Home > Uncategorized > Pacesetters 2014: The Final Chapter

Pacesetters 2014: The Final Chapter

The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Pacesetters program consists of a group of companies and universities committed to adding Net New Women to their institutions through targeted recruiting and support programs. The group commits to meeting twice per year to review approaches and track progress. November 2014 marked the last meeting of the current cohort of Pacesetters, with a slate of interesting talks and discussions.

Exploring more deeply the (lack of) diversity revelations by Google, Facebook, and others, there were several talks and presentations by companies of varying sizes. The keynote talk by Carol Mullins, Associate Commissioner of the Office of Technology and Survey Processing (OTSP) gave a candid view of diversity in her office. The numbers seemed better than in most tech-related organizations, but there was still room for improvement. It was interesting to see the desire in the workplace to do things to help diversity, but sometimes a lack of will to commit resources (e.g., employees are told they can work from home vs putting security in place; encourage tech employees but not paying them). Representatives from SendGrid and Google discussed challenges and opportunities at their companies, along with the sensitivities in releasing numbers (particularly for big companies).

Another focus point for Pacesetters relates to bias that can occur in job ads that discourages participation by women and other minorities. Pacesetters created a checklist to help craft job ads to reduce this unconscious bias. The goal is to focus on gender-neutral descriptions of the job and workplace. Several groups worked very hard in crafting their ads using this checklist, though in the discussion several people noted that HR offices often have rules and guidelines that can require certain language. (I ran into that at VT, as much of the language in job ads seemed to be because of some guideline or regulation or requirement.) Charlie McDowell put forth an important suggestion: to compartmentalize the steps that need to be done, and hand those off to the appropriate person in our organizations. It seems vital to do that with an eye toward the existing myriad guidelines that exist, ensuring (perhaps consolidating?) them into a coherent and consistent package.

I’ll end by circling around to the central focus of NCWIT that was discussed at the Pacesetters meeting: net new women. We talked about the definition of net new women, and the advantages and dangers of “counting” them. For one group, a net new woman might be a new faculty or grad student, for another it might be a woman retained due to an extended maternity leave, another possibility is a scholarship that helps ease the burden on attending school, and still another is a visit with a group of women that points them toward a technical career. At Virginia Tech, we’ve counted women from several of these categories (and more), which seems a bit like adding apples and oranges—which are then added to the pears and cucumbers and other assortment from other places. Numbers are important, but these numbers may not best quantify the goals of Pacesetters.  It seems this issue will be addressed for the next Pacesetters cohort, slated to start in 2015.

So what’s next? The NCWIT Annual Summit take part next May—a celebration of diversity that has had notable speakers like Chelsea Clinton, Michael Kimmel, Michael Schwern, and others. Since the event takes place in Hilton Head—in the “neighborhood” of Virginia Tech—we’re hoping to have a big presence. Ruthe Farmer suggested having undergraduate Aspirations award winners at VT as ambassadors at the summit, with access to a great slate of people and activities. More then!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: