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The Stereotypes, Identity and Belonging Lab at the University of Washington is now a member of the blogging community! We will be using Decoded as a forum for disseminating our research on women and computer science and discussing current issues related to the field of computer science including: women's involvement and how computer science is changing the way we live. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on our posts.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shortage of Black Computer Scientists?

Professors M. Brian Blake and Juan E. Gilbert wrote an article on the diversity in the realm of academics for the Chronicle of Higher Education, a newspaper whose target audience is college and university faculty and administers. Blake and Gilbert discuss and present the idea of Black Computer Science majors as gradually becoming extinct.  African-Americans represent roughly 13 percent of the our nation's populations, though only about 6 percent of all faculty members at American universities and colleges are American American. According to the Computing Research Association's widely used ‘Taulbee Survey Report’,

In the field of computer science, they make up only 1.3 percent of the faculty."

The numbers are not only small, they are decreasing as well, according statistic reports. 

“...1.6 percent of such degrees went to blacks in 2008-9, while federal data show that 3.7 percent, [of] doctorate recipients in computer and information sciences in 2008, were black U.S. citizens...”

Blake and Gilbert’s speculations are in agreement with SIBL’s interest in lack of women in Computer Science, as they question why African Americans lack prevalence in the Computer Science major when technological advances in our country (as well as the world) have heavily influenced and have prominently made its way into our everyday lives.  They wonder if the lack of positive exposure to the major, as well as a lack of Black successful role models, has deterred African Americans from gaining interest in the field. Their discussion involves various intervention ideas that could help promote more Computer Science appeal to African Americans through programs and close mentoring.  

Despite the statistics, it seems the small numbers have yet to illustrate the overall conflict of American-American shortage in universities and colleges. Have these two professors overlooked a major problem regarding underrepresented minorities in academia in general (i.e. shortage of African American representatives in majors across the board?) Or is lack of exposure to the field really the cause of shortage of Black Computer Science representatives in academia?

Posted by: Sarah T.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Barbie Doll is a Computer Engineer?

In 1992, Barbie was programmed to say, “Math class is tough.” Now, she’s defying stereotypes as a tech-savvy computer engineer. This year, the public voted on Barbie’s 126th career for the first time, ultimately choosing computer engineer over other options such as architect, environmentalist, news anchor, or surgeon.

Many people are thrilled that Barbie’s new career might inspire more girls to pursue computer and technology fields, which are typically dominated by men. In fact, women are far outnumbered by men in computer engineering and their participation has only declined recently. If Barbie acts as a role model for girls, she might get more girls interested in these fields.

Yet even though Barbie is now defying gender stereotypes in some ways, she still has her trademark femininity and sexiness. Her new outfit is bright and neon-colored, her hair is long, blonde and shiny, and she’s accessorized with pink glasses, a pink watch, and a pink laptop. What might this say to girls?

Some people are concerned that Barbie might still be expressing gender constraints on girls. Barbie might indicate to girls that it’s okay to be good at science and technology, but it’s still not okay to look like a “geek”, that girls must still look stereotypically feminine to be acceptable. Furthermore, some people point out that her attire makes her look less capable or serious as a computer scientist. Would you trust the computer advice of someone dressed like that?

What do you think? Does Barbie’s new career help or harm young women’s pursuit of technology careers? Does it defy stereotypes or continue to preach feminine ideals?

You can read more about computer engineer Barbie here.

Posted by: Lauren

Sunday, October 17, 2010

For the First Time Women Earn More Doctoral Degrees than Men

A recent report by the U.S. Council of Graduate Schools shows that for the first time in history, women earned more doctoral degrees in 2008-2009 than men. According to Ann Bryant of the American Association of University Women,  

"It's great news. The years of stereotyping women out of continuing their doctoral education - they're over".

 It is true that this is a huge advancement for women, however, there are many stereotypes that remain to be overcome. Only 39% of doctoral degrees in business are awarded to women. Women are also still greatly out-numbered at the doctoral level in mathematics, computer sciences and physical sciences, where they make up no more than 30% of the doctoral graduates. Engineering is even more disparate, with only 22% of doctoral degrees being awarded to women. While this is an improvement on the mere 10% of doctoral degrees in engineering women were earning 20 years ago,  

"...we still have those stereotypes. That's why you still see a disparity in wage earning, women as compared to men," says Ann Bryant.

In fact, NPR reports that a male professor with a Ph.D earns $87,200 on average, compared to $70,600 for a female professor with the same credentials. So, yes, we can say goodbye to stereotypically low expectations for women at the doctoral level of education, but must continue to work to move women into traditionally male fields in order to close the wage earning gap.

How can we get more women interested in computer science? For the women already in the field, how can we keep them invested in computer science?

Posted by: Sarah