entry for low-income women of color.
IBM’s Skills Academy training programs provide a pathway to earning an advanced degree. The training programs provide an educational benefit through a partnership with higher education institutions, including Northeastern University, the first academic institution to offer academic credit for digital badges earned through industry courses. IBM employees, customers, and members of the public can use IBM-issued badge credentials toward professional master’s degree programs (Leaser et al, 2020). As will be discussed later in this chapter, digital badges provide visual indicators of performance that mark key learning accomplishments.
While industry-specific programs are proliferating, as the data in Table 6-1 suggest, women of color remain an untapped segment of their recruitment and enrollment strategies, and thus the future workforce.
1 For more information see https://training.apple.com; https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/trainingevents/training-certifications/certifications.html#~certifications; https://education.dellemc.com/content/emc/en-us/home/certification-overview.html; https://grow.google/programs/it-support; https://www.ibm.com/certify; https://www.oracle.com/news/announcement/oracle-offers-free-training-andcertification-for-oracle-cloud-infrastructure-2021-09-08/; and https://www.vmware.com/educationservices/certification.html (accessed October 19, 2021).
Apprenticeships and Re-entry Programs
In response to the growing need to expand the pool of prospective workers, university and business leaders have turned to apprenticeships and other “earn and learn” opportunities to provide job seekers with a pathway to earn postsecondary credentials and gain critical job experience and better wages. The apprenticeship programs particularly appeal to those who are out of work and have low levels of education and work experience, because they connect job seekers to both postsecondary education and a career (Beer, 2018) in more engaging ways than traditional schooling (Lerman, 2016).
Filling such a need is Apprenti, a national organization that bridges the tech talent and diversity gaps by adapting the apprenticeship model to meet evolving workforce needs.4 Apprenti interviews and develops a custom course of training for participants, lasting two to four months, prior to placing them in the workforce. Some apprentices take coding classes full time and then start work, while others begin with a mix of classes and work. Upon successfully completing the technical training, apprentices continue for one year of paid on-the-job training. Apprenti partners with coding boot camps such as Code Fellows, Coding Dojo, Galvanize, TLG Learning, and others.
Twilio, a software company that enables phones, voice over IP (VoIP), and messaging to be embedded into web, desktop, and mobile software, offers the Hatch Apprenticeship Program, a six-month software engineering apprenticeship program for people from underrepresented groups.5 The Hatch program is designed to provide access to software engineering roles for people with nontraditional educational, professional, and personal experience.
Despite these positive examples, apprenticeships, which for certain industries have been considered effective training vehicles, have yet to be widely adopted in information technology. Beer (2018) offers strategies for what could be applied to the development of a national apprenticeship system in the United States focused on information technology. Such a system would strive to (1) increase and align funding for postsecondary education and workforce development with emerging sectors; (2) increase the diversity of participants, with an intentional focus on engaging communities of color and women; and (3) expand access to pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships aligned with postsecondary pathways (Beer, 2018).
Another specific opportunity that can increase the representation of women of color in the tech workforce opens a pathway for women who have taken career breaks and want to return to work. As many as 50 companies including Apple, IBM, Johnson and Johnson, and United Technologies have created “returnship” programs for women who want to specialize in tech jobs (Lipman, 2019). Operated like internships, and lasting from eight weeks to six months, returnships en-
able people returning to the tech workforce to refresh their skills, evaluate future employers, and be evaluated by future employers. Approximately 85 percent of those who participate in re-entry programs are hired permanently, according to iReLaunch, a career re-entry firm (Lipman, 2019).6 A growing number of firms are offering opportunities for graduates to immediately enter the workforce. Though not specifically in tech, Ford’s direct-hire program offers skills training and assigns a mentor and a “buddy” to help the re-entrants navigate the company’s culture.
Re-entry programs provide an important opportunity for women who, after having raised their children, for example, are looking for new opportunities in the workplace that they previously may not have considered. The COVID-19 pandemic may also highlight an additional opportunity to develop re-entry and retraining programs to bring more women seeking opportunities in tech—many of whom left their jobs as a result of the pandemic—back into the workforce. However, it remains to be seen how large a potential pool of women of color are attracted to such opportunities, as they often have not had the luxury of remaining out of the workforce to raise their children in the first place.
Most information technology training programs, whether community or industry based, prepare students to pass certification exams that demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are recognized and desired by industry. The content of certificate programs signals key credentials in people that employers are seeking to hire or to promote from within (Carnevale et al., 2012). Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has suggested that successful certification programs promote both gainful employment and the pursuit of a higher education degree credential, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree (Carnevale et al., 2012).
The most popular certificate program in technology and computing is the internationally recognized A+ Certification issued by the non-profit Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA),7 a trade association that issues professional certifications8 for the information technology industry. The A+ certification demonstrates vendor-neutral competency as a computer technician. CompTIA also certifies progressively more advanced skills including Cloud+ (cloud computing and virtualization), Network+ (design, configure, and manage wired and wireless devices), Server+ (server-specific hardware and operating environments), and Security+ (information technology network and operational security). The advanced security professional certificate issued by CompTIA is an example of a master level certification that is intended to build on the Security+
credential. Holders of this certificate demonstrate the technical knowledge and skills required to “conceptualize, design, and engineer secure solutions across complex enterprise environments.”
As noted previously, industry offers another pathway to demonstrate competency in their own technology platforms. For example, Google’s Developers Certification is an imprimatur for professional Android developer, an associate cloud engineer, or a professional data engineer, among others. The company offers certificates for data analysts, project managers, UX developers, and information technology support specialists, and provides applicants with the median annual wage for each of the positions.9 IBM’s Skills Academy provides opportunities for students to become certified in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, blockchain, and other areas.10
There is a growing effort to share industry-recognized certifications to verify knowledge, skills, and abilities across states, and a mechanism to allow states to hold institutions accountable for credential attainment. The Certification Data Exchange Project11 is one such effort (ACTE, 2017).
A significant opportunity exists to expand the capacity of community-based programs discussed earlier to prepare students, in particular, women of color, for both beginner and advanced certification exams. These programs’ capacity to supplement traditional training programs with online resources needs to be expanded in order to provide progressive skills at a discounted price and widen the alternate pathways for women of color to pursue employment in tech that extends beyond entry-level positions. This hybrid model is being employed by NPower in eight major cities in the United States and Canada, although it is not clear from its stated mission or strategic plan whether there is a specific focus on women of color.
Women of color, however, are severely underrepresented in these multiple pathways and thus represent an untapped resource for talent, social exchange, and individual and community success. Figure 6-1 shows the number of certificates awarded in academic years from 2014-2015 to 2018-2019.
The number of certificates in computing shows considerable differences across gender and race/ethnicity as illustrated in Figure 6-1. The number of certificates awarded to white men and men of color increased between 2014 and 2018, while the number of certificates awarded to white women and women of color remained relatively flat. Women of color comprise the smallest segment of certificate awardees over the same period, suggesting structural barriers to this pathway. On average, women of color make up about 11 percent of the total of certificates awarded in computing in the last five years for all types of certificates earned (less than one academic year, at least one but less than two academic years, and at least two but less than four academic years). Figure 6-2 shows
the types of certificates that are sought by women of color are by far those that require less than one academic year followed by those that require at least one year, but less than two academic years.
Certificate programs that were shorter in duration had higher participation from Black and Latinx women. During the 2018-2019 academic year, of the total number of certificates awarded to women of color in computing, Latinx women received 33 percent and Black women received 46 percent of certificates of less than one academic year awarded. For certificates requiring at least one but less than two academic years, Latinx women received 50 percent and Black women received 32 percent of certificates awarded. For certificates of at least two but less than four academic years, Latinx women received only 10 percent and Black women received just under 11 percent (NCES, 2020).
Badges and Gamification
Digital badges are increasingly being used to motivate students to increase engagement with coursework and reduce knowledge gaps (Besser and Newby, 2020; Gibson et al., 2015), and their effects on engagement do not vary by age, sex, or racial status (Higashi and Schunn, 2020). Such uses can be used to close equity gaps in tech.
Badges provide visual indicators of performance that mark key learning accomplishments and scaffold the learning process by progressively moving students toward deeper understanding and learning independence (Devedžić and Jovanović, 2015). Badges also provide “taggable” ways in which employers can make decisions about prospective talent and provide teachers with critical feedback about their students’ learning not available through traditional assessments and interactions (Moore, 2018; Wardrip et al., 2016).
Badges can be “gamified,” allowing learners to compete with themselves and others with regard to specific learning outcomes (Gibson et al., 2015). Gamification of learning using digital badges can increase learners’ extrinsic motivation and level of participation (Abramovich et al, 2013; Facey-Shaw et al., 2020). Moreover, the use of digital badges is associated with higher levels of confidence in technology integration skills, more courses taken, and higher overall course grades compared to traditional instructional methods (Newby and Cheng, 2020). Peer-awarded digital badges have also been effective at increasing engagement and fostering achievement (Rehak and Hickey, 2013). Thus, choosing what
badges to include in curricula, and from whom they are awarded, must take into consideration both the motivation and skill levels of students. These benefits associated with badges suggest that they can be leveraged to motivate women of color (and others) to progressively increase their knowledge, skills, and abilities in tech.
Typically, by scaffolding the learning process, collections of achieved badges lead to certifications. The Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy, in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh and the RAND Corporation, is studying the usefulness of badges to teach robotics to students of all ages.12Figure 6-3 depicts how badges are used to incentivize students to complete assignments (projects, assessments, portfolios, etc.) as they work toward certification. In the example shown in Figure 6-3, students must earn all four badges and receive approval from a certified instructor before they are allowed to take the Introduction to Programming Certification Exam.13
Open digital badges are web-enabled tokens that extend the motivational influences and credentialing of localized gamification to recognize skills and competencies acquired across formal or informal, online and traditional learning settings (Devedžić and Jovanović, 2015). This interoperability of badges across learning platforms is a natural evolution of the use of this learning tool, although best practice frameworks for successful implementation across institutions are still being formed (Voogt et al., 2016). The Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), an NSF-funded virtual organization, provides training opportunities to secure Open Badges in High-Performance Computing and other topics. Programs are offered for students at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels of competency who complete the OpenACC workshop. XSEDE awards Mozilla Open Badges to learners who demonstrate certain competencies (Kappes and Betro, 2015).
The federal government, private industry, and non-profits are working to standardize badging across digital platforms. For instance, the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, in partnership with the Department of Education, seeks to elevate the value of specific learning outcomes, though the program is limited in size (Claussen, 2017).
Although digital badges have the potential to make learning pathways more visible and appealing to a wide range of audiences, there is little evidence in the literature that gamifying learning, interoperable platforms, and credentials have a specific effect on building confidence and motivating women of color to pursue information technology careers (Higashi and Schunn, 2020; Pitt et al., 2019). More research is needed to understand if badges encourage women of color to pursue learning and career opportunities in information technology, and what specific motivating mechanisms they can leverage.
THE ROLE OF PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES
Professional societies generally offer educational and informational resources and can offer various kinds of support for students who are interested in educational and career opportunities in a specific discipline (Morris and Washington, 2017; NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2005). Societies may publish professional journals, set standards, and help shape policy and curricula. Additionally, for those with programming, they may focus on particular groups, such as students, or a mix of students and professionals (NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2005). For the purposes of this report, professional societies are further defined as those organizations that operate as membership-based “societies” rather than community-based organizations and professional14 or trade associations.
Professional societies generally support the development of standards and are positioned in a space where they can “design and promote change, including through publications, policy statements, meetings, committees, lectureships, and awards” (NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2005, p. 138). Unfortunately, this influence is not often exercised as effectively as it could or should be concerning increasing diversity. For example, in the design of processes for identifying and selecting recipients of awards and fellowships, women of color—particularly those who have entered tech through alternative or non-linear paths—may be disadvantaged in nomination processes that rely on networks where women of color have been historically excluded. These awards and fellowships are often used to demonstrate excellence and achievement as one works toward positions of leadership. Thus,
when the processes for selecting recipients of awards and fellowships perpetuate a lack of diversity in potential recipients, they can create structural barriers that can limit the advancement of women of color in their careers (Ham, 2020; Hu, 2019). While professional societies may episodically ramp up their outreach to women and individuals from underrepresented groups, they often experience little success in actually increasing engagement or participation of such groups. 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).
Recognizing this lack of available programming and support for people of color by traditional professional societies, and spurred by the civil rights, Chicano, American Indian, and women’s movements, new organizations emerged in the 1960s and 1970s to serve those populations. Today, the same professional societies that primarily serve people of color and women are among the small number that have targeted programs or initiatives for women of color in tech. A review of the longstanding professional societies that support those 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. In addition, the leadership of professional societies most often does not reflect the diversity of the future workforce. Even among those professional societies that specifically serve people of color, there are very few with any programming or initiatives solely for women of color in tech. With this as a disappointing backdrop, the following societies are those that have programs or initiatives available to support women in tech and/or STEM, and/or people of color in tech and/or STEM.
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society whose stated mission is to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.” AAAS has members in more than 91 countries and is a leading publisher of research through its Science family of journals. AAAS’s STEM Equity Achievement (SEA) Change initiative supports diversity and inclusion, especially in colleges and universities by providing support to institutions as they work to transform systems and processes.15 SEA Change provides resources (e.g., trainings, courses, published research), communities of practice for participating
institutions and organizations, and awards to institutions that demonstrate commitment to sustainable change.
American Indian Science and Engineering Society
The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) is a national non-profit organization focused on substantially increasing the representation of American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, First Nations, and other Indigenous peoples of North America in STEM education and careers.16 AISES partnered with the Women of Color in Computing Collaborative to expand computer science education for Native girls in Native-serving high schools. The project, “Expanding Computer Science Opportunities for Native Girls,” aims to increase interest, engagement, and participation in computing education (with an emphasis on participation and success in advanced placement computer science courses) among Native high school students and girls/LGBTQ+/Two-Spirit students. The project is developing a series of courses from introductory level to advanced placement computer science courses, developed to include culturally relevant activities and modules aligned with tribal cultural values, vision, and goals for sovereignty.17
American Mathematical Society
Created in 1888, the stated mission of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) is to “further the interests of mathematical research and scholarship, and serve the national and international community through its publications, meetings, advocacy and other programs.” AMS’s membership of 30,000 individuals and 570 institutions supports the mathematical sciences by providing access to research, professional networking, conferences and events, advocacy, and a connection to a community passionate about mathematics and its relationship to other disciplines and everyday life. AMS sponsors programs and provides funding for educating and recruiting young people and people from underrepresented groups, helping them to develop a strong sense of belonging among the diverse global math community.18
17 American Indian Science and Engineering Society. (n.d.). Expanding Computer Science Opportunities for Native Girls. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.aises.org/content/expanding-computer-science-opportunities-native-girls.
American Society of Engineering Education
The American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) develops policies and programs that enhance professional opportunities for engineering faculty members, and promotes activities that support increased student enrollments in engineering and engineering technology in colleges and universities. ASEE provides a channel of communication between corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions. ASEE’s organizational membership is composed of 400 engineering and engineering technology colleges and affiliates, more than 50 corporations, and numerous government agencies and professional associations.19
ASEE received several grants in the 1970s to research the status of women and American Indians and develop programs to attract more of these students to enter engineering. Since then, ASEE has continued to release studies on the subject in its Journal of Engineering Education, and has created divisions specifically devoted to developing programs and research in this area.20 ASEE’s Black Engineering College Development program used industry funding to support African American faculty or students at traditionally Black colleges in the pursuit of doctoral degrees in order with the goal of increasing the teaching workforce at historically Black colleges and universities. It has also conducted research on the status of women and American Indians in order to develop programs to encourage more of these students to pursue engineering and continue to develop programs and conduct and encourage research in this area.
Association for Computing Machinery
The Association for Computing Machinery’s Women in Computing (ACM-W) special interest group supports, celebrates, and advocates internationally for the full engagement of women in all aspects of the computing field, providing a wide range of programs and services to association members and working in the larger community to advance the contributions of women in technical and computing fields. In addition to ACM-W, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council in 2019 to serve as a convener for diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within ACM as well as a resource the ACM’s special interest groups, conferences, boards, and councils looking for best practices. The ACM also established the Standing Committee on Systemic Change in 2020 whose goals include considering where changes can be made to promote racial equity in ACM volunteer activities, identifying and prioritizing opportunities for systemic change, addressing identified problems, and developing metrics for reporting diversity numbers.
20 American Society of Engineering Education. (n.d.-a). About Us-The Organization-Our History. Retrieved October 31, 2020 from https://www.asee.org/about-us/the-organization/our-history.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society was created to be a source of information, inspiration, and collaboration in computer science and engineering. Its resources include international conferences, peer-reviewed publications, a robust digital library, globally recognized standards, and continuous learning opportunities.21 The IEEE Computer Society offers resources, such as access to career development forums, to empower career development and salary potential of women in tech.22
National Society of Black Engineers
The mission of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.”23
The mission of NSBE’s Women in Science and Engineering group is to enlighten, engage, and empower not only NSBE women in STEM but foster relationships and collaborate with communities and institutions outside of the society. NSBE also continues to build and establish Women in Science and Engineering as a foundational special interest group for both NSBE collegiate and professional members. The group hosts an annual roundtable discussion and webinar; promotes career development, holds workshops, and offers education grants for women engineers; aims to continue to increase its membership and aid in the retention of women engineers at institutions of higher education; aims to have a positive impact on communities, college campuses, and workplaces; provides mentorship opportunities for students transitioning from college to the workforce; provides a forum for women to provide mentorship opportunities for students transitioning from college to the workforce; and provides a forum to discuss topics and issues specific to gender- and STEM-related topics pertinent to Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).24
In addition to Women in Science and Engineering, which supports collegiate and professional women of color, NSBE hosts a number of pre-collegiate initiatives aimed in part to stimulate interest in engineering among girls of color. The Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program is a free, three-week summer program for third through fifth graders in underserved communities
22 IEEE Computer Society. (n.d.). Women in Computing. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.computer.org/communities/women-in-computing.
23 National Society of Black Engineers. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.nsbe.org/About-Us/NSBE-Vision-Mission-Objectives.aspx#.X54jXNBKg2w.
24 National Society for Black Engineers. (n.d.). Women in Science and Engineering. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.nsbe.org/Professionals/Programs/Special-Interest-Groups-(SIGs)/Women-in-Science-Engineering-(WiSE).aspx#.X54iddBKg2w.
across the country. While most of the curricula focus on engineering, SEEK students also learn how to write code and program robots, enhancing their awareness and knowledge of tech. Since 2007, SEEK has served over 25,000 students in nearly 30 cities. While most of the programs are co-ed, NSBE has also hosted all-girls programs in Washington, DC; Atlanta, Georgia; and Jackson, Mississippi. SEEK students have demonstrated increased proficiency in math, science, and engineering knowledge.
NSBE’s Pre-College Initiative features more than 225 NSBE Jr. chapters that provide year-round learning to inspire and equip third through twelfth graders to pursue education and careers in STEM. Featuring curricula that include robotics, mathematics, and programming, NSBE Jr. students prepare for regional and national competitions and cultivate their interest in STEM in a supportive environment. As with SEEK, while most chapters are co-ed, several include girls only and are led by professional women of color.
Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science
The Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) is an organization dedicated to achieving “True Diversity in STEM.” SACNAS serves a growing community of over 20,000 supporters and more than 8,200 members, and has more than 115 student and professional chapters throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. SACNAS influences the STEM diversity movement through outreach and advocacy, promotion of STEM leaders, and the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. SACNAS is an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM.25
Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers
The Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) was founded in 2007 and is dedicated to the advancement of scientists and engineers of Asian heritage in education and employment so that they can achieve their full career potential. In addition to professional development, SASE encourages members to contribute to the enhancement of the communities in which they live. SASE’s mission is to prepare scientists and engineers of Asian heritage for success in the global
business world, celebrate diversity on campuses and in the workplace, and provide opportunities for members to make contributions to their local communities.26
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is the nation’s largest association dedicated to fostering Hispanic leadership in STEM fields. SHPE supports members through high school, college, graduate programs, and throughout their professional careers. High school students are introduced to the world of STEM at SHPE events and through mentorship and scholarship opportunities. College students can get involved with their schools’ chapters—or start their own. Young professional members receive opportunities to grow, and seasoned innovators in the field mentor and give back.27
The SHPEtinas program accelerates and affirms Latinx women’s representation at all levels of STEM corporate and academic leadership. Encouraging Latinx women to pursue higher education and careers in STEM recognizes the unique perspective they bring to solving the world’s most pressing problems while creating new, influential role models for future leaders. The SHPEtina conference covers over 20 topics related to empowering Latinx women in STEM, including career development, communication, skill building, and leadership.28
Society of STEM Women of Color
The Society of STEM Women of Color (SSWOC) is a membership organization of STEM women of color from throughout the United States. Its members come from diverse racial and ethnic groups and are employed in a wide range of positions at virtually all of the major institutional types among U.S. colleges and universities.29 SSWOC’s mission is to achieve professional liberation, the freedom to pursue one’s professional goals to the extent of one’s own aptitude without externally imposed limitations, for all women, particularly those from historically underrepresented populations. SSWOC members use cultural, structural, and disciplinary sources of authority to produce new knowledge.30 SSWOC
is home to a diverse group of members committed to an intersectional approach for empowering women of color in STEM.31
Society of Women Engineers
The mission of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is to empower women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion. The society is a non-profit, educational, and service organization that empowers women to succeed and advance in the field of engineering and be recognized for their life-changing contributions as engineers and leaders. SWE is the driving force establishing engineering as a highly desirable career for women through an array of training and development programs, networking opportunities, scholarships, and outreach and advocacy activities.32
In response to the insufficient number of workforce-ready individuals who can enter computing and technical occupations to meet the demand, there is a growth in industries that offer competency-based training for entry into their organizations, in badging and certification opportunities, and in community-based organizations offering these alternative pathways. These efforts can provide women of color, an untapped resource, with alternative entry points into tech occupations.
The recommendations that follow address the roles of academia, community organizations, industry, federal agencies, and professional societies in changing these numbers through education of K-12 students and retraining programs for adults. The recommendations are informed by the discussions and findings from the committee’s workshops, the research literature, and data gathered over the course of the study.
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 (NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2005; NASEM, 2018). Re-entry programs provide a substantial opportunity for women who stepped away from the workplace for family reasons and seek reentry, perhaps in a career they previously may not have 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 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;
The NSF Cybercorps® Scholarship for Service33 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.
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 articulated 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.
33 For more information see https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/cybercorps-scholarshipservice-sfs-0.
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 (Morris and Washington, 2017; NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2005). Unfortunately, this influence is not often exercised as effectively as it could or should be concerning increasing diversity. While professional societies may episodically focus 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 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 programming or initiatives solely for women of color in tech.
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